Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Lift The Siege On Gaza!

Lift The Siege On Gaza!

International Campaign in Support of the Gaza Freedom March: Hundreds of Unison Actions Assembled around the World

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A massive mobilization between December 27, 2009 and January 1, 2010 with candlelight vigils, concerts, marches, demonstrations, art installations and movie screenings will assemble all over the world to send a clear message to world leaders: end the siege on Gaza.

To tackle the blockade against Gaza, grassroots activists are moving quickly and acting in unison for an absolutley crucial time. Dec. 27 will mark one year since the Israeli attack and invasion of the Gaza Strip. Although the Israeli tanks have left, the complete closure of the borders continues.

In order to unite the public to influence public leaders behind the Gaza Freedom March goals, solidarity action organizers harnessed the power of the internet to coordinate a global week of actions. There will be actions at many places around the world: France, United Kingdom, Turkey, Ireland, Germany, Spain, United States, Afghanistan, Australia, Belgium, Switzerland, Sweden, Jordan, Canada, Israel/Palestine, Poland, Denmark, and Greece.

On December 31, 2009, more than 1,400 citizens from across the world will travel to Cairo to join the Gaza Freedom March. This historic non-violent action has been organized by The International Coalition to End the Illegal Siege of Gaza. Its objective is to draw international attention to the siege and blockade of Gaza which are illegal under international law.

According to the United Nations, the most recent invasion left 1,400 Palestinian civilians dead, thousands injured and hundreds of thousands homeless, many of whom still live in tents. Many more are living in the ruins of their houses or with relatives. It is now one year later, and no progress has been made. In fact the situation is more dire than ever. Hospitals lack many medicines and supplies to provide even routine medical care. Building materials so desperately needed after the last winter’s invasion by Israel are not permitted into Gaza.

Israel’s blockade of Gaza is a flagrant violation of international law that has led to mass suffering. The U.S., Egypt and the rest of the international community are complicit. The law is clear. The conscience of humankind is shocked. Yet, the siege of Gaza continues.

For more information about the Gaza Freedom March global actions visit: www.gazafreedommarch.org/solidarity .

Contact: In Cairo: Ann Wright, 019 508 1493, microann@yahoo.com
In Europe (Portugal): Ziyaad Lunat, +351938349206, z.lunat@googlemail.com
In US: Nancy Mancias, 1 (415) 342-6409, codepink.nancy@gmail.com

Fighting for the Family of Man

Fighting for the Family of Man

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The American people are slowly waking-up to what we are. We are a Nation that has surrendered our right to determine our own destiny for the promise of a job, a nice home, or healthcare that we can afford. We think that we are still the same people who volunteered to fight a war against an obvious evil because it was the right thing to do, but that is no longer who we are.

The long series of wars that we have made possible, because we continued to think that it was right, have changed us. Our support for endless war has opened the door for a few individuals to reap astronomical profits from our Army’s actions. Our government is the hands of men who profit enormously by manufacturing and exporting war, not the tools of war, but actual war itself. Serving a government that creates wars, then uses our children for cannon fodder in them is a travesty beyond measure.

Patriotism and dedicated service to a mission to start wars all over the world does no service to the Nation; it undermines the American homeland. Bravery and heroism in service to a cause, whose ultimate objective is the destruction of the American Republic, is more than foolishness, it is dishonor to those who have served in the past and a dark stain on the ideals they fought for.

The men who pull the strings and make the life and death decisions in America have a hunger that extends far beyond our shores. It was not enough that they owned everything in this country, they had to bleed the country dry in a methodical plan to use their American assets as seed money to take over the world. They would buy controlling interest in every corporation and every country in the world. Whatever they couldn’t buy they planned to take by force.

It was not enough that we were slowly destroying the world in order to maintain our extravagant lifestyles; they had to go and accelerate the process. What have we empowered our leaders to do in the name of “preserving our way of life”?

To save the American way, we have spread the cancer of war onto every shore, driving it deeply into every heart. We have forced the entire world to engage in our war upon individual freedom, for limiting freedom of action in the rest of the nations is the only way to avoid limits on our own behavior. American foreign policy is a pathological assault upon the rest of the human race. Anyone with an unsuppressed conscience, a true love of his or her country, or an ounce of human decency has to be disturbed to the point of exploding over what is being done by American hands.

Most of our leaders freely admit that we are in this global war to preserve our “way of life,” having dropped the ruse about this being a war of “self-defense,” long ago. Even though it is approaching absurdity to continue claiming victim status in this war of aggression, the appeal that we are fighting to preserve the “American dream” still fires-up the ignorant masses, who all long to become millionaires themselves. For sheep such as this, there is no cure; no appeal to reason (no matter how eloquent or profound) can dissuade them from supporting this fight for world conquest. Such people have long ago laid their consciences to rest, for them there is no hope.

The power of the conscience is our greatest weapon in this ideological war. The key that can save America (and the world) from itself is the collective guilt that we all share, which alone has the power to motivate us to take the necessary actions to put an end to the assault. American leaders view the world as a prize to be won, or better, to be taken by force. To this end, they have hatched a monstrous plan, so pervasively evil that it is beyond comprehension to the average sheep’s puny little mind.

Everything in the plan centers around the willingness of a certain type of individual to murder his own countrymen for money and power. Without the active aid of this key personality type; the plan will not work.

Wherever the Empire oozes forth, spreading its putrid decadence, there are always countless men without consciences, waiting to become part of the great desolation. When confronted by this evil, so many men think that they will somehow fare better by serving this beast than by opposing it. The monsters know this, and know how to recognize which men and women can be swayed with bribery or threats and which ones will not submit to the yoke for any reason. Their work is organized like a symphony, hitting the high notes here, slamming the low notes over there. The point is, they know how to play us like we were merely instruments. Our task in the resistance must be to recognize this and learn to recognize the sheep’s mind within ourselves. Once we learn to recognize it within, we can apply that knowledge to the people we meet, or hope to influence, learning to recognize which one is open to reason and which one is a closed mind. Their intent to control the world is based on their ability to control and manipulate minds. We must develop similar capabilities, if we are to be effective. Changing human nature is the name of the game. We must teach the sheep to think like wolves.

Resistance is the only answer.

“Genocide in Slow Motion.”

“Genocide in Slow Motion.”

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On the first anniversary of the beginning of Israel’s war on the Gaza Strip – in my view it was a demonstration of Israeli state terrorism at its most naked – it’s not enough to say that the governments of the Western powers (and others) are complicit in Israel’s on-going collective punishment of 1.5 million Palestinians, 53% of whom are children.

What is actually happening in the blockaded Gaza Strip, and less obviously on the occupied West Bank, is the continuation by stealth of Zionism’s ethnic cleansing of Palestine. My friend Professor Ilan Pappe, Israel’s leading “revisionist” (meaning honest) historian and author of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, would and has put it another way. What we are witnessing is, in his words, “genocide in slow motion.” And that, really, is what the governments of the Western powers (and others) are complicit in.

The question that provokes in my mind is: Why, really, are the major powers (and others) allowing it to happen?

The only answer that makes some sense to me is this. They have concluded, but cannot say, that nuclear-armed Israel, with the assistance of the Zionist lobby in all of its manifestations, is a monster beyond control.

In my analysis it’s possible to identify the moment in history when the major powers abandoned any hope they might have had of containing Zionism’s colonial ambitions.

It came, the moment, in the immediate aftermarth of the 1967 war.

Contrary to Zionism’s version of the story, it was a war of Israeli aggression not self-defense. As I document in some detail in my book Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews, Israel’s military and political leaders knew the Arabs were not intending to attack.

That being so, what the major powers ought to have said to Israel (in the diplomatic language of a Security Council Resolution and more explicitly behind closed doors) is something like: “Aggression cannot be rewarded. Aggressors cannot keep territory conquered in war. You are now required to get the hell out of it without laying down conditions for your withdrawal.”

To drive home the point, they could and should have reminded Israel of what President Eisenhower said to the people of America when he demanded Israel’s unconditional withdrawal from Egyptian territory after its collusion with Britain and France in 1956. Eisenhower, the first and the last American president to contain Zionism, said this:

“If we agree that armed attack can properly achieve the purposes of the assailant, then I fear we will have turned back the clock of international order. We will have countenanced the use of force as a means of settling international differences and gaining national advantage… If the UN once admits that international disputes can be settled using force, then we will have destroyed the very foundation of the organisation and our best hope for establishing a real world order.”

As it happened, the major powers could not say that to Israel in 1967 because the Johnson administration had colluded with Israel to the extent of giving it the greenlight to smash Eygpt’s armed forces, in the hope that a humiliating defeat for them would lead to the overthrow of President Nasser.

But also true is that President Johnson sought and obtained an assurance that Israel would not take advantage of the war situation to grab Jordanian and Syrian territory. It was because some in the Johnson administration (probably Defense Secretary McNamara and the Joint Chiefs of Staff) didn’t trust Israel to keep its word that the U.S. spy ship, the Liberty, was stationed off the Israel/Gaza coast to listen to IDF movement orders. And it was because Israeli Defense Minister Dayan didn’t want Johnson to know that he intended to take the West Bank and the Golan Heights that he, Dayan, ordered the attack on the Liberty. (The full story of that attack and Johnson’s cover-up of it is also in my book, in a chapter headed The Liberty Affair – “Pure Murder” on a “Great Day”).

Despite that, the major powers, including and led by America, could still have acted firmly to contain Zionism’s colonial ambitions. They could have said to Israel something like: “We can just about live with the fact that you will retain the newly occupied Arab territories as a bargaining chip, to be exchanged for peace with your Arab neighbours, but we will not allow you to settle those territories. Not one building. If you defy us on this matter, the Security Council will authorize enforcement action as necessary to oblige you to comply with international law.”

In what became Security Council Resolution 242, it was the failure of the major powers to read the riot act to Israel on the matter of not settling the newly occupied territories that marks the moment when they, the major powers, became resigned to the fact that the Zionist state, assisted by its awesomely powerful global lobby, was a monster they could not control. (They could slap it on the wrist from time to time but not control it).

The lesson of the cold-blooded attack on the Liberty was that there is nothing the Zionist state might not do, to its friends as well as its enemies, in order to get its own way. (In my book I explain, on the basis of a conversation with Dayan, the real reason for Israel’s decision to acquire a nuclear arsenal. It was to have the deterrent threat capability of saying to its friends, “Don’t push us further than we are prepared to go or we’ll use these things.”)

So in the full light of the truth of history as it relates to the making and sustaining of conflict in and over Palestine that became Israel, it’s not surprising that the major powers (and others) are today complicit, more by default than design I say, in Zionism’s crimes.

One Day We’ll All Be Terrorists

One Day We’ll All Be Terrorists

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Syed Fahad Hashmi can tell you about the dark heart of America. He knows that our First Amendment rights have become a joke, that habeas corpus no longer exists and that we torture, not only in black sites such as those at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan or at Guantánamo Bay, but also at the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in Lower Manhattan. Hashmi is a U.S. citizen of Muslim descent imprisoned on two counts of providing and conspiring to provide material support and two counts of making and conspiring to make a contribution of goods or services to al-Qaida. As his case prepares for trial, his plight illustrates that the gravest threat we face is not from Islamic extremists, but the codification of draconian procedures that deny Americans basic civil liberties and due process. Hashmi would be a better person to tell you this, but he is not allowed to speak.

This corruption of our legal system, if history is any guide, will not be reserved by the state for suspected terrorists, or even Muslim Americans. In the coming turmoil and economic collapse, it will be used to silence all who are branded as disruptive or subversive. Hashmi endures what many others, who are not Muslim, will endure later. Radical activists in the environmental, globalization, anti-nuclear, sustainable agriculture and anarchist movements—who are already being placed by the state in special detention facilities with Muslims charged with terrorism—have discovered that his fate is their fate. Courageous groups have organized protests, including vigils outside the Manhattan detention facility. They can be found at www.educatorsforcivilliberties.org or www.freefahad.com. On Martin Luther King Day, this Jan. 18 at 6 p.m. EST, protesters will hold a large vigil in front of the MCC on 150 Park Row in Lower Manhattan to call for a return of our constitutional rights. Join them if you can.

The case against Hashmi, like most of the terrorist cases launched by the Bush administration, is appallingly weak and built on flimsy circumstantial evidence. This may be the reason the state has set up parallel legal and penal codes to railroad those it charges with links to terrorism. If it were a matter of evidence, activists like Hashmi, who is accused of facilitating the delivery of socks to al-Qaida, would probably never be brought to trial.

Hashmi, who if convicted could face up to 70 years in prison, has been held in solitary confinement for more than 2½ years. Special administrative measures, known as SAMs, have been imposed by the attorney general to prevent or severely restrict communication with other prisoners, attorneys, family, the media and people outside the jail. He also is denied access to the news and other reading material. Hashmi is not allowed to attend group prayer. He is subject to 24-hour electronic monitoring and 23-hour lockdown. He must shower and go to the bathroom on camera. He can write one letter a week to a single member of his family, but he cannot use more than three pieces of paper. He has no access to fresh air and must take his one hour of daily recreation in a cage. His “proclivity for violence” is cited as the reason for these measures although he has never been charged or convicted with committing an act of violence.

“My brother was an activist,” Hashmi’s brother, Faisal, told me by phone from his home in Queens. “He spoke out on Muslim issues, especially those dealing with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His arrest and torture have nothing to do with providing ponchos and socks to al-Qaida, as has been charged, but the manipulation of the law to suppress activists and scare the Muslim American community. My brother is an example. His treatment is meant to show Muslims what will happen to them if they speak about the plight of Muslims. We have lost every single motion to preserve my brother’s humanity and remove the special administrative measures. These measures are designed solely to break the psyche of prisoners and terrorize the Muslim community. These measures exemplify the malice towards Muslims at home and the malice towards the millions of Muslims who are considered as non-humans in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The extreme sensory deprivation used on Hashmi is a form of psychological torture, far more effective in breaking and disorienting detainees. It is torture as science. In Germany, the Gestapo broke bones while its successor, the communist East German Stasi, broke souls. We are like the Stasi. We have refined the art of psychological disintegration and drag bewildered suspects into secretive courts when they no longer have the mental and psychological capability to defend themselves.

“Hashmi’s right to a fair trial has been abridged,” said Michael Ratner, the president of the Center for Constitutional Rights. “Much of the evidence in the case has been classified under CIPA, and thus Hashmi has not been allowed to review it. The prosecution only recently turned over a significant portion of evidence to the defense. Hashmi may not communicate with the news media, either directly or through his attorneys. The conditions of his detention have impacted his mental state and ability to participate in his own defense.

“The prosecution’s case against Hashmi, an outspoken activist within the Muslim community, abridges his First Amendment rights and threatens the First Amendment rights of others,” Ratner added. “While Hashmi’s political and religious beliefs, speech and associations are constitutionally protected, the government has been given wide latitude by the court to use them as evidence of his frame of mind and, by extension, intent. The material support charges against him depend on criminalization of association. This could have a chilling effect on the First Amendment rights of others, particularly in activist and Muslim communities.”

Constitutionally protected statements, beliefs and associations can now become a crime. Dissidents, even those who break no laws, can be stripped of their rights and imprisoned without due process. It is the legal equivalent of preemptive war. The state can detain and prosecute people not for what they have done, or even for what they are planning to do, but for holding religious or political beliefs that the state deems seditious. The first of those targeted have been observant Muslims, but they will not be the last.

“Most of the evidence is classified,” Jeanne Theoharis, an associate professor of political science at Brooklyn College who taught Hashmi, told me, “but Hashmi is not allowed to see it. He is an American citizen. But in America you can now go to trial and all the evidence collected against you cannot be reviewed. You can spend 2½ years in solitary confinement before you are convicted of anything. There has been attention paid to extraordinary rendition, Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib with this false idea that if people are tried in the United States things will be fair. But what allowed Guantánamo to happen was the devolution of the rule of law here at home, and this is not only happening to Hashmi.”

Hashmi was, like so many of those arrested during the Bush years, briefly a poster child in the “war on terror.” He was apprehended in Britain on June 6, 2006, on a U.S. warrant. His arrest was the top story on the CBS and NBC nightly news programs, which used graphics that read “Terror Trail” and “Web of Terror.” He was held for 11 months at Belmarsh Prison in London and then became the first U.S. citizen to be extradited by Britain. The year before his arrest, Hashmi, a graduate of Brooklyn College, had completed his master’s degree in international relations at London Metropolitan University. His case has no more substance than the one against the seven men arrested on suspicion of plotting to blow up the Sears Tower, a case where, even though there were five convictions after two mistrials, an FBI deputy director acknowledged that the plan was more “aspirational rather than operational.” And it mirrors the older case of the Palestinian activist Sami Al-Arian, now under house arrest in Virginia, who has been hounded by the Justice Department although he should legally have been freed. Judge Leonie Brinkema, currently handling the Al-Arian case, in early March, questioned the U.S. attorney’s actions in Al-Arian’s plea agreement saying curtly: “I think there’s something more important here, and that’s the integrity of the Justice Department.”

The case against Hashmi revolves around the testimony of Junaid Babar, also an American citizen. Babar, in early 2004, stayed with Hashmi at his London apartment for two weeks. In his luggage, the government alleges, Babar had raincoats, ponchos and waterproof socks, which Babar later delivered to a member of al-Qaida in south Waziristan, Pakistan. It was alleged that Hashmi allowed Babar to use his cell phone to call conspirators in other terror plots.

“Hashmi grew up here, was well known here, was very outspoken, very charismatic and very political,” said Theoharis. “This is really a message being sent to American Muslims about the cost of being politically active. It is not about delivering alleged socks and ponchos and rain gear. Do you think al-Qaida can’t get socks and ponchos in Pakistan? The government is planning to introduce tapes of Hashmi’s political talks while he was at Brooklyn College at the trial. Why are we willing to let this happen? Is it because they are Muslims, and we think it will not affect us? People who care about First Amendment rights should be terrified. This is one of the crucial civil rights issues of our time. We ignore this at our own peril.”

Babar, who was arrested in 2004 and has pleaded guilty to five counts of material support for al-Qaida, also faces up to 70 years in prison. But he has agreed to serve as a government witness and has already testified for the government in terror trials in Britain and Canada. Babar will receive a reduced sentence for his services, and many speculate he will be set free after the Hashmi trial. Since there is very little evidence to link Hashmi to terrorist activity, the government will rely on Babar to prove intent. This intent will revolve around alleged conversations and statements Hashmi made in Babar’s presence. Hashmi, who was a member of the New York political group Al Muhajiroun as a student at Brooklyn College, has made provocative statements, including calling America “the biggest terrorist in the world,” but Al Muhajiroun is not defined by the government as a terrorist organization. Membership in the group is not illegal. And our complicity in acts of state terror is a historical fact.

There will be more Hashmis, and the Justice Department, planning for future detentions, set up in 2006 a segregated facility, the Communication Management Unit, at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind. Nearly all the inmates transferred to Terre Haute are Muslims. A second facility has been set up at Marion, Ill., where the inmates again are mostly Muslim but also include a sprinkling of animal rights and environmental activists, among them Daniel McGowan, who was charged with two arsons at logging operations in Oregon. His sentence was given “terrorism enhancements” under the Patriot Act. Amnesty International has called the Marion prison facility “inhumane.” All calls and mail—although communication customarily is off-limits to prison officials—are monitored in these two Communication Management Units. Communication among prisoners is required to be only in English. The highest-level terrorists are housed at the Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility, known as Supermax, in Florence, Colo., where prisoners have almost no human interaction, physical exercise or mental stimulation, replicating the conditions for most of those held at Guantánamo. If detainees are transferred from Guantánamo to the prison in Thomson, Ill., they will find little change. They will endure Guantánamo-like conditions in colder weather.

Our descent is the familiar disease of decaying empires. The tyranny we impose on others we finally impose on ourselves. The influx of non-Muslim American activists into these facilities is another ominous development. It presages the continued dismantling of the rule of law, the widening of a system where prisoners are psychologically broken by sensory deprivation, extreme isolation and secretive kangaroo courts where suspects are sentenced on rumors and innuendo and denied the right to view the evidence against them. Dissent is no longer the duty of the engaged citizen but is becoming an act of terrorism.

Israel Rules

Israel Rules

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On Christmas eve when Christians were celebrating the Prince of Peace, the New York Times delivered forth a call for war. “There’s only one way to stop Iran,” declared Alan J. Kuperman, and that is “military air strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities.”

Kuperman is described as the “director of the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Program at the University of Texas at Austin,” but his Christmas eve call to war relies on disinformation and contradiction, not on objective scholarly analysis.

For example, Kuperman contradicts the unanimous report of America’s 16 intelligence agencies, the reports of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and Russian intelligence with his claim that Iran has a nuclear weapon program. Astonishingly, it does not occur to Kuperman that readers might wonder how an academic bureaucrat in Austin, Texas, has better information than these authorities.

Kuperman is so determined to damn President Obama’s plan to have other countries enrich Iran’s uranium for Iran’s nuclear energy program and medical isotopes that Kuperman commits astounding blunders. After claiming that Iran has a “bomb program,” Kuperman claims that “Iran’s uranium contains impurities” and that Ahmadinejad’s threat “to enrich uranium domestically to the 20 percent level . . . is a bluff, because even if Iran could further enrich its impure uranium, it lacks the capacity to fabricate the uranium into fuel elements.”

What was the New York Times op ed editor thinking when he approved Kuperman’s article? Iran, Kuperman writes, needs “90 percent enriched uranium” to have weapons-grade material, but cannot reach 20 percent or even make fuel elements for its nuclear energy. So, how is Iran going to produce a bomb? Yet, Kuperman writes that “we have reached the point where air strikes are the only plausible option with any prospect of preventing Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. The sooner the United States takes action, the better.”

It could not be made any clearer that, as with the US invasion of Iraq, a military attack on Iran has nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction. An “Iranian nuke” is just another canard behind which hides an undeclared agenda.

One wonders about Kuperman’s non-proliferation credentials. How does a wanton military attack on a country encourage non-proliferation? Aren’t America’s bullying, threats and acts of war more likely to encourage countries to seek nuclear weapons?

At the end of the first decade of the 21st century, the United States has wars ongoing in Iraq where the ancient Chaldean Christian community was destroyed--not by Saddam Hussein but by the neoconservatives’ illegal invasion of Iraq--in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yeman, and Sudan. The US initiated a war, which it lost, between its puppet ruler in the former Soviet province of Georgia and Russia.

The US, the world’s greatest supporter of terrorism, is the main financier of terrorist groups that stage attacks within Iran, and US money succeeded in financing protests against President Ahmadinejad’s re-election and in dividing the ruling Islamic clerics. It was American money, weapons, and diplomatic cover that enabled the Israeli war crimes against the Lebanese people during 2006 and against Palestinian civilians in Gaza during 2008-2009, crimes documented in the Goldstone Report.

Iran has never interfered in US internal affairs, but the US has a long record of interfering in Iranian affairs. In 1953 the US overthrew Iran’s popular prime minister, Mohammed Mosaddeq and installed a puppet who tortured Iranians who desired political independence.

Despite this and other American offenses against Iran, Ahmadinejad has repeatedly expressed Iran’s interest to be on friendly terms with the United States, only to be repeatedly rebuffed. The US wants war with Iran in order to expand US world hegemony.

One might expect a non-proliferation expert to take history into account, but Kuperman fails to do so. Kuperman also has nothing to say about Israel’s, India’s and Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. Unlike Iran, none of these countries are signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Israel, India, and Pakistan all developed their nuclear weapons in secret, and many experts believe Israel had American help, an act of treason. All three countries have been rewarded by Washington despite their perfidy. Why is Kuperman concerned about Iran, which submits to the IAEA inspections, but is unconcerned with Israel, a country that has never permitted a single inspection?

The answer is that the Israel Lobby, the US military-security complex, and the “Christian” Zionists have succeeded in demonizing Iran. Every real expert knows that an Iranian nuclear weapon would have no function other than deterring an attack on Iran. Ever since the US lost its monopoly on nuclear weapons, after using them offensively and pointlessly against a defeated Japan, nuclear weapons have served no purpose other than deterrence.

The US has no conflicting economic interests with Iran. Iran is simply a supplier of oil, an important one. A US attack on Iran, such as the one advocated by Kuperman, would most likely shut down oil flows to the West through the Strait of Hormuz. This might benefit refiners, who sell gasoline to the West and could charge enormous prices, but no one else would benefit.

Adding to the war cry are congregations of fake Christians. A great number of them, organized by someone’s money under the banner, “Christian Leaders for a Nuclear-free Iran,” has written to Congress demanding sanctions against Iran that amount to an act of war. The roll call http://www.clnfi.org/ includes the “Christian” Zionist John Hagee, who, according to reports, denigrates Jesus Christ and preaches to his illiterate congregation that it is God’s will for Americans to fight and die for Israel, the oppressor of the Palestinian people.

Among the signatories of the “Christians” demanding an act of war against Iran, are Dr. Pat Robertson, president of Christian Broadcasting Network, Nixon-era criminal Chuck Colson, and Richard Land, president of Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Southern Baptist Convention. Obviously, for southern baptists ethics means murdering Islamists, and religious liberty excludes everyone but “Christian” Zionists.

It is a simple matter for an educated person to make fools of these morons who profess to be Christians. However, these morons have vast constituencies numbering in the tens of millions of Americans. There are, in fact, more of them than there are intelligent, informed, moral, and real Christian Americans.

The votes of the morons will prevail.

In the second decade of the 21st century, America’s Zionist wars against Islam will expand. America’s wars in behalf of Israel’s territorial expansion will complete the bankruptcy of America. The Treasury’s bonds to finance the US government’s enormous deficits will lack for buyers. Therefore, the bonds will be monetized by the Federal Reserve. The result will be rising rates of inflation. The inflation will destroy the dollar as world reserve currency, and the US will no longer be able to pay for its imports. Shortages will appear, including food and gasoline, and “Superpower America” will find itself pressed to the wall as a third world country unable to pay its debts.

America has been brought low, both morally and economically, by its obeisance to the Israel Lobby. Even Jimmy Carter, a former President of the United States and Governor of Georgia recently had to apologize to the Israel Lobby for his honest criticisms of Israel’s inhumane treatment of the occupied Palestinians in order for his grandson to be able to run for a seat in the Georgia state senate. http://www.counterpunch.org/amiri12252009.html

This should tell the macho super-power American tough guys who really runs “their” country.

Federal Appeals Court Sets Limits on Police Use of Tasers

Federal Appeals Court Sets Limits on Police Use of Tasers

A federal appeals court on Monday issued one of the most comprehensive rulings yet limiting police use of Tasers against low-level offenders who seem to pose little threat and may be mentally ill.

In a case out of San Diego County, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals criticized an officer who, without warning, shot an emotionally troubled man with a Taser when he was unarmed, yards away, and neither fleeing nor advancing on the officer.

Sold as a nonlethal alternative to guns, Tasers deliver an electrical jolt meant to subdue a subject. The stun guns have become a common and increasingly controversial tool used by law enforcement.

There have been at least nine Taser-related fatalities in the Sacramento region, including the death earlier this month of Paul Martinez Jr., an inmate shot with a stun gun while allegedly resisting officers at the Roseville jail.

As lawsuits have proliferated against police and Taser International, which manufactures the weaons, the nation's appellate courts have been trying to define what constitutes appropriate Taser use.

The San Diego County case is the latest ruling to address the issue.

The court recounted the facts of the case:

In the summer of 2005, Carl Bryan, 21, was pulled over for a seat-belt violation and did not follow an officer's order to stay in the car.

Earlier, he had received a speeding ticket and had taken off his T-shirt to wipe away tears. He was wearing only the underwear he'd slept in because a woman had taken his keys, the court said without further explanation.

During his second traffic stop in Coronado, he got out of the car. He was "agitated … yelling gibberish and hitting his thighs, clad only in his boxer shorts and tennis shoes" but did not threaten the officer verbally or physically, the judges wrote.

That's when Coronado Police Officer Brian McPherson, who was standing about 20 feet away watching Bryan's "bizarre tantrum," fired his Taser, the court said.

Without a word of warning, he hit Bryan in the arm with two metal darts, delivering a 1,200-volt jolt.

Temporarily paralyzed and in intense pain, Bryan fell face-first on the pavement. The fall shattered four of his front teeth and left him with facial abrasions and swelling. Later, a doctor had to use a scalpel to remove one of the darts.

Bryan sued McPherson, the Coronado Police Department and the city of Coronado, alleging excessive force in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights.

The officer moved to have the claim dismissed, but a federal trial judge ruled in Bryan's favor.

A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit affirmed the trial judge's ruling on Monday, concluding that the level of force used by the officer was excessive.

McPherson could have waited for backup or tried to talk the man down, the judges said. If Bryan was mentally ill, as the officer contended, then there was even more reason to use "less intrusive means," the judges said.

"Officer McPherson's desire to quickly and decisively end an unusual and tense situation is understandable," Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw wrote for the court. "His chosen method for doing so violated Bryan's constitutional right to be free from excessive force."

Some lawyers called it a landmark decision.

Eugene Iredale, a San Diego lawyer who argued the case, said it was one of the clearest and most complete statements yet from an appellate court about the limits of Taser use.

He said after Monday's decision that courts will consider all circumstances, including whether someone poses a threat, has committed a serious crime or is mentally troubled.

"In an era where everybody understands 'don't tase me, bro,' courts are going to look more closely at the use of Tasers, and they're going to try to deter the promiscuous oversue of that tool," he said.

That's especially true in the context of those who appear to be emotionally disturbed or mentally ill, said Johnny Griffin III, a Sacramento plaintiffs lawyer.

Griffin represented the family of a troubled Woodland man who died under police restraint after being struck multiple times with Tasers.

In May 2008, Ricardo Abrahams walked away from a voluntary care facility and disobeyed the orders of officers called to check on his well-being. They shot him repeatedly with stun guns.

The case against the city of Woodland and its officers was settled in June for $300,000.

"I think it confirms what I and other lawyers in this area have been saying: You can't treat a person with mental illness the same as someone without mental illness," Griffin said.

Law enforcement authorities in Sacramento said they don't expect Monday's ruling to prompt much change.

Sacramento Police Department and Sacramento County Sheriff's Department policies permit the use of force to gain control of a suspect or prevent harm to others.

"Certainly the officer should be able to articulate the reason the force (was used), and a mere resistance to comply may not be enough," said Sheriff John McGinness.

Sgt. Norm Leong, spokesman for the Police Department, said his agency's policy on the use of stun guns mainly covers safety considerations. It doesn't list behaviors or situations that warrant using the devices, he said.

"Ideally, in every circumstance, we try to gain compliance verbally, and force is the last option we ever want to use," he said.

US Press Ignores Egyptian Suppression of Gaza Freedom March

US Press Ignores Egyptian Suppression of Gaza Freedom March

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The government of Egypt is taking a spectacularly hard line against international solidarity efforts in support of civilians in Gaza on the one-year anniversary of the Israeli invasion, blocking peace marchers from the US, Canada and Europe from even approaching the Egyptian border with Gaza, and blocking an aid convoy that has the support of the Turkish government from entering Egypt at Nuweiba. Even a peaceful protest at UN offices in Cairo was largely walled off from public view by Egyptian police.

It seems that any pretense of Egyptian government concern for the suffering of Palestinian civilians has been dropped, along with the pretense that there is anything less than 100 percent cooperation from Egypt and its US and European patrons with Israel's program of punishing Gaza's population for the political crime of having provided majority support to the Hamas movement in a legislative election.

Meanwhile, there is largely a US press blackout of these striking developments. A search of The New York Times and The Washington Post only turns up a tiny AP story on the web sites of the Times and the Post.

As has frequently been the case, Agence France-Presse (AFP) pays more attention to these developments. On Monday, AFP reported that Hedy Epstein and other members of the Gaza Freedom March have begun a hunger strike to press the Egyptian government to allow them to enter Gaza:

An 85-year-old Holocaust survivor was among a group of grandmothers who began a hunger strike in Cairo on Monday to protest against Egypt's refusal to allow a Gaza solidarity march to proceed.

American activist Hedy Epstein and other grandmothers participating in the Gaza Freedom March began a hunger strike at 1000 GMT.

"I've never done this before, I don't know how my body will react, but I'll do whatever it takes," Epstein told AFP, sitting on a chair surrounded by hundreds of protesters outside the United Nations building in Cairo.

On Sunday, AFP reported on the efforts of the Viva Palestina aid convoy to enter Egypt with the support of the Turkish government:

An aid convoy trying to reach the blockaded Gaza Strip through Egypt was still stranded in Jordan on Sunday amid Cairo's refusal to let it cross through its territory.

Members of the convoy, which is led by British MP George Galloway, were however hoping for a solution thanks to mediation by Turkey to enter Gaza through the Red Sea port of Nuweiba, the most direct route.

The British-initiated aid convoy has at least been mentioned by the BBC, but NPR has not reported on the US-initiated Gaza Freedom March.

Wouldn't you be a little bit curious to know what explanations The New York Times and The Washington Post would provide for ignoring these developments? Why not send them a little note?

Inside the Military Media Industrial Complex: Impacts on Movements for Peace and Social Justice

Inside the Military Media Industrial Complex: Impacts on Movements for Peace and Social Justice

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Among the most important corporate media censored news stories of the past decade, one must be that over one million people have died because of the United States military invasion and occupation of Iraq. This, of course, does not include the number of deaths from the first Gulf War nor the ensuing sanctions placed upon the country of Iraq that, combined, caused close to an additional one million Iraqi deaths. In the Iraq War, which began in March of 2003, over a million people have died violently primarily from US bombings and neighborhood patrols. These were deaths in excess of the normal civilian death rate under the prior government. Among US military leaders and policy elites, the issue of counting the dead was dismissed before the Iraqi invasion even began. In an interview with reporters in late March of 2002 US General Tommy Franks stated, “You know we don’t do body counts.”[i] Fortunately, for those concerned about humanitarian costs of war and empire, others do.

In a January 2008 report, the British polling group Opinion Research Business (ORB) reported that, “survey work confirms our earlier estimate that over 1,000,000 Iraqi citizens have died as a result of the conflict which started in 2003. We now estimate that the death toll between March 2003 and August 2007 is likely to have been of the order of 1,033,000. If one takes into account the margin of error associated with survey data of this nature then the estimated range is between 946,000 and 1,120,000.”[ii]

The ORB report came on the heels of two earlier studies conducted by Dr. Les Roberts and colleagues at Johns Hopkins University and published in the Lancet medical journal. The first study done from January 1, 2002 to March 18, 2003 confirmed civilian deaths at that time at over 100,000. The second study published in October 2006 documented over 650,000 civilian deaths in Iraq since the start of the US invasion and confirmed that US aerial bombing in civilian neighborhoods caused over a third of these deaths. Over half the deaths were directly attributable to US forces. The now estimated 1.2 million dead six years into the war/occupation, included children, parents, grandparents, cab drivers, clerics and schoolteachers. All manner of ordinary Iraqis have died because the United States decided to invade their country under false pretences of undiscovered weapons of mass destruction and in violation of international law. An additional four to five million Iraqi refugees have fled their homes The magnitude of these million-plus deaths and creation of such a vast refugee crisis is undeniable. The continuing occupation by US forces has guaranteed a monthly mass death rate of thousands of people a carnage that ranks among the most heinous mass killings in world history. More tons of bombs have been dropped in Iraq than in all of World War II.[iii] Six years later the casualties continue but the story, barely reported from the start, has vanished.

The American people face a serious moral dilemma. Murder and war crimes have been conducted in their name. Yet most Americans have no idea of the magnitude of deaths and tend to believe that they number in the thousands and are primarily Iraqis killing Iraqis. Corporate mainstream media are in large part to blame. The question then becomes how can this mass ignorance and corporate media deception exist in the United States and what impact does this have on peace and social justice movements in the country?[iv]

Truth Emergency and Media Reform

In the United States today, the rift between reality and reporting has peaked. There is no longer a mere credibility gap, but rather a literalTruth Emergency in which the most important information affecting people is concealed from view. Many Americans, relying on the mainstream corporate media, have serious difficulty accessing the truth while still believing that the information they receive is the reality. A Truth Emergency reflects cumulative failures of the fourth estate to act as a truly free press. This truth emergency is seen in inadequate coverage of fraudulent elections, pseudo 9/11 investigations, illegal preemptive wars, torture camps, doctored intelligence, and domestic surveillance. Reliable information on these issues is systematically missing in corporate media outlets, where the vast majority of the American people continue to turn for news and information.

Consider these items of noteworthy conditions. US workers have been faced with a thirty-five year decline in real wages while the top few percent enjoy unparalleled wealth with strikingly low tax burdens. US schools, particularly in the west, are more segregated now than half a century ago. The US has the highest infant mortality rate among industrialized nations, is falling behind in scientific research and education, leads the world as a debtor nation, and is seriously lacking in healthcare quality and coverage, which results in the deaths of 18,000 people a year. America has entered another Gilded Age. Someone should alert the media.[v]

The Free Press or Media Reform Movement is a national effort to address mainstream media failures and the government policies that sanction them. During the 2008 National Conference for Media Reform (NCMR) in Minneapolis, Project Censored interns and faculty conducted a survey, completed by 376 randomly selected NCMR attendees out of the 3,500 people registered for the conference. This survey was designed to gauge participants’ views on the state of the corporate news media and the effectiveness of the media reform movement. The survey also sought to determine the level of belief in a truth emergency, a systematic hiding of critical information in the US. Not surprisingly, for a sample of independent media reform activists, majorities in the 90% plus range agreed on most criticisms of mainstream media, that corporate media failed to keep the American people informed on important issues facing the nation and that a truth emergency does indeed exist in the US. Regarding the reasons, 87% of the participants believed that a military-industrial-media complex exists in the US for the promotion of the US military domination of the world and most agreed with research conclusions by Project Censored, and others, that a continuing powerful global dominance group inside the US government, the US media, and the national policy structure is responsible. What was clear from our survey is that media democracy activists strongly support not only aggressive reform efforts and policy changes but also the continuing development of independent, grassroots media as part of an overall media democracy movement.

While most progressive media activists do not believe in some omnipotent conspiracy, an overwhelming portion of NCMR participants do believe the leadership class in the US is dominated by a neo-conservative group of some several hundred people who share a goal of asserting US military power worldwide. This Global Dominance Group (GDM) continues under both Republican and Democratic rule. In cooperation with major military contractors, the corporate media, and conservative foundations, the GDM has become a powerful long-term force in military unilateralism and US political processes.

The Global Dominance Group and Information Control

A long thread of sociological research documents the existence of a dominant ruling class in the US, which sets policy and determines national political priorities. C. Wright Mills, in his 1956 book The Power Elite, documented how World War II solidified a trinity of power in the US that comprised corporate, military and government elites in a centralized power structure working in unison through “higher circles” of contact and agreement.[vi] This power has grown through the Cold War and, after 9/11, the Global War on Terror.

At present, the global dominance agenda includes penetration into the boardrooms of the corporate media in the US. Only 118 people comprise the membership on the boards of director of the ten big media giants. These 118 individuals in turn sit on the corporate boards of 288 national and international corporations. Four of the top 10 media corporations share board director positions with the major defense contractors including:

William Kennard: New York Times, Carlyle Group

Douglas Warner III, GE (NBC), Bechtel

John Bryson: Disney (ABC), Boeing

Alwyn Lewis: Disney (ABC), Halliburton

Douglas McCorkindale: Gannett, Lockheed-Martin.

Given an interlocked media network of connections with defense and other economic sectors, big media in the United States effectively represent the interests of corporate America. Media critic and historian Norman Solomon described the close financial and social links between the boards of large media-related corporations and Washington’s foreign-policy establishment: “One way or another, a military-industrial complex now extends to much of corporate media.”[vii] The Homeland Security Act Title II Section 201(d)(5) provides an example of the interlocked military-industrial-media complex. This Act specifically asks the directorate to “develop a comprehensive plan for securing the key resources and critical infrastructure of the United States including information technology and telecommunications systems (including satellites) emergency preparedness communications systems.”

The media elite, a key component of the Higher Circle Policy Elite in the US, are the watchdogs of acceptable ideological messages, the controllers of news and information content, and the decision makers regarding media resources. Their goal is to create symbiotic global news distribution in a deliberate attempt to control the news and information available to society. The two most prominent methods used to accomplish this task are censorship and propaganda.

Sometimes the sensationalist and narrow media coverage of news is blamed upon the need to meet a low level of public taste and thereby capture the eyes of a sufficient market to lure advertisers and to make a profit. But another goal of cornering the marketplace on what news and views will be aired is also prominent. Billionaire Rupert Murdoch loses $50 million a year on the NY Post, billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife loses $2 to $3 million a year on the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, billionaire Philip Anschutz loses around $5 million a year on The Weekly Standard, and billionaire Sun Myung Moon has lost $2 to $3 billion on The Washington Times. The losses in supporting conservative media are part of a strategy of ideological control. They also buy bulk quantities of ultra-conservative books bringing them to the top of the NY Times bestseller list and then give away copies to “subscribers” to their websites and publications. They fund conservative “think tanks” like Heritage and Cato with hundreds of millions of dollars a year. All this buys them respectability and a megaphone. Even though William Kristol’s publication, the Standard, is a money-loser, his association with it has often gotten him on TV talk shows and a column with The New York Times. Sponsorships of groups like Grover Norquist’s anti-tax “Americans for Tax Reform” regularly get people like him front-and-center in any debate on taxation in the United States. This has contributed to extensive tax cuts for the wealthy and the most unfair tax laws of any industrialized country – all found acceptable by a public relying upon sound-bites about the dangers of ‘big government.’ Hence media corporation officials and others in the health care, energy and weapons industries remain wealthier than ordinary people can imagine. Their expenditures for molding opinion are better understood as investments in a conservative public ideology[viii]

Modern Media Censorship and Propaganda

A broader definition of contemporary censorship needs to include any interference, deliberate or not, with the free flow of vital news information to the public. Modern censorship can be seen as the subtle yet constant and sophisticated manipulation of reality in our mass media outlets. On a daily basis, censorship refers to the intentional non-inclusion of a news story – or piece of a news story – based on anything other than a desire to tell the truth. Such manipulation can take the form of political pressure (from government officials and powerful individuals), economic pressure (from advertisers and funders), and legal pressure (the threat of lawsuits from deep-pocket individuals, corporations, and institutions). or threats to reduce future access to governmental and corporate sources of news. Following are a few examples of censorship and propaganda.

1. Omitted or Undercovered Stories- The failure of the corporate media to cover human consequences, like one million , mostly civilian deaths of Iraqis, reduces public response to the wars being conducted by the US. Even when activists do mobilize, the media coverage of anti-war demonstrations has been negligible and denigrating from the start. When journalists of the so-called free press ignore the anti-war movement, they serve the interests of their masters in the military media industrial complex.[ix]

Further, the corporate mainstream press continues to ignore the human cost of the US war in Iraq with America’s own veterans. Veteran care, wounded rates, mental disabilities, VA claims, first hand accounts of soldier experiences, and pictures of dead or limbless soldiers are rare. One of the most important stories missed by the corporate press concerned the Winter Soldier Congressional hearings in Washington, D.C. The hearings, with eyewitness testimony of US soldiers relating their experiences on the battlefield and beyond, were only covered by a scant number of major media, and then only in passing. In contrast to the virtual corporate media blackout concerning American soldiers’ views of the war, the independent, listener sponsored, community Pacifica Radio network covered the hearings at length.[x]

A common theme among the most censored stories over the past few years has been the systemic erosion of human rights and civil liberties in both the US and the world at large. The corporate media has ignored the fact that habeas corpus can now be suspended for anyone by order of the President. With the approval of Congress, the Military Commissions Act (MCA) of 2006, signed by Bush on October 17, 2006, allows for the suspension of habeas corpus for US citizens and non-citizens alike. While media, including a lead editorial in The New York Times October 19, 2006, have offered false comfort that American citizens will not be the victims, the Act is quite clear that ‘any person’ can be targeted.[xi]

Additionally, under the code-name Operation FALCON (Federal and Local Cops Organized Nationally), federally coordinated mass arrests have been occurring since April 2005 and netted over 54,000 arrests, a majority of whom were not violent criminals as was initially suggested. This unprecedented move of arresting tens of thousands of “fugitives” is the largest dragnet style operation in the nation’s history. The raids, coordinated by the Justice Department and Homeland Security, directly involved over 960 agencies (state, local and federal) and mark the first time in US history that all domestic police agencies have been put under the direct control of the federal government.[xii]

All these events are significant in a democratic society that claims to cherish individual rights and due process of law. To have them occur is a tragedy. To have a “free” press not report them or pretend these issues do not matter to the populace is the foundation of censorship today.

2. Repetition of Slogans and Sound Bites- The corporate media in the US present themselves as unbiased and accurate. The New York Times motto of “all the news that’s fit to print” is a clear example, as is CNN’s authoritative “most trusted name in news” and Fox’s mantra of “fair and balanced.” The slogans are examples of what linguist George Lakoff has referred to as framing. Through constant repetition, the metaphors and symbols that pervade our media turn into unquestioned beliefs. Terms like “liberal media,” “welfare cheaters,” “war on terror,” illegal aliens,” “tax burden,” “support our troops,” are all distorted images serving to conceal a transfer of wealth from people needing a safety net to corporations seeking profitable markets and military expansion.

3. Embedded Journalism- The media are increasingly dependent on governmental and corporate sources of news. Maintenance of continuous news shows requires a constant feed and an ever-entertaining supply of stimulating events and breaking news bites. The 24-hour news shows on MSNBC, Fox and CNN maintain constant contact with the White House, Pentagon, and public relations companies representing both government and private corporations.

By the time of the Gulf War in 1991, retired colonels, generals and admirals had become mainstays in network TV studios during wartime. Language such as “collateral damage” and “smart bombs” flowed effortlessly between journalists and military men, who shared perspectives on the occasionally mentioned but more rarely seen civilians killed by U.S. firepower. This clearly foreshadowed the structure of “embedded” reporting in the second Iraq War, where mainstream corporate journalists literally lived with the troops and had to submit all reports for military review.[xiii] A related militarization of news studies by Diane Farsetta at the Center for Media Democracy documented a related introduction of bias. These investigations showed Pentagon propaganda penetration on mainstream corporate news in the guise of retired Generals as “experts” or pundits who turned out to be nothing more than paid shills for government war policy.[xiv]

The problem then becomes more complex. What happens to a society that begins to believe such lies as truth? The run up to the 2003 war in Iraq concerning weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) is a case in point. It illustrates the power of propaganda in creating not only public support for an ill-begotten war, but also reduces the possibility of a peace movement, even when fueled by the truth, to stop a war based on falsehoods. The current war in Iraq was the most globally protested war in recorded history. This did nothing to stop it and has done little to end it even under a Democratic president who promised such on the campaign trail. The candidate of “hope and change,” with peace groups in tow, has proven to be dependent upon the same interests in foreign policy that got the US into war in the first place.[xv]

The Progressive Press

Where the left progressive press may have covered some of the Winter Soldier issues, most did not cover the major story of Iraqi deaths. InManufacturing Consent, Wharton School of Business Professor of Political Economy Edward Herman and MIT Institute Professor of Linguistics Noam Chomsky claim that because media are firmly embedded in the market system, they reflect the class values and concerns of their owners and advertisers. The corporate media maintain a class bias through five systemic filters: concentrated private ownership; a strict bottom-line profit orientation; over-reliance on governmental and corporate sources for news; a primary tendency to avoid offending the powerful; and an almost religious worship of the market economy. These filters limit what will become news in society and set parameters on acceptable coverage of daily events.[xvi]

The danger of these filters is that they make subtle and indirect censorship more difficult to combat. Owners and managers share class identity with the powerful and are motivated economically to please advertisers and viewers. Social backgrounds influence their conceptions of what is “newsworthy,” and their views and values seem only “common sense.” Journalists and editors are not immune to the influence of owners and managers. Reporters want to see their stories approved for print or broadcast, and editors come to know the limits of their freedom to diverge from the “common sense” worldview of owners and managers. The self-discipline that this structure induces in journalists and editors comes to seem only “common sense” to them as well. Self-discipline becomes self-censorship—independence is restricted, the filtering process hidden, denied, or rationalized away.

Project Censored’s analysis on the top ten progressive left publications and websites coverage of key post-9/11 issues found considerable limitations on reporting of specific stories. The evidence supports the Chomsky and Herman understanding that the media barrage may in fact contribute to the news story selection process inside the left liberal media as well.[xvii] Even the left progressive media showed limited coverage of the human costs of the 9/11 wars.

The figure reported in summer, 2007 documenting a million dead did appear in progressive websites and radio including After Downing Street, Huffington Post, CounterPunch, Alternet, Democracy Now! and the Nation, but several took months to get to it. This lack of timely reporting on such a critical story on the humanitarian crisis of the US occupation by the alternative press in America does not bode well for a strong, public, peace movement. The US is in dire need of a media democracy movement to address truth emergency concerns.

In response, the Truth Emergency Movement, held its first national strategy summit in Santa Cruz, California Jan. 25-27, 2008. Organizers gathered key media constituencies to devise coherent decentralized models for distribution of suppressed news, synergistic truth-telling, and collaborative strategies to disclose, legitimize and popularize deeper historical narratives on power and inequality in the US. In sum, this truth movement is seeking to discover in this moment of Constitutional crisis, ecological peril, and widening war, ways in which top investigative journalists, whistleblowers, and independent media activists can transform how Americans perceive and defend their world. We learn from grassroots actions in the US but also from experiences of other countries. This requires us to transcend the stereotypes of other countries hammered by the corporate media. It is not by chance that two Latin American nations, both targets of US efforts to remove their popular leaders by force, have been vilified by mainstream media. Both Cuba and Venezuela, however, have been experiments in local democratic participation in which voices of communities weigh heavily upon social policy.

International Models of Media Democracy in Action: Venezuela

Democracy from the bottom is evolving as a ten-year social revolution in Venezuela. Led by President Hugo Chavez, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) gained over 1½ million voters in the November, 2008 elections. “It was a wonderful victory,” said Professor Carmen Carrero with the communications studies department of the Bolivarian University in Caracas. “We won 81 percent of the city mayor positions and seventeen of twenty-three of the state governors,” Carrero reported.

The Bolivarian University is housed in the former oil ministry building and now serves 8,000 students throughout Venezuela. The University (Universidad Bolivariana de Venezuela) is symbolic of the democratic socialist changes occurring throughout the country. Before the election of Hugo Chavez as president in 1998, college attendance was primarily for the rich in Venezuela. Today over one million, eight hundred thousand students attend college, three times the rate ten years ago. “Our university was established to resist domination and imperialism,” reported Principal (president) Marlene Yadira Cordova in an interview November 10, 2008, “We are a university where we have a vision of life that the oppressed people have a place on this planet.” The enthusiasm for learning and serious-thoughtful questions asked by students was certainly representative of a belief in the potential of positive social change for human betterment. The University offers a fully staffed free healthcare clinic, zero tuition, and basic no-cost food for students in the cafeteria, all paid for by the oil revenues now being democratically shared by the people.

Bottom up democracy in Venezuela starts with the 25,000 community councils elected in every neighborhood in the country. “We establish the priority needs of our area,” reported community council spokesperson Carmon Aponte, with the neighborhood council in the barrio Bombilla area of western Caracas. Aponte works with Patare Community TV and radio station and is one of thirty-four locally controlled community television stations and four hundred radio stations now in the barrios throughout Venezuela. Community radio, TV and newspapers are the voice of the people, where they describe the viewers/listeners as the “users” of media instead of the passive audiences.[xviii]

Democratic socialism has meant healthcare, jobs, food, and security, in neighborhoods where in many cases nothing but poverty existed ten years ago. With unemployment down to a US level, sharing the wealth has taken real meaning in Venezuela. Despite a 50 percent increase in the price of food last year, local Mercals offer government subsidized cooking oil, corn meal, meat, and powdered milk at 30-50 percent off market price. Additionally, there are now 3,500 local communal banks with a $1.6 billion dollar budget offering neighborhood-based micro-financing loans for home improvements, small businesses, and personal emergencies.

“We have moved from a time of disdain [pre-revolution—when the upper classes saw working people as less than human] to a time of adjustment,” proclaimed Ecuador’s minister of Culture, Gallo Mora Witt at the opening ceremonies of the Fourth International Book Fair in Caracas, November, 2007. Venezuela’s Minister of Culture, Hector Soto added, “We try not to leave anyone out. . . before the revolution the elites published only 60-80 books a year, we will publish 1,200 Venezuelan authors this year…the book will never stop being the important tool for cultural feelings.” In fact, some twenty-five million books—classics by Victor Hugo and Miguel de Cervantes along with Cindy Sheehan’s Letter to George Bush—were published in 2008 and are being distributed to the community councils nationwide. The theme of the International Book Fair was books as cultural support to the construction of the Bolivarian revolution and building socialism for the 21st century.

In Venezuela the corporate media are still owned by the elites. The five major TV networks, and nine of ten of the major newspapers maintain a continuing media effort to undermine Chavez and the socialist revolution. But despite the corporate media and $20 million annual support to the anti-Chavez opposition institutions from USAID and National Endowment for Democracy, two-thirds of the people in Venezuela continue to support President Hugo Chavez and the United Socialist Party of Venezuela. The democracies of South America are realizing that the neo-liberal formulas for capitalism are not working and that new forms of resource allocation are necessary for human betterment. It is a learning process for all involved and certainly a democratic effort from the bottom up.

International Models of Media Democracy in Action: Cuba

“You cannot kill truth by murdering journalists,” said Tubal Páez, president of the Journalist Union of Cuba. In May of 2008, One hundred and fifty Cuban and South American journalists, ambassadors, politicians, and foreign guests gathered at the Jose Marti International Journalist Institute to honor the 50th anniversary of the death of Carlos Bastidas Arguello —the last journalist killed in Cuba. Carlos Bastidas was 23 years old when he was assassinated by Fulgencia Batista’s secret police after having visited Fidel Castro’s forces in the Sierra Maestra Mountains. Edmundo Bastidas, Carlos’ brother, told about how a river of change flowed from the Maestra (teacher) mountains, symbolized by his brother’s efforts to help secure a new future for Cuba.

The celebration in Havana was held in honor of World Press Freedom Day, which is observed every year in May. The UN first declared this day in 1993 to honor journalists who lost their lives reporting the news and to defend media freedom worldwide.

Cuban journalists share a common sense of a continuing counter-revolutionary threat by US financed Cuban-Americans living in Miami. This is not an entirely unwarranted feeling in that many hundreds of terrorist actions against Cuba have occurred with US backing over the past fifty years. In addition to the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, these attacks include the blowing up of a Cuban airlines plane in 1976 killing seventy-three people, the starting in 1981 of an epidemic of dengue fever that killed 158 people, and several hotel bombings in the 1990s, one of which resulted in the death of an Italian tourist.

In the context of this external threat, Cuban journalists quietly acknowledge that some self-censorship will undoubtedly occur regarding news stories that could be used by the “enemy” against the Cuban people. Nonetheless, Cuban journalists strongly value freedom of the press and there was no evidence of overt government control. Ricardo Alarcon, President of the National Assembly Cuba allows CNN, AP and Chicago Tribune to maintain offices in Cuba, noted that the US refuses to allow Cuban journalists to work in the United States.[xix]

Cuban journalists complain that the US corporate media is biased and refuses to cover the positive aspects of socialism in Cuba. Unknown to most Americans are the facts that Cuba is the number one country in percentage of organic foods produced in the world, has an impressive health care system with a lower infant mortality rate than the US, trains doctor from all over the world, and has enjoyed a 43% increase in GDP between 2005 and 2008.

Neither Cuba nor Venezuela are utopian societies. Developing countries subject to continuing pressure by the US may be cautious and suspicious of provocateurs that would incite violence or provoke US military intervention. But in these countries, the ability of local media expressing voices of local communities is something from which media reformers can learn.

Grassroots Antidotes to Corporate Media Propaganda

Tens of thousands of Americans engaged in various social justice issues constantly witness how corporate media marginalize, denigrate, or simply ignore their concerns. Activist groups working on issues like 9/11 Truth, election fraud, impeachment in the Bush era, war propaganda, civil liberties abridgements, torture, the Wall Street meltdown, and corporate-caused environmental crises have been systematically excluded from mainstream news and the national conversation leading to a genuine Truth Emergency in the country as a whole.

Now, however, a growing number of activists are finally saying “enough!” and joining forces to address this truth emergency by developing new journalistic systems and practices of their own. They are working to reveal the common corporate denominators behind the diverse crises we face and to develop networks of trustworthy news sources that tell people what is really going on. These activists know we need a journalism that moves beyond inquiries into particular crimes and atrocities, and exposes wider patterns of corruption, propaganda and illicit political control by a military and corporate elite. Recent efforts at national media reform through micro-power community radio– similar to the 400 people’s radio stations in Venezuela– and campaign finance changes, that would mandate access for all candidates on national media, have been strongly resisted by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). NAB, considered one of the most powerful corporate lobby groups in Washington, works hard to protect over $200 billion dollars of annual advertising and the several hundred million dollars political candidates spend in each election cycle.

The Truth Emergency movement now recognizes that corporate media’s political power and failure to meet its First Amendment obligation to keep the public informed leaves a huge task. Citizens must mobilize resources to redevelop news and information systems from the bottom up. Citizen journalists can expand distribution of news via small independent newspapers, local magazines, independent radio, and cable access TV. Using the internet, the public can interconnect with like-minded grassroots news organizations to share important stories. These changes are already in progress.

Becoming the Media: Media Freedom International and Project Censored

In response to Truth Emergency conference, the Media Freedom Foundation and Project Censored launched an effort to both become a repository of independent news and information as well as a producer of content in what are called Validated Independent News stories vetted by college and university professors and students around the world. As corporate media continue their entertainment agenda and the PR industry—working for governments and corporations—increasingly dominates news content, there exists a socio-cultural opening to transform how the public receives and actually participates in the validation and creation of their own news.

Corporate media are increasingly irrelevant to working people and to democracy. People need to tell their own news stories from real experiences and perspectives, as an alternative to the hierarchically imposed and “official” top-down narrative. What better project in support of media democracy than for universities and colleges worldwide to support truth telling and validate news stories and independent news sources.

Only 5% of college students under 30 read a daily newspaper. Most get their news from corporate television and increasingly on the internet. One of the biggest problems with independent media sources on the internet is a perception of inconsistent reliability. The public is often suspicious of the truthfulness and accuracy of news postings from non-corporate media sources. Over the past ten years, in hundreds of presentations all over the US, Project Censored staff has frequently been asked, “what are the best sources for news and whom can we trust?”

The goal of this effort is to encourage young people to use independent media as their primary sources of news and information and to learn about trustworthy news sources through the Media Freedom International News Research Affiliate Program. By the end of 2008, there were over thirty affiliate colleges and universities with plans to expand that participation several fold this next year. Through these institutions, validated independent news stories can be researched by students and scholars, then written, produced and disseminated via the web. In addition, on any given day at the Media Freedom Foundation website, one can view enough independent news stories from RSS feeds to fill nearly fifty written pages, more than even the largest US newspapers. An informed electorate cannot remain passive consumers of corporate news. As aforementioned activist David Mathison suggested in his how-to manual, Be the Media, where he argues and instructs not only about how to build community media but how to build community through media.[xx]

Part of building community is in developing awareness about the type of world we want to participate in creating, and developing strategies for achieving change. New forms of media that promote widespread responsibility for both creating and disseminating information do not remove the need for people to protest, to demonstrate, to march, to boycott and to demand entry into corporate board rooms. Rather it assures that voices can be heard and, as shown in Howard Rheingold’s Smartmobbing Democracy,[xxi] the power of new Internet communication technologies can be harnessed to mobilize more effectively. Contrasted with previous more limited technologies, Rheingold points out that now, “[m]obile and deskbound media such as blogs, listserves and social networking sites allow for many-to-many communication.” Technology has helped level the playing field by creating a virtual sphere where people can exchange ideas and instigate activism. Grassroots, bottom-up, peer-to-peer efforts have increased in influence and effectiveness due to the speed and breadth of new communication technologies. We are currently experiencing a potential for collective activism on a scale never before seen.

The continued expansion of independent internet news sources allows for the mass political awareness of key issues and truth emergencies in the world. The involvement of university and college professors and their students in validating news stories will be an important component of reliability verification of these sources. As we learn who we can trust in the independent news world, we will be in a stronger position for the continued development and expansion of democratic social movement/anti-war efforts in the future.

It is up to the people to unite and oppose the common oppressors manifested in a militarist and unresponsive government along with their corporate media courtiers and PR propagandists. Only then, when the public forms and controls its own information resources, will it be armed with the power that knowledge gives to move beyond the media induced mindsets that limit change to modest reform. Grassroots media providing voice to those who would challenge elite domination are our best hope to create a truly vibrant democratic society that promises as well as delivers liberty, peace, and economic justice to all.

Peter Phillips is a Professor of Sociology at Sonoma State University and President of the Media Freedom Foundation and recent past director of Project Censored.

Mickey Huff is an Associate Professor of History and Social Science at Diablo Valley College and serves on the executive committeeof the Media Freedom Foundation and is recent past associate director of Project Censored.

Media Freedom website include:

Daily News at: http://mediafreedom.pnn.com/5174-independent-news-sources

Validated News & Research at: http://www.mediafreedominternational.org/

Daily Censored Blog at: http://dailycensored.com/

Project Censored: http://www.projectcensored.org/


[i] US General Tommy Franks, quoted in The San Francisco Chronicle, March 23, 2002, onlinehttp://www.globalsecurity.org/org/news/2002/020323-attack01.htm.

[ii] Peter Phillips and Andrew Roth, Censored 2009, (New York: Seven Stories, Press, 2008), 19-25. This story is the number one censored story of the year at Project Censored for this year, archived online http://www.projectcensored.org/top-stories/articles/1-over-one-million-iraqi-deaths-caused-by-us-occupation/ and for the earlier casualty numbers see http://www.countercurrents.org/iraq-polya070207.htm.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Various theories exist on the problem of the subject, from historian Rick Shenkman’s Just How Stupid Are We to historian and cultural critic Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter with Kansas, but few examine its affects on the peace community. For more on the issue of American historical amnesia, see Gore Vidal on Democracy Now! at http://www.democracynow.org/2004/5/21/gore_vidal_on_the_united_states , also, In These Times online at http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/3099/the_united_states_of_amnesia/ and for a broader academic look at the issue of how Americans have become arguably the least informed, most entertained people in the modern world, see the now classic work from the late New York University media scholar Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, (New York: Viking Adult, 1985). This article hopes to shine more light on the impact of all of the aforementioned on the peace movement in general and what can be done about it. For another view of this written earlier, at the outset of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, see Felix Kolb and Alicia Swords, “Do Peace Movements Matter?” Commondreams.org, May 12, 2003, online at http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0512-08.htm.

[vi] C. Wright Mills. The Power Elite, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000, reissue). Also, continuing with this theme in terms of democratic communications theory/policy and the ideas of an open society, see the work of Jurgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a category of Bourgeois Society, published in1962, and The Theory of Communicative Action, from 1981, as well as Karl Popper’s The Open Society and Its Enemies, first published in 1945.

[vii] Norman Soloman, “The Military-Industrial-Media Complex

Why war is covered from the warriors’ perspective,” Extra! July/August 2005, published by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), on the FAIR website at http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=2627.

[viii] Cenk Uygur, “Conservative Media vs Progressive Media” Posted on The Daily Kos blog, July 1, 2009.<http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/7/1/748854/-Conservative-Media-vs.-Progressive-Media> )

[ix] Linda Milazzo, “Corporate Media Turned Out for Jena, but Not for Anti-War. Here’s Why.” Atlantic Free Press, September 23, 2007, online at http://www.atlanticfreepress.com/news/1/2473-corporate-media-turned-out-for-jena-but-not-for-anti-war-heres-why.html.

[x] For more on the Winter Soldiers, see Censored 2009, chapter 1, story 9, pp. 58-62 and online http://www.projectcensored.org/top-stories/articles/9-iraq-and-afghanistan-vets-testify/ and chapter 12, pp.297-319. See the KPFA radio and Corp Watch website for the coverage athttp://www.warcomeshome.org/wintersoldier2008.

[xi] Peter Phillips, Censored 2008, (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2007), 35-44. Online http://www.projectcensored.org/top-stories/articles/1-no-habeas-corpus-for-any-person/ and http://www.projectcensored.org/top-stories/articles/2-bush-moves-toward-martial-law/.

[xii] See Censored 2008, chapter 1, story 6, 55-59. Also online at http://www.projectcensored.org/top-stories/articles/6-operation-falcon-raids/.

[xiii] Ibid.

[xiv] Diane Farsetta, Center for Media Democracy, studies on Pentagon propaganda online at http://www.prwatch.org/pentagonpundits and http://www.prwatch.org/node/8180.

[xiv] Norman Soloman, “The Military-Industrial-Media Complex:

Why war is covered from the warriors’ perspective,” Extra! July/August 2005, published by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), on the FAIR website at http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=2627.

[xv] For several excellent studies of US Iraq War propaganda, see PR Watch’s John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton, Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush’s War on Iraq, (New York: Tarcher Penguin, 2003), and their follow up Best War Ever: Lies, Damned Lies, and the Mess in Iraq, (New York: Penguin, 2006), and the exhaustive work by Anthony R. DiMaggio, Mass Media, Mass Propaganda: Examining American News in the “War on Terror,” (UK: Lexington Books, 2008). Additionally, forthcoming in fall 2009, just reviewed by the authors, is Robert P. Abele, The Anatomy of a Deception: A Reconstruction and Analysis of the Decision to Invade Iraq, (Baltimore: University Press of America, 2009).

For reports on the continuation of war policy under President Barack Obama, see Center for Media Democracy’s John Stauber, “How Obama Took Over the Peace Movement” online http://www.prwatch.org/node/8297, and Peter Phillips, “Barack Obama Administration Continues US Military Dominance” online http://www.projectcensored.org/articles/story/http-wwwprojectcensoredorg-articles-story-barack-obama-administration-c/.

[xvi] Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, (New York: Pantheon Books, 1988, 2002). For an introduction of the Propaganda Model, see chapter 1, or see a retrospective by Edward Herman online http://www.chomsky.info/onchomsky/20031209.htm.

[xvii] Peter Phillips, Censored 2008, see chapter 7, “Left Progressive Media Inside the Propaganda Model,” 233-251. Online at http://www.projectcensored.org/articles/story/left-progressive-media-inside-the-propaganda-model/.

[xviii] Co-author Peter Phillips interviewed Carmon Aponte while visiting the Patare Community TV and radio station in a trip to Venezuela for a book fair in 2008. The station was one of thirty-four locally controlled community television stations and four hundred radio stations now in the barrios throughout Venezuela.

[xix] Co-author Peter Phillips attended the major journalism conference in Cuba in 2008. About his experiences there, Phillips remarked, “During my five days in Havana, I met with dozens of journalists, communication studies faculty and students, union representatives and politicians. The underlying theme of my visit was to determine the state of media freedom in Cuba and to build a better understanding between media democracy activists in the US and those in Cuba.”

Phillips continued, “I toured the two main radio stations in Havana, Radio Rebelde and Radio Havana. Both have Internet access to multiple global news sources including CNN, Reuters, Associated Press and BBC with several newscasters pulling stories for public broadcast. Over 90 municipalities in Cuba have their own locally run radio stations, and journalists report local news from every province.”

“During the course of several hours in each station I (Phillips) was interviewed on the air about media consolidation and censorship in the US and was able to ask journalists about censorship in Cuba as well. Of the dozens I interviewed all said that they have complete freedom to write or broadcast any stories they choose. This was a far cry from the Stalinist media system so often depicted by US interests.”

[xx] For more details see the Project Censored website at http://projectcensored.org/, for independent media feeds see Media Freedom Foundation at http://mediafreedom.pnn.com/5174-independent-news-sources, and for more on the Project Censored International Affiliates Program, see http://projectcensored.org/project-censored-international-affilates-program and http://mediafreedominternational.org. For more on how to become the media, see David Mathison’s work online http://bethemedia.com. For more on Smart Mobs, see Howard Rheingold’s work onlinehttp://www.smartmobs.com/book/.

[xxi] Howard Rheingold, “Smartmobbing Democracy,” in Rebooting America: Ideas for Redesigning American Democracy for the Internet Age,” ed. Allison Fine, Micah L. Sifry, Andrew Rasiej and Josh Levy. Retrieved from The Personal Democracy Press Website:http://rebooting.personaldemocracy.com/node/5484.