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Archive for the 'Iraq War' Category


Law and Disorder April 6, 2015


 

Updates:

  • Attorney Heidi Boghosian Tells Of How She And Johanna Fernandez Found Out Mumia Abu-Jamal Was Rushed To Local Health Facility
  • Campaign To Bring Mumia Home
  • Attorney Michael Ratner: Hobby Lobby State Religious Freedom Acts
  • Attorney Michael Ratner: Palestine Joins The ICC
  • Attorney Michael Ratner: Obama Issues Executive Order On Hackers

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s0sR7dLh 270903918

Why The Rise Of Fascism Is Again The Issue

Fascism has taken on many forms through the rise and fall of empires. One aspect of modern day fascism can seen as propaganda, lies and deceit used as political leverage to eventually absorb sovereign states. Our guest John Pilger lays out the swath carved by fascism in the last 70 years in his recent article Why The Rise Of Fascism Is Again The Issue. Using the word carefully, Pilger describes a new kind of fascism, centered in America but based on the big lie of war and aggression. Pilger documents key events from the Holocaust to Libya to Serbia, to Yugoslavia, to Afghanistan in the 1970s, to Vietnam and up to the current revival of fascism in the heart of Europe. We get a historic perspective from John Pilger, going all the way back to the second world war. If you think the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Libya and now the Ukraine occur by happenstance, you are mistaken says Pilger, an Australian-British journalist based in London. These are part of the American effort to become the global power.

Guest – John Pilger, an Australian-British journalist based in London. John has worked in many facets of journalism, including a correspondent in the Vietnam War, the Middle East Desk for Reuters in London, a documentary film maker, and a producer for the Independent Television Network in London. Pilger is known for his conscience, bravery and acute historical insight.   His articles appear worldwide in newspapers such as the Guardian, the Independent, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times.

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Law and Disorder March 30, 2015


Updates:

  • FBI: If You Give Us Assata Shakur, We’ll Free The Cuban Five
  • Michael Ratner: Massive CIW March St. Petersburg, Florida 2015
  • Alliance For Fair Food

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2013pie wartaxresistancecover

War Tax Resistance

As April 15 draws near, some Americans engage in the practice of war tax resistance, refusing to pay some or all of their federal income tax. It’s an act of civil disobedience with a proud history in this country. Notable war tax resisters included Henry David Thoreau who refused to pay his poll tax during the Mexican-American war. In the 1960s and 70s, many Vietnam war protesters engaged in the practice, including Norman Mailer, Howard Zinn, James Baldwin and Joan Baez. While individuals refusing to pay war taxes cite the refusal as a moral imperative-even citing international law to bolster this assertion—it’s not surprising that the Internal Revenue Service considers the refusal to pay such taxes as illegal.

Ruth Benn:

  • In war tax resistance we tend to use the War Resisters League chart where your income tax money really goes and the calculations from the War Resisters League over the years have been around 50 percent.
  • About 27 percent is current military so that’s paying for the wars and its buying the weapons for the next wars and all of those things that the Pentagon does.
  • The “past military” is mainly for the debt and then the money that’s set aside for veterans.
  • The nuclear weapons program which they are increasing over the coming 10 years, modernizing weapons and modernizing delivery systems. Obama is increasing that money for the nuclear weapons. That’s in the Department of Energy.
  • We have the Department of Homeland Security. That is a lot of armed people also. The TSA, the militarization of the border. Homeland Security is giving those grants to local communities in the U.S. that are getting these military weapons.
  • We have 500 billion this year for veterans and past military. That’s only going to add up.
  • Basically, (war tax resistance) is similar to conscientious objection in terms of people who refuse to go into the military or refused the draft. So this is a refusal to have my tax dollars drafted. A refusal to pay income taxes that go into this pie of the military budget.
  • There was a particular tax put on people in WW2. A stamp that people had to buy that was on their cars that supported war.
  • (Famous tax resisters) We tend to go back to Henry David Thoreau of course with his one dollar that resulted in on the duty of civil disobedience.
  • I always say going throughout history taxes first tend to be put on people because somebody wants to fight somebody. A government wants to go to war, that’s centuries back.
  • The Vietnam War of course was the biggest time for tax resistance when it really was a strong part of the peace movement.
  • The campaign during Vietnam to resist the telephone tax. A tax that was put on and raised during Vietnam. It was put on to 10 percent just to pay for the wars.
  • People would owe 7.00 dollars in phone tax and some of them had their houses seized, some had their bicycles and cars seized.
  • Within the network of war tax resisters and I hesitate to call it a movement these days, there are people who do a whole range of things. There are people who live on a very low income which is a legal way to do it. The cut off for filing and owing taxes is around 10 thousand dollars for a single person.
  • There are people who are more adept at using credits and deductions to lower their taxable income.
  • I think in ’87 I started very consistently filing and refusing to pay. You get a lot of letters. I have files and files of collection letters, of course they add up interest and penalties.
  • Now I’m self-employed, the IRS can do things like garnish salaries. Over the years I figured out how to live in a way that makes it harder for them to collect. Not that they couldn’t make my life difficult.
  • Mostly the IRS would like to get the money than prosecute people.
  • I got active in the peace movement with the American Friends Service Committee. I’m not a Quaker myself but war tax resistance tends to known pretty well in the Quaker community.
  • Usually you’ve been active (in peace movement) for a while and then you go . . oh, I’m paying for this. I’m paying for what I’m fighting against.
  • nwtrcc.org
  • War Tax Resisters Guide – The Book.

Guest – Ruth Benn, Coordinator of the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee. Along with Ed Hedemann, she co-edited the fourth and fifth editions of the book “War Tax Resistance: A Guide to Withholding Your Support from the Military, published by the War Resisters League.”

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familykhantumani pict12

Life After Guantanamo: A Father And Son’s Story

In the weeks after September 11, 2001, the United States gave bundles of cash to Afghan war lords and the Pakistan government to assist in capturing suspected Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters. Hundreds of men were turned over to U.S. custody often without evidence. This was an unfortunate starting point of how human lives were destroyed to as some suggest, justify an illegal war launched by the Bush Administration. Center for Constitutional Rights, senior staff attorney Pardiss Kebriaei’s Harper’s Magazine article titled Life After Guantanamo: A Father and Son’s Story traces the human toll of how her clients were wrongly imprisoned. After being picked up in Pakistan, sent back to Afghanistan, detained in Kandahar, Abdul Nasser Khantumani and his son Muhammed were interrogated by the United States and sent to Guantanamo Bay Prison in Cuba.

Attorney Pardiss Kebriaei:

  • I started in 2007 and it took me year to be able to go down to the base. I went to down in mid 2008, that was the first time I met Muhammad.
  • Muhammed was the son, he was a teenager and he was taken into U.S. custody. By the time I met him, he had been at Guantanamo for 6 years. 6 years without charge.
  • What I say in the piece is he started breaking down, really kind of cracking in 2005.
  • He was saying things like – I don’t care if I’m here another 5 years, another 10 years, I’m never getting out.
  • He’d been held in solitary confinement for 2 years at that point, and there was this additional aspect of the way his relationship with his father was used to traumatize him.
  • They were captured together, transferred to Guantanamo together but then, pretty much held apart in prison.
  • In November of 2008 we met then in December he cut his wrists.
  • He doesn’t call it suicide because he didn’t want to die. He just didn’t know what to do.
  • We filed an emergency motion with the court, asking the court to move him out of solitary to get him close to his father, to do something.
  • The latest hunger strike in 2013, they denied it was happening.
  • Muhammed was young and he was really vocal and loud about his torture. I remember hearing him yell and scream.
  • Abdul Nasser, his pain was quieter. There was a different kind of pain that left a wife behind or children behind. Abdul Nassar thought a lot about the rest of his family.
  • We know that the CIA was paying millions of the dollars to the Pakistani government and Afghani war lords to profile and turn people over, basically sell them into U.S. custody.
  • They came into U.S. hands because they profiled and unilaterally deemed by President Bush and Rumsfeld to be enemy combatants without any real evidence of wrongdoing.
  • We know that happened and its not just groups like CCR saying that.
  • The way that decisions are made and people are transferred (from Guantanamo Bay Prison) is such a lottery.
  • I think Abdul Nassar appeared to be more of a burden frankly to them, because he was older and in ill health. They didn’t take him. They wanted a younger guy who they thought would be easier to resettle.
  • Part of the point of the story was to shed light on just what life is like after Guantanamo.
  • Abdul Nassar has not seen his wife since 2001. He hasn’t seen his other children since 2001. He hasn’t seen Muhammed since that day in 2009.
  • http://ccrjustice.org/reunificationafterguantanamo

Guest – Pardiss Kebriaei, Senior staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, which she joined in 2007.  Her work focuses on challenging government abuses post-9/11, including in the areas of “targeted killing“ and unjust detentions at Guantanamo and in the federal system.  She is lead counsel for CCR in Al-Aulaqi v. Panetta, which seeks accountability for the killing of three American citizens in U.S. drone strikes in Yemen, and was counsel in Al-Aulaqi v. Obama, which challenged the authorization for the targeting of an American citizen placed on government “kill lists.”  She represents men currently and formerly detained at Guantanamo in their efforts for release and reintegration, and represented the families of two men who died at the base in their lawsuit for accountability, Al-Zahrani v. Rumsfeld.  She also represents Fahad Hashmi, who pled to material support for terrorism after years in pre-trial solitary confinement and Special Administrative Measures, in his efforts to challenge his continuing solitary confinement in a federal “supermax” prison.

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Donate now!

Is Law and Disorder important to you? Consider a tax deductible donation to the show. By making a donation, you’ll be helping Law and Disorder continue to provide the consistent high quality content on some of the most pressing legal, human rights and international issues. This radio show is now a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions for the charitable purposes of Law and Disorder must be made payable to Fractured Atlas only and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.

 

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Law and Disorder March 16, 2015


Updates:

  • Michael Ratner Updates On Julian Assange Case: You Can’t Just Keep A Case Going In Custody Essentially In The Embassy
  • Julian Assange’s Case Could Go To European Court of Human Rights – Assange Is Being Arbitrarily Detained And Investigation Not Proceeding
  • Eight Million Documents On Wikileaks In Highly Searchable Format
  • Google Turns Over Wikileak Attorney Client Emails to U.S. Government.
  • Federal Judge Denies EPIC’s FOIA Request On Government Surveillance Of Wikileaks Reporters – Denied Under Continuing Investigation Exemption

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Lords of Secrecy:The National Security Elite and America’s Stealth Warfare

Nearly half a century ago a majority of Americans were concerned whether their country would go to war. It was a time when national debates and public discussions engaged America’s political consciousness. That’s not the case so much these days says our guest author and attorney Scott Horton. His recently published book Lords of Secrecy:The National Security Elite and America’s Stealth Warfare examines how secrecy within the United States government has corrupted fundamental systems of democracy. Scott Horton also surveys the legal authority that the current national security elite have based decisions to torture, wage war and subcontract private soldiers. When operating in secret, mistakes, excesses and crimes committed in the process are often kept quiet.

Attorney Scott Horton:

  • Dick Cheney one of the longest serving secretaries of defense, because he had a peculiar atitude about secrecy. He manipulated the news secrecy all the time to give cover to claims and statements he made that turned out not to be true. These claims very frequently matters of the highest consequence.
  • The entire case to go to war in Iraq which was in fact led by Dick Cheney rested on claims that they had weapons of mass destruction and that they had aligned themselves and were operating with Al-Qaeda that’s how we got the connection to 911. Those claims were very aggressively put forward by Dick Cheney. They turned out to be completely false. He parried any attempts to challenge them by saying all the intelligence we have on that is . . . secret, so I can’t share it with you.
  • Of course, in good time we learned there wasn’t any intelligence or information that supported these claims.
  • The lords of secrecy consist of the higher echelon officers of the national intelligence and security bureaucracy and they’re the people who have under American law, the power to create secrets using the classification authority.
  • I make the case that they use that power very aggressively, very effectively to make themselves the ultimate decision makers on key national security issues and to remove those matters from the democratic, political process.
  • It’s on the lords of secrecy who really influence the final decision when its made by the executive.
  • The lords of secrecy, the people who wield the classification power also are part of a revolving door in Washington. They’re in government service, they leave that, they go to work as directors and senior officers of major contractors.
  • Those contractors hold a half trillion dollars in contract business every year paid for by tax payers and they also make enormous campaign donations.
  • Washington D.C. has emerged as the wealthiest standard metropolitan statistical area in the United States and that’s on the strength of the position of contractors and their ability to suck our treasury dry.
  • What the American people don’t know about, they don’t form opinions about. They don’t conjutate about, they don’t become engaged with. That shows how secrecy and this other stuff are a very potent narcotic against democracy effectively, causing democracy to fade away while the national security elites are at the driver’s wheel making all the key decisions.
  • I think it allows us to make war without going through the constitutional process.
  • It’s really vague on how this go-to-war decision is supposed to be made. There’s the appropriation authority of Congress, there’s the Commander in Chief power of the executive, there’s the power to declare war, and exactly how those rights and powers play out in any given situation really isn’t clear.
  • The bottom line is the US waging war overseas without the people of the United States having taken a decision to do so.
  • My book has gotten much stronger attention in Europe than it has in the United States.
  • A big part of the problem we have is the way national security and particularly intelligence community matters are reported in the United States.
  • One thing I looked at the coverage of the drone war in Pakistan and I found very clearly Americans are actually the most poorly informed community globally on this issue.
  • The media can’t really act without the whistleblower. It really comes down to the whistleblower being the last and best hope.
  • The problem is national security whistleblowers don’t get a fair trial. They wind up being abused, mistreated.
  • Let the Justice Department explain why they decided that Petraeus a slap on the fingers, nothing too serious, while they want to throw the book at Snowden.
  • Let them give the rationale for the distinction between these cases. They’ve never done that.

Guest – Scott Horton, human rights lawyer and contributing editor to Harper’s Magazine. Scott’s column – No Comment. He graduated Texas Law School in Austin with a JD and was a partner in a large New York law firm, Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler. His new book Lords of Secrecy The National Security Elite and America’s Stealth Foreign Policy.

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Venezuela-Elections_ A woman walks past graffiti in Caracas

US Sanctions Against Maduro Government Officials

In its continuation of a decades long overthrow of the Venezuelan government, the United States issued new sanctions against Venezuelan government officials who the United States claims are involved in violating human rights guarantees. President Barack Obama issued an order declaring a national emergency with respect to Venezuela. The order lists certain key Venezuelan officials and said that any financial transactions with those officials are barred. This is typical of what the United States does to officials of government it doesn’t like, whether it was Nicaragua in the ’80s or Cuba since 1959 or 1960. These sanctions must also be seen the light of short-lived 2002 military coup in Venezuela in which the United States was deeply involved. Today we want to talk about the broader context of these actions and why the U.S. is continually trying to destabilize Venezuela.

Mark Weisbrot:

  • It is pretty crazy that they have to declare Venezuela as an extraordinary threat.
  • You don’t see any of the reporters asking the Whitehouse . . . what are you talking about?
  • If you look at the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States for example, that is the alternative to the OAS, that was created a few years ago in response to US unpleasant actions in the hemisphere.
  • Between 2000-2010 the Columbian military over 5700 innocent civilians, murdered them, and the United States just gave them more military aid.
  • I was there during the protest a year ago, and of course it was very different from what I saw . . I was actually kinda shocked. I walked all over and took the metro all over Caracas and the only demonstration you saw were little uprisings in the richest neighborhoods.
  • The people most affected the shortages, the ones that go and have to wait in line, can’t afford to buy anything in the black market.
  • The poor and the working people, they haven’t protest because they mostly support the government.
  • That’s a little bit of a disconnect from what you see in the press.
  • This idea that the protests are related to the shortages doesn’t hold up when you see who’s actually protesting. These people have servants who do their shopping, wait in the lines.
  • Upper middle class, they have servants, they have storage space.
  • These sanctions are probably illegal under International Law.
  • Again, there are things that are questionable, things that I wouldn’t try to defend but to create this picture, a very exaggerated picture that’s created here in the media because the U.S. wants to overthrow the government there I think is very unfortunate.
  • Venezuela has been a target by the United States for a regime change for at least 13 years.
  • A lot of people know if the opposition gets power, its just going to get worse for them.
  • Venezuela is not facing a real balance of payment crisis, where they can’t pay for their import. They just have a dysfunctional exchange rate system and they have a fair amount of sabotage too.

Guest – Mark Weisbrot co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. to give us an update. He writes a weekly column for The Guardian Unlimited (U.K.), and a regular column on economic and policy issues that is distributed to over 550 newspapers by the Tribune Content Agency.

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Law and Disorder March 9, 2015


Updates:

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iran2 Medea Benjamin

ISIS and The Anti-War Movement

Last June, the United States sent more military soldiers to Iraq and carried out airstrikes to stop the advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant known as ISIS. The US, Western Europe, Saudi Arabia and Arab Gulf policy is to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad which is also the goal of ISIS and other jihadis in Syria. ISIS’s membership may be close to 15 thousand members, half of what the CIA estimates. ISIS is led by a core of people who fought the U.S. in Iraq, fought the Iraq Army back in 2003 and then in 2011 fought in Syria. Last week our own Michael Ratner reported how the U.S. could be given leave to make war everywhere if President Obama’s request for AUMF is granted by a US Congress. What are the demands of the US peace movement?

Attorney Jim Lafferty:

  • It was U.S. military strategy in the Middle East to begin with and past U.S. military action in that part of the world, especially in Iraq that provided the primary catalyst for the growth of ISIS.
  • We destroyed the secular governments in Iraq and Libya that created the political space for ISIS and other right wing forces to grow.
  • ISIS filled the governing vacuum took advantage of these ethnic divisions angered at the U.S. and steadily gained strength thereafter.
  • If you think about it, we spent the last 40 or 50 years destroying leftist and secular, anti-imperialist movements all over that region of the world.
  • Two weeks ago the Pentagon announced their sending 4000 troops with very heavy weaponry to Kuwait.
  • The U.S. Army has already set up a division headquarters in Iraq. A division consists of 20 thousand troops.
  • The people that are having the most success in fighting a Syrian government right now is ISIS.
  • The question is not should they be stopped. The question is what will be effective in stopping them.
  • There is great unity in the anti-war movement. They’ve got unified actions planned for later this month in Washington DC.
  • The anti-war movement is going to be tough for the anti-war movement because the propaganda machine, the mainstream media in this country has done its job in pandering by showing despicable pictures.
  • What we don’t see is Saudi Arabia our staunchest ally, executes 20-25 people by beheading every month.
  • Cindy Sheehan, is setting up a Camp Casey at the Capitol. All the anti-war groups are holding a mass teach in on this very issue we’re talking about now.
  • First of all a nuclear power like Israel getting all exorcised about the fact that somewhere down the road a neighboring country might have the same weapons it has.
  • Pardon me if I can’t get terribly excited about that. We shouldn’t have any country in the world with nuclear weapons.
  • In addition to everything else (Netanyahu) is lying about the threat if it were a threat. To come to the U.S. Congress to give that bloviating speech where he offers nothing new.
  • He offers no alternative to what the administration is trying to do and is apparently making some progress in doing and is hailed as a hero by one side of the aisle is really quite appalling.
  • Answer.org

Guest- Attorney Jim Lafferty, Executive director of the National Lawyers Guild in Los Angeles and host of The Lawyers Guild Show on Pacifica’s KPFK 90. 7 FM.

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 sankara 72368162_0

Thomas Sankara: An African Revolutionary

As president of the Burkino Faso, one of Africa’s poorest countries, Thomas Sankara was often called the African Che Guevara. In 1987, he was assassinated during a military coup that took down his government. However, Sankara’s economic and social policies left an important mark not only on his country but across Africa. Sankara was a Marxist and openly sought independence from France and at the same time he was building a pan-African unity.

Professor Ernest Harsch:

  • He was the president of Burkino Faso from 1983 to 1987, a very short period of time.
  • He was a revolutionary. Everybody acknowledged that at the time especially the French who greatly disliked him.
  • The U.S. wasn’t too happy with him. He wanted to stop in Atlanta to meet with Andrew Young during his visit to the UN General Assembly. They didn’t allow him to make that stop. So he spoke in Harlem instead.
  • It’s a small west African country, not even that many experts on Africa know that much about it. He was in power for about 4 years and he was overthrown by a military coup.
  • I think for people that are interested in progressive change its always useful in seeing how others elsewhere in the world are fighting against oppression, are fighting for their rights and occasionally actually able to make some change.
  • It’s also useful to learn about what kind of leadership can help people do that.
  • He wasn’t a grassroots activist. He came out of the military. He was a captain. He got radicalized in the military and because of the context of his country which was extremely poor and under-developed, backward and subservient to the French who been their formal colonial power, very corrupt both military and civilian politicians over the decades.
  • He’s representing a newer generation where that initial idealism about independence will bring all sorts of changes. He’s speaking to the ills of formally independent countries that are still subservient to their colonial masters and still haven’t found a way to break out of the trap of underdevelopment and external economic domination.
  • He’s speaking to a new generation that still resonates today which is young people who are fed up with the way things are.
  • They’re fed up with the corruption of their leaders whether they’re elected or not elected.
  • You travel through west Africa you see Sankara t-shirts.
  • The first time I met him was in New York. The guy was direct. He listened to what you had to say. He thought about it. I’ve never met anybody who was so quick. I mean he was witty.
  • The other times I met him in Burkina. The first time was a long interview. The other times he didn’t want to be interviewed, he just wanted to talk about politics.
  • Up to that time, nobody hand promoted or named so many women to cabinet position. One of them now is the current minister of justice.
  • They tried to tackle some restrictions on women at the local level. It’s hard they made a small dent in it. They fought against female genital mutilation, the right to divorce by mutual consent.
  • It (the country) was called Upper Volta which was a colonial name. They wanted something African and Burkina Faso, the words are from two local African languages basically means the land of the upright, or the uncorruptible people. The people are known as Burkinabe and Burkinabe comes from a third African language.
  • Before he became president he was briefly a prime minister in a coalition government. His first trip was to Libya.
  • Then he went to the non-alliance summit in New Delhi and gave this very fiery speech basically solidarizing with the Cuban revolution, with the Nicaraguans, with the Western Saharans, with the new Calidonians. He clearly aligned himself with the anti-imperialist, pro-third world, pro-development wing, within the non-alliance movement.
  • The French didn’t like that. So, they told some their people locally, look let’s get rid of this guy.
  • They had an internal coup. He was arrested. He was in prison for a while but they couldn’t sustain that. He was too popular. He became president.
  • He was only 33 when he became president, so this was a youthful leadership.

Guest – Professor Ernest Harsch has taught courses on African development and political instability in the Sahel and is a research scholar affiliated with the University’s Institute of African Studies. He earned his PhD in Sociology from the New School for Social Research in New York. Throughout a professional career as a journalist, he wrote mainly on international events, with reporting on Asia, the Caribbean, and Eastern Europe, but most extensively on Africa.

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Please help support Law and Disorder by clicking on Fractured Atlas graphic. This radio show is now a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions for the charitable purposes of Law and Disorder must be made payable to Fractured Atlas only and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. You can donate as little as 5.00 a month.

 

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Law and Disorder November 3, 2014


Updates

  • Michael Ratner Reports On An Important Break In The Julian Assange Case
  • Michael Ratner: Longest Case Of Pre-Trial Investigation In Swedish History In Which The Prosecutor Has Simply Sat On Her Hands.
  • Michael Ratner: What Sweden Did Here Is Divert Attention From The Underlying Problem
  • Michael Smith: United Nations And The Cuban Embargo Vote 2014
  • Michael Ratner: Israeli Business Men Are All Over Cuba

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nisour3 susan

Blackwater Guards Found Guilty in 2007 Baghdad Killings

Since 2003, private military contractors have been awarded millions of dollars each year by the U.S. Government in contracts. Many of the military contractor personnel have engaged in atrocious war crimes with zero accountability. Last week a federal jury convicted 4 former Blackwater private security contractors on manslaughter charges and 1 for manslaughter and murder of 17 Iraqis in Baghdad on September 16, 2007. The men were prosecuted under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, a law that allows the U.S. courts to hear cases against contractors to the U.S. Department of Defense for crimes committed overseas. The men were originally hired as private security guards for U.S government employees. Lawyers for Blackwater, now known as Academi LLC argued that the men were simply returning fire to protect themselves.Several civil cases filed by victims injured in the shootings were settled in 2010.

Attorney Susan Burke:

  • I think the verdict sends a very loud and large message to the globe that the American judicial system can operate properly.
  • That American juries understand when they see war crimes, they understand when they hear about a massacre.
  • We began working before the Abu-Ghraib photos were leaked. It began when Bob Woodward wrote a story for the Washington Post that revealed that the Bush Administration had decided to use torture as an instrument in the war.
  • We viewed this outsourcing as a potential weak flank in a sense in order to use legal mechanisms, lawsuits in order to prevent this country from departing with its values.
  • We were putting the evidence together before the photos leaked and suddenly we had a lot more evidence to sue the 2 government contractors L3 and CACI that were involved in the Abu-Ghraib torture.
  • The Blackwater case fits into that rubrick where we brought several different law suits along with the Center for Constitutional Rights. We brought the seven law suits for the victims of the Nisour Square massacre as well as for many other victims.
  • If you think about we’re going to the home turf of the wrong doers. The corporations are based in Virginia actually, and so we sued them in their home turf.
  • There’s one (civil) case remaining that’s now being handled by Baher Azmy at CCR and they just got a win from the Fourth Circuit – again getting permission for the case to proceed.
  • The vast majority of victims have settled with L3 paying 5.25 million.
  • Blackwater is a mercenary company that basically earned over a billion dollars from the State Department.
  • They were not at Abu Ghraib rather they were providing security for all of the diplomats and other Americans in Iraq.
  • At the time they were owned by Erik Prince, operated without any oversight from the State Department and they were involved with a significant number of instances were unnecessary and excessive force was used.
  • Erik Prince ended up entering into a settlement and all of those folks obtained compensation.
  • Prince then sold the company, retained a revenue stream but the company became Academi.
  • As a nation we continue to use these mercenaries and we continue to lack any regulation or oversight.       Unfortunately, things didn’t change under the Obama Administration and under Secretary Clinton at the State Department
  • What’s happened is there’s this terrible pattern where these companies have a lot of political influence and they continue to get enormous contracts and the State Department continues to outsource security without have a vibrant, or robust oversight function.
  • Blackwater vehicles rolled into Nisour Square and they began to open fire with heavy automatic weaponry and they simply began to spray indiscriminatly. They began to shoot all over Nisour Square killing people nearby and injuring people as they fled. No provocation, no real reason they began shooting.
  • One of the Blackwater men, a man named Jeremy Ridgeway actually stepped and told the truth early on, pled guilty and explained how this was in fact just indiscriminate shooting for no reason.
  • In order to properly handle these matters I ended up creating my own firm.

Guest – Attorney Susan Burke, represented plaintiffs in those civil cases and she joins us today to talk about criminal case, the sentence and the supporting evidence.

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Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral and Geopolitical Issues

A powerful analysis on the use of drones for targeted assassination by the Obama Administration is explored in Professor Marjorie Cohn’s newly published book titled Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues. It’s a collection of various disciplines including sociologists, legal scholars, and human rights activists that examine aspects of the U.S. policy of targeted killings with drones and other methods. The book documents civilian casualties, and discuses the first U.S. targeted killing lawsuit by the lawyer who brought the case.

Attorney Marjorie Cohn:

  • Drones have become the Obama Administration’s preferred weapon of choice.
  • We rarely see images of the victims of drone strikes the overwhelming majority of whom are civilians.
  • We don’t hear their stories because the media sanitizes their stories.
  • We really don’t have a sense of the devastation that is reeked by drones.
  • I thought it was important to put together a collection of different aspects of this drone policy. Is it legal? Is it moral? What are the political ramifications? Does it make us safer? Does it make us less safe?
  • That Authorization for the Use of Military Force was very limited, it was only limited to groups and countries that supported the 911 attacks and Congress specifically rejected the Bush Administrations request for open ended military authority to deter and preempt any future acts of terrorism against the United States – and yet the Obama Administration has been relying on this as its legal authority.
  • Targeted extrajudicial killings off the battle field are illegal.
  • Richard Falk, the U.N. Special Rapporteur to the Palestinian Occupied Territories wrote a very and interesting and provocative chapter called Why Drones Are More Dangerous Than Nuclear Weapons.
  • Medea Benjamin talked about stories of victims in Pakistan and Yemen and the tolls drones take on communities. The horror, the terror that children are sleeping with drones hovering overhead.
  • Pardiss Kebriaei with the Center for Constitutional Rights that handled the first targeted killing case in the United States writes a chapter.
  • Tom Hayden writes the conclusion about stopping the drones.
  • Phyllis Bennis from the Institute of Policy Studies talks about the assassination as essential to the U.S. war strategy due to the militarization of our foreign policy.
  • John Quigley from Ohio State University talks about the blowback from drones and how they actually make us less safe because when people see their families blown up, they resent the United States even more.
  • He talks about the history of U.S. foreign policy and the resentment its caused in those countries against the United States.
  • He (Barack Obama) has even expanded the use of drones in Iraq and Syria. He’s also using piloted aircraft. He’s also using the AUMF which does not apply at all.
  • This ISIS and Khorasan, the current groups doing horrible things over there are not covered by the Authorization for the Use Of Military Force.
  • He’s actually acting beyond what Congress has authorized to say nothing of it violating the U.N. charter.
  • Only 4 percent of victims in Pakistan were members or even associated with Al-Qaeda which means the overwhelming number of 2400 who have been killed in Pakistan by drone strikes are civilians.
  • The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 requires the FAA to integrate into U.S. airspace by September of 2015 to legalize commercial drones and some government agencies to use small drones. This is very very worrisome because of the privacy considerations primarily.
  • There are two different drone strikes the U.S. carries out. One is called personality strikes, where they target suspected bad guys. They call them militants. That could mean anything.
  • No due process, just take em out.
  • The other type of attack is called signature strikes. That is a strike that is carried out in an area of suspicious activity. If you’re a male between the ages of 16-65 in a area of suspicious activity than you’re fair game, even though the Obama Administration doesn’t know your identity.
  • First, there must be a legal basis for using lethal force, whether it is against a senior operational leader of a terrorist organization or the forces that organization is using or intends to use to conduct terrorist attacks.
  • Second, the United States will use lethal force only against a target that poses a continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons. It is simply not the case that all terrorists pose a continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons; if a terrorist does not pose such a threat, the United States will not use lethal force.
  • Third, the following criteria must be met before lethal action may be taken:
  • Near certainty that the terrorist target is present;
  • Near certainty that non-combatants will not be injured or killed;
  • An assessment that capture is not feasible at the time of the operation;
  • An assessment that the relevant governmental authorities in the country where action is contemplated cannot or will not effectively address the threat to U.S. persons; andAn assessment that no other reasonable alternatives exist to effectively address the threat to U.S. persons.
  • Finally, whenever the United States uses force in foreign territories, international legal principles, including respect for sovereignty and the law of armed conflict, impose important constraints on the ability of the United States to act unilaterally – and on the way in which the United States can use force. The United States respects national sovereignty and international law.

Guest – Attorney Marjorie Cohn  former president of the National Lawyers Guild. She lectures throughout the world on international human rights and U.S. foreign policy. A news consultant for CBS News and a legal analyst for Court TV, she also provides legal and political commentary on BBC, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, NPR, Air America and Pacifica Radio.   In addition, Professor Cohn is the author of Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law and co-author of Cameras in the Courtroom: Television and the Pursuit of Justice and Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent. Her latest book, The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration and Abuse, was published in January 2011 by NYU Press.

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Law and Disorder October 27, 2014


Updates:

  • Michael Ratner: Obama Could Allow “Torture Light” Interpretation of U.N. Treaty on Torture
  • Michael Smith Returns From Argentina Book Tour, Describes How U.S Attempts To Destabilize Argentina Economy

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The Revictimization Relief Act (Muzzle Mumia)

Last Thursday, the Pennsylvania State Senate in a bi-partisan 37-11 vote, approved The Revictimization Release Act. This last minute controversial law was ignited by Mumia Abu Jamal’s commencement address delivered at Goddard College in Vermont. The law would grant crime victims or prosecutors acting on their behalf to file a civil action against an offender to seek injunctive relief to stop offenders or former inmates from engaging in conduct that would cause “temporary or permanent state of mental anguish” to the victim.

Mumia Abu Jamal is 60 years old. He’s in the general population at Mahanoy State Correctional Institution in Frackville. He has also given speeches at Evergreen State College in Washington and Antioch College in Ohio.

Attorney Bret Grote:

  • The Muzzle Mumia Law as it was called by the Harrisburg Patriot provides a cause of action for a victim of a personal injury crime to sue an offender in state court in Pennsylvania if that offender engages in conduct that “perpetuates” the effect of that crime on the victim. Later on in the statutes, that conduct is defined as including conduct that a temporary or permanent states of mental anguish.
  • It also provides for the district attorney where the conviction was secured or the state’s attorney general to essentially act as the private attorney for the victim in order to bring this suit.
  • It also does encompass not only speech about the crime whether its somebody like Mumia or Lorenzo Johnson or countless others who speak out about being framed up in Pennsylvania, but it doesn’t even make any exceptions for legal proceedings – and obviously people appealing criminal convictions can cause anguish to others.
  • There are standards and no definitions for the conduct that is at issue except in relation to its impact on the victim and to provide some context as I’m sure your listeners know why it was written this way is they needed to write a statute that would sweep so broadly so as to encompass things like Mumia giving a commencement address at Goddard College, which was used as a pretext for whipping up this frenzy at the state legislature.
  • It is a prior restraint on the freedom of speech but its written so broadly that Maureen Faulkner or the district attorney could conceivably go into court under this law.
  • The House Judiciary committee in discussing this law when it was introduced in committee raised the issue of would this allow a court to enjoin what they called third party vessels.
  • It could be Prison Radio, or it could be an individual who is authorized to speak to the media, or make a public statement.
  • It was passed 197-0 in the House Legislature, and 37-11 in the Senate.
  • It just shows you what takes precedence over any kind of adherence of the Constitution of the state or the United States, more than any law is allegiance to power amongst the political class, Pennsylvania politicians, attorney generals, district attorneys, are no strangers to Constitutional violations, its a normative practice for them.
  • Right now, I’m representing Mumia in this and Prison Radio and Robert Holbrook who is a juvenile lifer and Human Rights Coalition member and activist and writer.
  • Its unconstitutional under traditional over breadth analysis, it penalized lawful speech and its void for vagueness.
  • There is probably nothing that would be more traumatizing for an actual victim of a crime then to have to go through this process that they’ve laid out in the Revictimization Release Act.
  • They explicitly and exclusively focused on Mumia.
  • This legislation was introduced by a former member of the Fraternal Order of Police, Mike Verib, who was a former Philadelphia police officer now a state legislator. In the context of Mumia’s case they have been leading a lynch mob literally in the streets to snuff out his voice.
  • For decades the judge that presided over his trial was a Fraternal Order of Police member. They finance and vet the campaigns of every Supreme Court Justice in the state of Pennsylvania, the same with people running for office as governors.
  • Mumia is being used in this context to reestablish the narrative, the Fraternal Order of Police, the police, their political counterparts are righteous protectors of public safety and that they’re beyond question and beyond reproach in trying to reset the propaganda line that has been dislodged in the wake of the rebellions in Ferguson, Illinois.

Guest – Pennsylvania attorney Brete Grote,  a member of the Russell Maroon Shoatz legal team and cofounder and legal director of the Abolitionist Law Center. Bret has worked with the Human Rights Coalition since 2007 as an investigator, organizer, and researcher. He was the Isabel and Alger Hiss Racial Justice Fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights in 2012. He graduated from the University of Pitt Law School in May 2013 and was recognized as the school’s Distinguished Public Interest Scholar.

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Richard Falk: The Palestinian Future After Gaza

We hear a presentation by Richard Falk titled The Palestinian Future After Gaza. Richard Falk was presenting at the Edward W. Said Memorial Lecture, co-sponsored by Columbia’s Heyman Center for the Humanities. It’s given once a year in honor of the public intellectual and literary critic, Edward W. Said, who taught in the English & Comparative Literature Department at Columbia from 1963 until 2003

Richard Falk is Albert G. Professor of International Law and Practice Emeritus at Princeton where he was a member of the faculty for 40 years. Since 2002 he has been associated with Global & International Studies at University of California, Santa Barbara as a research professor.

He was Special Rapporteur on Occupied Palestine for the UN Human Rights Council since 2008, and served on a panel of experts appointed by the President of the UN General Assembly, 2008-2009. He is Chair of the Board of Directors, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, an NGO located in Santa Barbara.

He is also a member of the editorial board of several journals and magazines, including the American Journal of International Law, Third World Quarterly, Globalizations, The Nation, and The Progressive. Formerly, he was for many years North American Director of the World Order Models Project.

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Law and Disorder October 13, 2014


Updates:

  • Mumia Spurs Bill To Block Publicity-Seeking Criminals (Son of Sam Law)
  • Guantanamo Bay Prisoner Files Historic Lawsuit Against Obama Over Force-Feeding

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Lawyers You’ll Like – Charlie Abourezk

As part of our Lawyers You’ll Like series, we talk with attorney Charles Abourezk about his work with the Native American community in South Dakota. Charles is a trial attorney, author and film maker. His documentary A Tattoo On My Heart: The Warriors of Wounded Knee 1973 is a gripping documentation of those American Indian men and women involved in the siege. Charles is the Chief Justice of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Supreme Court, he’s also member of South Dakota Advisory Committee to U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. He’s the son of James George Abourezk, former Democratic United States Representative and United States Senator where he was generally viewed as critical of US foreign policy in Israel and Palestinian.

Attorney Charlie Abourezk:

  • The Rosebud Sioux Tribe is the second largest tribe in South Dakota. There are nine total tribal governments in the state. It’s where I grew up.
  • I spent most of my adult life on the Pine Ridge Reservation which has been the poorest county in the United States.
  • I went to law school, long after I worked for a number of Indian organizations including a Native American NGO that worked at the UN in Category 2 status.
  • The Pine Ridge Reservation is the second largest reservation in the United States, located in south western South Dakota. It’s a huge land mass, takes about an hour and a half to drive diagonally across the reservation. There’s very little economy. The geography is very poor, it lends itself to cattle grazing but not much in terms of raising crops.
  • Wounded Knee was the site of the 1890 massacre in which almost 300 American Indians from several different tribes were killed by the U.S. Army. They were surrounded and essentially murdered on that spot.
  • So, in 1973, there had been a lot of racial discrimination and racially motivated killings of Indian people, the American Indian Movement returned and joined forces with the traditional people who had long been neglected on the reservation.
  • As a result they decided to engage in a protest. They chose the site of the massacre at Wounded Knee, to stage that protest.
  • They set up sort of a line there, with the government and US Marshalls, along with Dick Wilson’s followers who were armed and were called the goon squad and formed the other side of that line. The siege lasted 71 days.
  • It finally dismantled and number of people were prosecuted as a result of that.
  • At Wounded Knee, two Indian people killed and one Marshall wounded.
  • We set up a recording studio right at the Wounded Knee school, and just took people’s stories. I did the interviews, they were really powerful. There were some stories that didn’t fit with the arc of the film but were incredible. I’m glad I documented it then, because I think of the people in the documentary, 7 or 8 have now passed away.
  • I continue to be a strong advocate for tribal sovereignty, self determination and the rights of individuals especially within the dynamic of racial discrimination which at times in South Dakota have been as bad as the south is toward African Americans.
  • I helped affirm and preserve the boundaries of the Yankton Sioux Reservation, that went up to the Supreme Court twice. I was the lead council when it finally concluded, we were able to win that one.
  • I was a former Supreme Court Justice on the Pine Ridge Reservation for their Supreme Court and I retired from that position.
  • Except for limited jurisdiction the Federal Government had on criminal matters, the civil jurisdiction for incidents which occur within the reservation lie with the tribal court as do criminal misdemeanors for tribal members and non tribal members meaning Indians from other tribes that happen to be living on the reservation.
  • In the Native American view you can’t really have winners and losers, you have to try to restore the harmony or the balance within the tribe.
  • The American government adopted the British style of colonialism as did the Israelis when they began to colonize parts of Palestine. It kind of goes in 4 steps.
  • A disruption of traditional agriculture and food gathering, which out here was done in two ways, killing off the buffalo and secondly constraining them from moving around in a wide arc for hunting and gathering – by putting them on the reservation they stopped that.
  • Transfer commonly owned land into private ownership, to turn land into a commodity that can be bought and sold. They did that through what’s called the Daws Act or the Allotment Act in the late 1800s.
  • Theodore Roosevelt called that act a “might pulverizing machine” with which to break up the tribal mass.
  • The third step was to develop a native ruling elite. In this case they first developed “paper chiefs” then in the 1930s developed modern tribal government.
  • Last step, develop an educated elite. Of course any colonizer anywhere, that’s the step that always back fires.
  • The American Indian Movement was born from the children of the parents who were relocated into cities trained as workers.
  • They were the ones who came back home and joined forces with the traditional people and stood up against racism and in favor of tribal sovereignty and tribal self determination.
  • You see many parallels with that and what’s happening to the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.  Dr William Julius Wilson

Guest – Charlie Abourezk, from Rapid City, South Dakota and is a trial attorney, longtime activist and community organizer in the native American community in South Dakota.   He is also a documentary film maker, his most recent is the feature length documentary “A Tattoo On My Heart: The Warriors of Wounded Knee 1973” which played on public television stations around the United States. He is the current Chief Justice of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe’s Supreme Court and a member of the South Dakota Advisory Committee to the US Commission on Civil Rights. His client base is made up largely of Native Americans, tribal schools and Indian tribal governments, but he also represents plaintiffs in civil rights litigation. He will have a book coming out this next year entitled “A Mighty Pulverizing Machine: The Continuing Colonization of American Indians.”

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 From Guantanamo to Wikileaks: Taking on the State In a Post 9/11 World.

Our own Michael Ratner, President Emeritus, Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), past president, National Lawyers Guild; Chair, European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights delivered a talk last week titled ‘From Guantanamo to Wikileaks: Taking on the State In a Post 9/11 World.’  Michael was honored with a PathMaker to Peace Award by the Brooklyn For Peace Organization for his consistent work in litigation against government spying and surveillance of activists including the targeting of Muslims particularly after 9/11.

Law and Disorder Co-host Attorney Michael Ratner,  President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), a non-profit human rights litigation organization based in New York City and president of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) based in Berlin. Ratner and CCR are currently the attorneys in the United States for publishers Julian Assange and Wikileaks. He was co-counsel in representing the Guantanamo Bay detainees in the United States Supreme Court, where, in June 2004, the court decided his clients have the right to test the legality of their detentions in court. Ratner is also a past president of the National Lawyers Guild and the author of numerous books and articles, including the books Who Killed Che? How the CIA Got Away With Murder, The Trial of Donald Rumsfeld: A Prosecution by Book, Against War with Iraq and Guantanamo: What the World Should Know, as well as a textbook on international human rights.

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Law and Disorder September 29, 2014


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An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States

In the United States today, there are more than 500 federally recognized indigenous communities and nations comprising nearly three million people. These are the descendants of the 15 million people who once inhabited this land and are the subject of the latest book by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz.  In An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, Dunbar-Ortiz challenges the founding myth of the United States and shows how policy against the indigenous peoples was genocidal and imperialist—designed to crush the original inhabitants. Spanning more than 300 years, this classic bottom-up history significantly reframes how we view our past. Told from the viewpoint of the indigenous, it reveals how Native Americans, for centuries, actively resisted expansion of the U.S. empire.

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz:

  • It’s absolutely necessary to know this history of settler colonialism and how it effects consciousness today of U.S. people and in the world because everyone is convinced of this myth of the United States and somehow its always going off the path of this destiny that has never been true in the first place.
  • It’s like a fairy tale except its extremely deadly and dangerous.
  • Other countries have romantic myths as their form of nationalism but they don’t control the world with this ideology.
  • The myth is that it was a birth of settler democracy but we know from apartheid South Africa, we know from colonialism, particularly settler colonialism such as Israel.
  • There are so many parallels with Israel because the Puritans and this became embedded in all settlers, had this idea of the new Jerusalem of Zion. They used that terminology.
  • That God had given them this land to settle, it wasn’t just a right it was a responsibility to destiny, to the world.
  • This made the native farmer and fisherman, ordinary people like other people in the world into savages and monsters, sort of like the Israelis to do the Palestinians today.
  • Throughout the book I have a theme of the militarism and the counterinsurgency that attacks civilians and a food fight they call it, burns the food, supplies, the crops, burns the houses of the people in their towns, creates refugees. This then becomes the pattern.
  • Every generation there is this Indian war. Vietnam looked like an Indian war, even the language they use – indian country for enemy territory, all of the weapons they name after native people.
  • This is not how we think of the United States, supposedly a civilian country, the military is always under control of civilians but that civilian president is commander and chief of the armed forces.
  • There’s also a theory, the Bering Strait the one entrance to the whole continent, which is absurd because all of the people on the coast were great seafaring people.
  • A part of European imperialism say as the beginning of everything that it connected people up. Actually what it did was separate people each other and their tradition.
  • My specialization is the southwest and central Mexico, Central America. I knew there were complex trade routes and roads all over the place, irrigation canals, how they developed agriculture.
  • The first chapter, Follow the Corn, I did just that. I followed out of Mexico, the dispersion of corn agriculture all the way to Tierra Del Fuego to the sub Arctic and coast to coast.
  • What you find in the Americas is when they get to the point of abusing the environment and become dictatorial, there tends to be revolts to overthrow, that was happening when Cortez came to Mexico.
  • The Quetzalcoatl cult that took over the Aztec government became abusive and was doing slave raiding. Had done a wonderful job of dispersing trade routes. Cortez simply allied with the rebels and overthrew the central government.
  • Course they couldn’t know his intentions of simply wiping out their civilization.
  • When British colonialism came to North America with these peculiar characteristics of the puritan ideology settling in. With 2 centuries of settler colonialism they developed this idea of ownership.
  • It went from owning human beings to the idea of owning the land.
  • George Washington was a surveyor and you have to ask why was such a super wealthy – a lowly surveyor?
  • Surveyors got to choose the best land, and got to mark it up. They had already developed this idea of a Platte, creating territories that would then become states once they had a majority settler population.
  • That’s why it took so long for Oklahoma, Oklahoma was the 47th state, New Mexico, Arizona, these places that had a majority native population.
  • It was rough being native in the United States, it still is. I grew up in Canadian county Oklahoma, my dad sharecropped, and was a tenant farmer throughout that area until the depression wiped it out.
  • The people went to California as refugees.
  • I’m cautious about the identity because native nationalism Cherokee or Onondaga or Shawnee or Creek Muskogee
  • There was an instance in 1917, I think its one of the most important moments in US history and hardly anyone knows about it. Jack Womack and I had written about it Monthly Review, it was called the Green Corn Rebellion.
  • That is the main demand, land base, nationhood, the ability to prosper and exist as people, not just as individuals being assimilated out, that’s another form of genocide.

Guest – Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz,  grew up in rural Oklahoma, the daughter of a farmer and half-Indian mother. She has been active in the American Indian Movement for more than four decades and is known for her lifelong commitment to national and international social justice issues. After receiving her PhD in history at the University of California at Los Angeles, she taught in the newly established Native American Studies Program at California State University and helped found the departments of Ethnic Studies and Women’s Studies. Her 1977 book The Great Sioux Nation was the fundamental document at the first international conference on Indians in the Americas, held at the United Nations’ headquarters in Geneva. She is the author or editor of seven books.

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Academic Freedom Case: Professor Steven Salaita

Last Thursday the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Board of Trustees rejected Professor Steven Salaita’s candidacy for a tenured faculty appointment to the American Indian studies program.  Initially we reported here on Law and Disorder that Professor Salaita was essentially dehired from the American Indian Studies program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign because of his statements on social media criticizing Israel’s conduct of military operations in Gaza. Emails within the University revealed under Freedom of Information Act Requests show that it was outside pressure from donors that influenced the University of Illinois Chancellor’s decision to dehire Salaita.

Professor Steven Salaita:

  • I received the job offer at the end of September 2013, the first offer was for me to begin on June 2014 but because of my obligations to Virgina Tech and short time for moving we pushed it back to mid August.
  • Everything was good to go, we set up movers, my classes were ready to teach they had been assigned to me. I ordered my textbooks, on August 2, I received a letter from the chancellor Phyllis Wise, telling me the termination was going to be withdrawn, so it left me scrambling for what to do, because I already resigned my position at Virginia Tech.
  • So all of a sudden I didn’t have a job, at Illinois or Virginia Tech.
  • Publicly released documents indicate that donor pressure played a large role in it.
  • There’s been some consternation about my tweets about Operation Protective Edge, that’s Israel’s recent invasion of the Gaza Strip and I think that had a lot to do with the donor pressure.
  • I think the university is pressing this idea of incivility in social media.
  • I think one of the saddest parts of the whole affair is that I hadn’t had the opportunity to join them and become their colleague and work with them (Professors at the American Indian Studies Department) and they’ve been terrific throughout this entire affair.
  • Academic hiring happens at the level of faculty, it happens at the level of department and search committees within departments will choose the hire, sometimes the entire department has to sign off on it.
  • Then it gets kicked up the dean, then it will get kicked up to the provost or chancellor for their approval, that’s what we call democratic governance on campus.
  • It’s kind of an allegory of the position of American Indian nations in the United States and Canada. They’re seen as not being able to make their own autonomous decisions. They’re not allowed to articulate their own practices of sovereignty without the oversight of authorities above them.
  • The discourse they used in firing me is remarkable. To describe somebody who has been hired by an American Indian Studies Department as uncivil draws on hundreds of years of colonial discourse that I find shocking.
  • It’s an allegory of history and politics that exist in microcosmic form within the framework of the University of Illinois.
  • In this case civility means acquiescence to power, and incivility equates to dissent.
  • In lots of ways my case has become something of an avatar, a flashpoint for people’s grievances.
  • I could really easily be identified with BDS and I think within the past year, 2 things have happened that have caused Zionists to step up their game around this issue. One is the string of boycott resolutions that have been ratified by scholarly organizations by labor unions, by civil rights groups, by churches.
  • I think the response to it is not engage on the issues, not to have conversations or debates about the issues but to shut down our side altogether. They don’t want to have debates, they want a silence.
  • They don’t want to engage in conversation they want the discussion to be unilateral.
  • Support Steven Salaita

 Guest – Professor Steven Salaita,  former associate professor of English at Virginia Tech. He is the author of six books and writes frequently about Arab Americans, Palestine, Indigenous Peoples, and decolonization. His current book project is entitled Images of Arabs and Muslims in the Age of Obama.Steven grew up in Bluefield, Virginia, to a mother from Nicaragua (by way of Palestine) and a father from Madaba, Jordan.  Books by Salaita

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Law and Disorder September 22, 2014


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The Legality of War Powers: Michael Ratner

Law and Disorder co-host Michael Ratner explains war powers in the United States and questions the legality of President Barack Obama decision to launch attacks against the Islamic State using the 2001 Authorization To Use Military Force. Michael Ratner and Jules Lobel with the Center for Constitutional Rights have brought a number of cases challenging the decision to go to war including Vietnam, El Salvador and Grenada

Attorney Michael Ratner:

  • I’ve spent as a number of us had a lot of our lives trying to restrain U.S. war powers. The U.S. particularly the president or the Congress together going to war around the world.
  • It’s been a task that has been singularly unsuccessful, starting with Vietnam where we brought case after case. Only at the very end of the war really did Congress finally act to restrict the president after there were secret wars carried out in Cambodia, in Laos, not just Vietnam.
  • Right now the president hasn’t asked for any authority from Congress to either bomb targets in Iraq that he claims are Islamic state targets or presumable if they begun it bombing in Syria, again targets he claims that are Islamic state targets. He’s not asked for any authority.
  • He has of course had to use some funding that Congress I think will approve if he asks for more. That is not considered giving authority by Congress, just because they fund a war.
  • Coming out of Vietnam, Congress did sort of a mea culpa. They said well, the president dragged us into this war, we passed this Gulf of Tonkin Resolution which was this open ended resolution that said the president could do what ever he wanted in Vietnam. He kept fighting the war based on this broad authorization that Congress gave him over a false incident. . .
  • The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution you could liken to the authority Congress gave the president to go to war in Afghanistan called the Authorization to Use Military Force.
  • (Still back to Vietnam) So Congress passes what’s called The War Powers Resolution. Congress said to itself, we don’t want to be in the situation like Vietnam again.
  • The president, yes is required to go to Congress before he can go to war with any country. The framers were very clear, we don’t want a president making war on his own.
  • You get to Vietnam and Congress says we’re going to make a special statute. You still need a declaration of war or a special passage by Congress of a statute authorizing war before you can make war. But in just in case the president goes in to a country without getting a declaration from us or a statute allowing it we’re going to say he can only stay in that country for 60 days.
  • After 60 days he’s required to pull out all troops from that country.
  • There’s never been any compliance with the War Powers Resolution in the history of our country – where after the 60 day clock, the president has pulled out the troops.
  • I’ve litigated that with El Salvador when the U.S. sent in “advisors” into El Salvador, we’ve litigated it in Grenada and other places.
  • We litigate these on 3 bases. Non compliance of the War Powers Resolution, Secondly non-compliance with the U.S. Constitution which is the Congress has to declare war not the president, and third non-compliance with the U.N. Charter which says there can be no use of force by any member state, unless its self defense or the UN Security Council approves it.
  • The problem here isn’t really a problem of law. The problem here is the problem of having a hegemonic imperialist country that dominates the world through force.
  • So that turns us back to where we are right now.
  • Obama has two justifications – one is the original grant of authority to bomb and go and use force and U.S. troops in Afghanistan called the Authorization to Use Military Force passed shortly after 911 in 2001 which basically said the president could use force to go after the perpetrators of 911, those who harbored them or those who aided and abetted them.
  • In the case of the Islamic State they’re at war with has been denounced by al-Qaeda, so they’re certainly not part of a 911 conspiracy at all.
  • There’s no question that he’s illegally bombing the Islamic State in Iraq, illegally bombing them to the extent he is in Syria.

Law and Disorder Co-host Attorney Michael Ratner,  President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), a non-profit human rights litigation organization based in New York City and president of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) based in Berlin. Ratner and CCR are currently the attorneys in the United States for publishers Julian Assange and Wikileaks. He was co-counsel in representing the Guantanamo Bay detainees in the United States Supreme Court, where, in June 2004, the court decided his clients have the right to test the legality of their detentions in court. Ratner is also a past president of the National Lawyers Guild and the author of numerous books and articles, including the books Who Killed Che? How the CIA Got Away With Murder, The Trial of Donald Rumsfeld: A Prosecution by Book, Against War with Iraq and Guantanamo: What the World Should Know, as well as a textbook on international human rights.

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The People’s Climate March and the United Nations Climate Summit

We hear the voices from the climate march held in New York City, a large-scale activist event to advocate global action against climate change. The march winded through the streets of New York Sunday, September 21, 2014. Initially called by 350.org, the environmental organization founded by writer/activist Bill McKibben, the march has been endorsed by nearly 400 organizations, including many international and national unions, churches, schools and community and environmental justice organizations. The action is intended to coincide with the UN Climate Summit this week as U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon invited leaders of government, the private sector and civil society to arrive at a long term solution for climate change.

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 National Immigration Project

Last month the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild and several other groups sued the federal government to challenge its new and unlawful “fast-track” expedited removal policies that are being used against mothers and children detained in Artesia, New Mexico. Artesia is a remote detention center hundreds of miles from the nearest city. Lawyers with the NIP have collected evidence showing the government disregarding and pushing mothers and children through a deportation process making it nearly impossible for them to consult attorneys, prepare claims for asylum or any defenses to deportation. A class action lawsuit was brought by the Northwest Immigration Rights Project challenging the treatment of unaccompanied children in California with the average of 10 years old.

Paromita Shah:

  • Starting in early April the government began to see a surge in arrivals of families – of mothers and children and sometimes children who came by themselves.
  • Predominantly these children and families come from countries Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
  • They fled their home countries for a variety of reasons, mostly to escape what was horrific atrocities they experienced.
  • They went to other countries as well, since other countries have seen a 700 percent increase in asylum claims. Costa Rica and Bolivia.
  • The surge is not new. The surge actually began about 5 years ago when people were reporting an exponential increase of children coming across the border and no one knew what to do about it.
  • From the stories we’ve heard from many of our members they are fleeing horrific atrocities and came to the United States to seek refuge here.
  • The National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild and the ACLU and a number of organizations sued the federal government to challenge its policies that denied a fair deportation process to the families and the children who fled this extreme violence.
  • The primary focus of our argument is that these people weren’t given a chance to apply for asylum.
  • We are violating our laws that relate to asylum, that relate to the convention against torture. These are laws not only in the United States but also international treaties that we’ve signed onto.
  • If you fled a country that abused you and injured you, you would come to the United States border. At that point our laws set up a process called expedited removal. It’s a two stage process.
  • The first step includes an interview with asylum officer to evaluate if you have a credible fear. When I say border that’s at any point of entry in the United States.
  • Anywhere within 100 miles of the border (U.S.) because that’s how we define the border.
  • Two thirds of the population of the United States lives within 100 miles of the border.
  • Artesia New Mexico is a federal holding cell for the 672 people who are now detained there.
  • If you’re a child that doesn’t have an adult with them you’re supposed to be treated differently under this process. They are not as a practice supposed to be put into expedited removal because of their age. You will have a chance to apply for asylum ( which is incredibly difficult) because you apply without an attorney.
  • There are children in New Jersey, Washington state, Texas, L.A., and Florida.
  • Children can’t always talk if they were raped or recruited into a gang or brutalized by a gang.
  • J.E.F.M. v. Holder
  • The irony of this whole process is that Artesia is in New Mexico. The immigration court that’s holding these hearings around Artesia is in Arlington, Virginia.
  • They’re conducting these hearings by video.

Guest – Paromita Shah, associate Director of the National Immigration Project. She specializes in immigration detention and enforcement. She is the contributing author and co-presenter of the Deportation 101 curriculum.

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Law and Disorder September 8, 2014


Updates:

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FOIA Request Form salaita-head-shot

University of Illinois Chancellor Wise Going Forward With Salaita Appointment To Board of Trustees Vote

Last month, the University of Illinois rescinded the job offer of Professor Steven Salaita who wrote controversial social media posts about the war in Gaza. This raised serious concerns under established principles of academic freedom. Professor Salaita was basically dehired from the American Indian Studies program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign because of his statements on social media criticizing Israel’s conduct of military operations in Gaza. We reported weeks ago on Law and Disorder that scholars from law schools around the country came out with a very strong letter condemning the decision of the University of Illinois to dehire Professor Salaita.  FOIA Email Link

Professor Katherine Franke:

  • Professor Steven Salaita until recently was a tenured professor at Virgina Tech and was well known in English departments across the country and also among scholars who worked in colonialism and post colonialism studies. He developed a really rich body of work thinking about Native American rights, native people’s rights in the United States and connecting them to Palestinian rights in particular internationally.
  • Read Professor Katherine Franke’s second letter here.
  • He was a well sought after scholar and was hired by the University of Illinois in their American Indian Studies program in a process that started last fall.
  • The department unanimously voted him an offer and this summer the university started to get pressure from outside donors, some of their alums and advocacy groups to not finalize the offer because of some tweets Professor Salaita sent out over the summer related to the Israeli attacks in Gaza.
  • The emails to the chancellor were released showing that large six figure donors had seen those tweets or learned of them and said you cannot hire this guy or I will withdraw my future giving to the universities.
  • So, the chancellor let Steven know that she was not going to finalize his offer even though they already negotiated his teaching schedule, he’s already rented an apartment, they had already negotiated his moving expenses.
  • Right now he has no job, no income, no where to live.
  • It’s the most recent iteration of what has been a rather well organized, well financed campaign in the United States in particular to purge the academy of scholars and even graduate students who are doing work that is either sympathetic to the idea of Palestinian sovereignty or rights or critical of Israeli state policy particularly the occupation.
  • It was so obviously a violation of the fundamental right of academic freedom.
  • I’ve only learned of his scholarship as a result of this campaign and his termination from the University of Illinois.
  • I explain to Chancellor Wise in the letter that I sent, that not only will I not come to the university to speak in an official capacity but I will come to Urbana-Champaign and meet off campus with faculty and students, and members of the communities about these issues of academic freedom.
  • Their strategy has been to portray any criticism of Israeli state policy or any criticism of political Zionism as uncivil or as a form of hate speech, but more importantly to appeal to a civility norm. That its not nice. That it creates an unwelcome learning environment for students, particularly jewish students.
  • To see her parroting that language (Chancellor Wise) and for Chris Kennedy to parrot that language says to me that they’ve been reached by these organized operatives from the outside about how to message this termination.
  • I don’t believe there is a civility norm at stake here and I think we actually shouldn’t have one in a university setting. We ought to take on uncivil ideas, ideas that are troubling, that are uncomfortable and unpack them in thoughtful scholarly ways.
  • As these emails are coming out under the Freedom of Information Act Requests over the last few days its quite clear that civility is not what underwrote the decision to terminate him. It was really outside pressure from donors.

Guest – Katherine Franke,  Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law; Director, Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia University. She was awarded a 2011 Guggenheim Fellowship, and is among the nation’s leading scholars in the area of feminism, sexuality and race. In addition to her scholarly writing on sexual harassment, gender equality, sexual rights, and racial history, she writes regularly for a more popular audience in the Gender and Sexuality Law Blog. Franke is also on the Executive Committee for Columbia’s Institute for Research on Women and Gender, and the Center for Palestine Studies and teaches at a medium security women’s prison in Manhattan. Her legal career began as a civil rights lawyer, first specializing in HIV discrimination cases and then race and sex cases more generally. In the last 25 years she has authored briefs in cases addressing HIV discrimination, forced sterilization, same-sex sexual harassment, gender stereotyping, and transgender discrimination in the Supreme Court and other lower courts.
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The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising

In June of this year, the United States sent more troops to Iraq and carried out airstrikes to stop the advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, known as ISIS into the Kurdish capitol Erbil. However, a more complicated situation has developed in Syria. The U.S., Western European, Saudi, and Arab Gulf policy is to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which is also the goal of ISIS and other jihadis in Syria. ISIS’s membership is between 10 and 17 thousand.  We talk today with veteran Middle East correspondent Patrick Cockburn about his new book The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising, about the origins of ISIS. We’ll also talk about the role of Saudi Arabia in the larger picture and in funding part of the Sunni terrorist groups, which was exposed by Wikileaks.

Patrick Cockburn:

  • The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which has turned into the new caliphate in western-northern Iraq and western Syria. It has come out of Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
  • This organization that was linked to Al-Qaeda but not formed by Al-Qaeda after the invasion of Iraq in 2003 is very anti-Shia, Sunni fundamentalist is extremely violent.
  • What makes it so effective is its a mixture of religious fanaticism and military efficiency.
  • Some of the senior people of ISIS are former security officers and special republican guard officers from Saddam Hussein’s time.
  • ISIS is led by a core of people who fought the U.S. in Iraq, fought the Iraqi Army, this is after 2003 and then after 2011 fought in Syria.
  • So, it’s quite an experienced group.
  • It had been growing stronger in Iraq over the last 3 years. It launched a series of campaigns, one of which to break its members out of prison.
  • It had taken over quite big territory in Iraq then it had moved into Syria.
  • It’s present in both countries, but its main effort was in Iraq this year.
  • It always had strength in Mosul City, even though the Iraqi Army was in theoretically in charge but it would still levy protection money on people.
  • Maybe 8 million dollars a month. I know contract men there paying half a million dollars a month.
  • It’s final take over was swift and devastating. I can’t think of an example in history when 350 thousand men in the Iraqi Army,  650 thousand police simply disintegrated under an attack from under 3000 ISIS fighters.
  • What really changed in 2011 when you had the uprising in Syria, primarily the Sunni Arabs of Syria, Iraq politicians said it would spill over into Iraq.
  • The U.S. and its allies to a substantial degree were responsible for this. They backed the uprising against Assad. Even when it was apparent in the last 2 years that Assad wasn’t going to go.
  • Wahhabism is the Islamic variant practiced in Saudi Arabia.
  • There’s always been an alliance over the last 300 years between the preachers of this very puritanical, fanatical, violent and bigoted variant of Islam and the House of Saud.
  • What they believe is not that much different from what ISIS believes. It’s very anti-Shia, the Shia seen as heretics worthy of death. It’s anti-Christian, anti-Jewish and deeply intolerant.
  • Without the policies of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, there wouldn’t have been a 911.
  • Bin Laden was part of the a Saudi elite.
  • Rather amazingly, the Saudis were let off scott-free.
  • Kuwait has been a major financial supporter of the Jihadis, so has UAE, so has Qatar, the gulf monarchies as a whole if you like and so has Turkey.
  • The problem with Obama and the U.S. is they have to decide what side they’re on.  In Iraq, they’re supporting the government against ISIS, they’re supporting the Kurds against ISIS.
  • But in Syria, the main opponent of ISIS is the Assad government but the U.S. policy is to weaken and displace that government.
  • In a way, (the U.S. policy actually assists ISIS)

Guest – Patrick Cockburn is currently Middle East correspondent for The Independent and worked previously for the Financial Times. He has written three books on Iraq’s recent history as well as a memoir, The Broken Boy and, with his son, a book on schizophrenia, Henry’s Demons, which was shortlisted for a Costa Award. He won the Martha Gellhorn Prize in 2005, the James Cameron Prize in 2006, and the Orwell Prize for Journalism in 2009.

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