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War Criminals to Meet in Chicago, But Somehow Protest Will be the Danger?

By Debra Sweet, posted at her blog at World Can't Wait.

Editor's Note: Debra Sweet is the 2012 recipient of the American Humanist Association's Humanist Heroine Award. See press release below. 

For immediate release
May 7, 2012
Contact: Lina Thorne 718 825 9119
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Debra Sweet, World Can’t Wait Director, will receive the 2012 American Humanist Association’s (AHA) Humanist Heroine Award. The award will be presented at the AHA national conference on June 9 in New Orleans and is a joint presentation of the AHA and its Feminist Caucus. Since 1982, this award is given annually to women who promote and advance the ideals of human rights and gender justice using a non-theological approach. Past awardees have included Judy Norsigian, Robin Morgan, Julia Sweeney and Amy Goodman.

Debra Sweet helped establish and continues to lead World Can’t Wait in its mission to “stop the crimes of our government,” including unjust military occupations, covert drone wars, torture and indefinite detention as well as reversing the fascist direction of U.S. society.  She has worked with abortion providers for thirty years, organizing community support and helping them withstand anti-abortion violence.  Since the age of 19, when she confronted Richard Nixon during a face-to-face meeting and told him to stop the war in Vietnam, Debra has been a leader in the opposition to U.S. wars and military occupations.

Sweet will be leading World Can’t Wait’s efforts in protesting  NATO’s meeting in Chicago, May 20-21, where  the U.S. and its military allies will discuss the continuation of US/NATO presence in Afghanistan until 2024.

Annie Laurie Geller, Co-President, Freedom from Religion Foundation, nominated Debra for this award. “Debra Sweet, more than any person I know, embodies heroism: for women, for peace, for the progression of humanity,” she says. “She inspired me, her classmates, the city of Madison, Wisconsin and the entire nation when, as a student, she met President Richard Nixon. Her courage to openly express the views of most Americans toward Nixon and the war was an electrifying moment that touched many and opened our eyes to personal activism. She has gone on to dedicate her life to peace and progressive causes, including feminist issues.”  

On Friday, May 4, Sweet was convicted with 19 others of disorderly conduct for a 2011 protest against the NYPD’s “stop and frisk” policy.  “700,000 people were stopped, questioned and frisked by the NYPD last year, the great majority of them Black and Latino, in violation of their constitutional rights and their humanity,” said Sweet. Fellow defendants in the non-violent civil resistance were Dr. Cornel West of Princeton University; Vietnam war resister and revolutionary leader Carl Dix; clergy, students and residents of the Harlem community who had been victimized by the policy.  Dr. West called Sweet “a long-distance freedom fighter whom I deeply respect and love.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION about The American Humanist Association <> , contact: Brian Magee, (202) 238-9088 extension 105, Mobile: (202) 681-2425.   FOR MORE INFORMATION about Freedom from Religion Foundation <> , contact: Annie Laurie Gaylor (608) 256-8900.


Update May 8: “On Tuesday, city officials notified National Nurses United that they were ordering nurses to accept new, less visible, locations for the protest, under threat of cancelling a long approved permit for the public event – even though the G-8 leaders will now be 700 miles away from Chicago on that date in the backwoods of Camp David, Md.”  At a press conference Wednesday, “NNU will outline a legal challenge to the city’s demand and discuss other plans responding to the city’s move” (from a press release from National Nurses United regarding the suppression of their planned May 18 protest in Chicago against the NATO Summit).

The NATO International Security Force, which we all know is actually led by the U.S. military, killed a woman and her 5 children in an airstrike in southwestern Afghanistan Sunday, and then yesterday expressed “regret” for what they call their “mistake.”

Military tribunals, the crowning achievement of a US system of indefinite detention and torture aided by and including NATO member countries, and which defense attorneys assert are rigged by the U.S. to assure the execution of 5 men in Guantánamo, have begun, in the process of continuing the unending U.S. war on terror.

U.S. drone strikes, halted briefly because of protest from the government of Pakistan (presumably a sovereign country) began again last week, killing 4 people in a school.  Of course these victims were called insurgents; everyone killed by U.S. drones is a militant, by definition.  NATO is now a major purchaser of U.S. drones, and has a vast role in aiding the covert U.S. strikes.

The most heavily armed empire in world history occupies and has destroyed whole countries, has a system of indefinite detention and torture in place, and is expanding secret military operations across the region.

But according to this empire, the biggest danger to peace is some hundreds or thousands of people protesting the Chicago meeting of the NATO military alliance next week?  According to the purveyors of war crimes, the people decrying the destruction of Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan are the ones to fear and lock up, while the war-makers and torturers are given even more power to war critics into criminals?

Public opinion is being prepared for this criminalization. The Chicago press has featured reports on plans to evacuate Chicago because of “unrest;” on the deployment of National Guard troops to quell protests; on plans to reopen a closed prison in Joliet to house arrested protesters; on heavily armed federal teams sweeping through the central city; on closing down the public transport system in the city; and more.

Despite the measures which Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, Obama’s former White House enforcer, wanted in place against protest, a well-publicized battle was successful in getting a permit for the march on Sunday May 20 at Grant Park.  With the removal of a long-held permit to march on Friday May 18 by National Nurses United, the City is trying to force protest further away from city center, supposedly because rocker Tom Morello will be performing at their rally.

No matter how they parse the words of the First Amendment, what the federal authorities (who are the ones running the show in Chicago) are doing is criminalizing protest in advance.  As they did at the Republican Convention in St. Paul in 2008; at the G-20 in Pittsburgh in 2009; in response to the Occupy movement, they are putting measures in place that will sweep up people who are assembling and speaking based on the content of our protest message.  The message to the general public is that protest should be feared, not a system that perpetrates war crimes and mass denial of civil liberties.

We state clearly and publicly, in advance: It’s right to protest the crimes being carried out in our name, in public space, near the NATO meeting.  We protesters are not the endangering the people; the danger to humanity is a system which uses police-state measures to back up war crimes. The following measures are in place, or have been proposed:

Occupy Bridge Arrests

Last fall, hundreds of Occupy protesters were arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge

* Sending arrested protesters to an old prison in Joliet. 

The idea was then ditched, as the place is falling apart (To Joliet jail for NATO offenders?  Sun-Times, Apr 28, 2012).

* The National Guard is deployed to Chicago for NATO Summit:

“Another contingent of guard troops will conduct a large-scale domestic response drill outside Cook County during the summit weekend, ready to provide support in the event of any problems in Chicago, said Maj. Troy Scott, deputy director of domestic operations for the Illinois National Guard.”

Video of military helicopters flying over the Loop.

* Milwaukee Red Cross to Prep for Chicago Evacuation During NATO Summit:

“CBS News has obtained a copy of a Red Cross e-mail sent to volunteers in the Milwaukee area. It said the NATO summit “may create unrest or another national security incident. The American Red Cross in southeastern Wisconsin has been asked to place a number of shelters on standby in the event of evacuation of Chicago.”

According to a chapter spokesperson, the evacuation plan is not theirs alone. “Our direction has come from the City of Chicago and the Secret Service,” she said (accompanied by picture of demonstrators amidst flames, who knows where…).

* Vague Speculation about “Unrest” Concerns about NATO Summit Violence Leave Chicago Guessing CBS News reported on April 29:

“There also are reports that a heavily armed security team will start making a very public appearance around federal buildings in the Loop this week. Officials with the Chicago NATO host committee were completely in the dark. They had no reports of any such plans. A source told CBS 2 that security forces in full battle gear would not be seen this week.”

* Chicago airspace to be closed down:

“The FAA says private planes may be shot down if they fly within ten nautical miles of downtown Chicago during the summit. The only planes allowed will be commercial passenger and cargo carriers, and police and military aircraft.”

* Surgical strikes against anyone in protests who “crosses the line” beyond First Amendment activity… as defined by the Secret Service?

“Police will embrace “First Amendment activity,” she told the building managers, and will surgically deal with those who cross the line into vandalism. She was asked how many demonstrators could arrive in Chicago who aren’t now part of a permitted group.

“If I had that crystal ball, I’d be solid,” she said.

Many building managers said that overall they were relatively satisfied with the level of information they are getting and are willing to trust the police and federal authorities to keep things under control.

“I understand they haven’t got everything figured out yet,” said Wes Stoginski, assistant engineer at a building on 13th Street near the Illinois Central rail line. But Stoginski also said he knows where the variables are.

“You can’t legislate against lunatics,” he said.”

(This is the only somewhat oblique reference I could find to the CPD extraction technique of arresting the people they see as leaders, which they did at the mass March 20, 2003 arrests. The civil suit by NLG based on those arrests was just settled for $6.2 million to demonstrators. In the pre-trial discovery, that technique was documented.)

* Federal Patrols Set for Loop:

“In a memo titled Operation Red Zone, the protective service said the increased security will be extended throughout the South Loop area often referred to as the federal complex. It includes the Kluczynski Federal Building, the U.S. Dirksen Courthouse and the Metropolitan Correctional Center. Several buildings just east on State Street are also in the so-called red zone.

“The memo notes there have been no specific or credible threats at federal facilities ‘related to terrorism by international terrorist organizations’ but that the area around the complex will be ‘directly and indirectly’ affected by protests in the days before and after the summit.”

Rupert Murdoch and the Phone-Hacking Scandal: Unfit to Lead? Willful Blindness?

By Dennis Loo (5/2/12)

On Tuesday, April 30, 2012, the House of Commons’ Culture, Sports and Media Committee issued its report “News International and Phone-hacking”: “We conclude, therefore, that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company.”

They describe Murdoch as having “exhibited willful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications.”

Willful blindness means that someone in charge has failed to investigate, when they should have, what their subordinates have been doing, and they are still therefore legally responsible for what has been done, despite not knowing what was being done in their name. While these findings appear to be – and in some respects are – a damning indictment of someone who has been, and is, one of the most powerful people in the world, and until now nearly untouchable, “willful blindness” serves as a poor excuse for holding Murdoch responsible for lying to Parliament about what he knew and when he knew it. Murdoch knew. His son knew. All of his lieutenants knew. And they knew it from the start. Rupert and his son James, when they testified before Parliament, were obviously lying.

What NewsCorp was caught doing is analogous to what Nixon was caught doing in the Watergate Scandal that ended up forcing Nixon from office. Nixon and his henchmen were spying upon the Democratic Party (and the anti-war movement, most especially Daniel Ellsberg). But it wasn’t Nixon’s spying on the anti-war movement that brought his presidency down. It was Nixon’s spying on the “legitimate opposition” of the Democratic Party that sealed his doom. Similarly, this scandal in Britain has been fueled not as much by NewsCorp’s horrid spying on common people (although that has been a factor), it’s been his company’s daring to tap the phones of the rich and famous, including the Royal Family.

What Murdoch, his son, and his various other lieutenants have been doing, and are now in deep trouble for, is merely the logical extension of what tabloid journalism is all about, which Murdoch has turned into one of the most powerful and most influential corporate empires in the world and in history: scandal and unprincipled, unethical, gutter “journalism.”

As one of the commenters at The New York Times on their May 1st article about this states, this is merely the tip of the iceberg. The collusion, corruption, influence peddling and cozy relationship between Murdoch and his companies with the PM and others in power in Britain and elsewhere, including most notably of course, the U.S. and Australia, their ability to make or break political careers, parties and election results, their ideological role as right-wing extremists posturing as “populists,” are all in play here.

The monstrous way that power is exercised by those in authority, whether they’re in public office or part of the media world, are tantalizingly present if this scandal is allowed to continue. The hemorrhaging is only in its early stages. Removing the Murdoch’s from power in their companies would only substitute two fiends but not alter the culture of the companies that they founded and lead or the larger landscape of neoliberal policies.

For the full story to come out will require that the populace insist that the unraveling of the various threads be completed to their end and that they participate along with other journalistic sleuths in making that happen. The House of Commons’ report references several sealed documents that have yet to be revealed.

As I have more time to read the report I will likely post more about this.

Liars in High Places: John Brennan, Obama, and Drone Attacks

By Dennis Loo (4/30/12)

In a speech he gave today, John Brennan, Obama's Assistant for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, stated:

"As a matter of international law, the United States is in an armed conflict with al-Qaida, the Taliban and associated forces, in response to the 9/11 attacks, and we may also use force consistent with our inherent right of national self-defense. There is nothing in international law that bans the use of remotely piloted aircraft for this purpose or that prohibits us from using lethal force against our enemies outside of an active battlefield, at least when the country involved consents or is unable or unwilling to take action against the threat."

There is so much that is wrong with this statement, where does one begin?

First, Brennan, as does his boss, as did his previous bosses, conflates al-Qaeda et al (anti-state terrorist groups) with countries. Brennan et al are twisting the meaning of international law as it applies to countries - the right to self-defense, which means defending one's country against an actual attack by another country.

Second, the pursuit of al-Qaeda et al after the 9/11 attacks should have been treated as a criminal matter, not as the justification for wars, invasions, and occupations that have resulted in the deaths of some 1.3 million Iraqis and tens of thousands of Americans (to name but a part of the grevious damage). The perpetrators of the 9/11 attack (even if we were to accept the government's official account of the attacks, which in important respects violates the laws of physics and also neglects or underplays the tremendous amount of intelligence that the government had about the attacks before 9/11, which the highest levels of the government refused to act upon, thereby committing at the very minimum, criminal acts of negligence) were criminals suitable for a criminal prosecution.

Shock, anger, and grief gripped the American people after 9/11, but 9/11 did not on its own mean that Americans hungered for a war. The events of 9/11—even accepting the official government version of events— actually lent themselves more readily and logically to a hunt for al-Qaeda and criminal prosecution. Had the Bush White House handled 9/11 as a horrible crime rather than as a declaration of war, does anyone seriously believe that Bush and Cheney would have encountered major resistance from most of the American people? (Globalization and the Demolition of Society, p. 223) 

Third, the use of illegal weapons and attacks that violate international law, both by the U.S. and by its putative rivals al-Qaeda et al, feed a cycle of ongoing violence. 

The corollaries of rights violations and illegal surveillance by the Bush and Obama White Houses in the US are the violations of the rules of war that constitute state terror abroad. As seen in Abu Ghraib and at GITMO and in their assault on Fallujah[i] (where they specifically suspended international rules of war by aiming phosphorous missiles at people and shooting at anyone who moved), and Hilla[ii] (which had the misfortune of being on a direct path to Baghdad), the US military today rules in substantial degree through generous uses of terror. In the case of Hilla, where the US used cluster bombs on densely populated civilian areas, the objective was to quickly crush any resistance to their drive to Baghdad because they did not think that American public opinion would tolerate a protracted war campaign. (This is a core part of the [Colin] Powell Doctrine that grew out of the Vietnam War experience). In Fallujah’s case, the point was to punish the people of Fallujah for their support of the insurgents. The use of drones upon Pakistan not only results in deaths to innocents, it is warfare waged on a nonbelligerent sovereign nation’s territory, violating a basic tenet of international law.

A state that uses terror reveals itself to be on particularly precarious footings because it must resort to means that exceed those normally employed by states to carry out their policies and/or retain their power. The so-called “War on Terror” cannot be won the way it is being waged. Indeed, current methods only guarantee the spread of anti-state terror and its growing virulence indefinitely. It is like fighting a fire by drowning it with barrels and barrels of gasoline. As the conflagration grows ever higher, the US government calls out: “We need more gasoline here!” (Globalization and the Demolition of Society, p. 202)

Fourth, the notion underlying Brennan's remarks - and that of the war of terror as a whole - that it is permissable to kill innocents, maim, torture, and render men, women and children as refugees in their own lands, because it allegedly (and falsely) protects American lives, is deeply immoral.

It’s interesting that someone in the U.S. government should finally use the words “international law.” This is a phrase that The New York Times never used, not even once, in discussing the pending attack upon Iraq by Bush. Had they found their voice to utter that phrase, then it would have been clear, had they used it correctly of course, that the U.S. attack upon Iraq was illegal under “international law.” Indeed, had the mass media or anyone in a prominent position in government, or anyone on any level of the government, pointed out that the “supreme war crime” under international law is attacking a country that has not first attacked you, then the balance of public opinion against the war would have been much stronger and the U.S.’s role as a rogue state would have been transparent before the world. (The fact that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, of course, was all the more reason to resist this terrible lie being perpetrated upon the people by our government and the stenographers to power (aka mass media).
The reason why the UN Charter and the Nuremberg Tribunal hold that aggressive war is the “supreme war crime” is self-evident if you consider it for a moment. If aggressive war were not the supreme war crime, then it would mean that any country’s government could claim that they were threatened by another country and use that as a fig leaf to justify their waging war upon that other country. There would be no way to prove indisputably that the country initiating a war didn’t feel threatened and therefore there would be no bar to wars being waged right and left. International law would then have no meaning if this exception – they’re threatening us - were allowed.
When outlaws such as the Bush Regime and now the Obama administration claim that they are acting in “self-defense” by waging pre-emptive (aka aggressive) war, and when they are using torture and a host of other egregious practices as the natural corollary to committing the supreme war crime, then you know that you cannot trust them and that such people belong in the dock at the Hague, not in charge of our collective fates.

[i] See Dahr Jamail, “The ‘Free Fire Zone’ of Iraq,” in Impeach the President: the Case Against Bush and Cheney, eds. Dennis Loo and Peter Phillips (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2006).

[ii] See Howard Friel and Richard Falk, The Record of the Paper: How the New York Times Misreports US Foreign Policy (New York: Verso, 2004), 127: “The decision, then, to continue the march to Baghdad without troop and supply-line reinforcements was both politically and militarily risky. To reduce such risks, the Bush administration made the additional decision to proceed to Baghdad using maximum force, which turned the eighty-mile corridor from Najaf to Baghdad literally into a US warpath.”

Elaine Brower 2

Elaine Brower of World Can't Wait speaking at the NYC Stop the War on Iran rally 2/4/12