Scott Crutcher / Atlanta Progressive News & ThinkProgress.org – 2006-09-10 00:03:20
Potemkin Village Goes South:
Bush Met with Loud Protests during Atlanta Visit
Scott Crutcher / Atlanta Progressive News
ATLANTA (September 7, 2006) — President Bush was greeted by protesters this morning as he was in Atlanta at the Cobb Galleria Centre to flog his proposed legislation regarding military tribunals for terrorism suspects.
Top Pentagon lawyers and even prominent Republican hawks in the US Senate such as US Sens. John McCain, Lindsay Graham, and John Warner have questioned the constitutionality of Bush’s proposal.
Bush’s plan allows evidence obtained by torture to be used against detainees and also keeps some types of evidence secret from detainees and their defense attorneys.
Bush was comfortable in front of a carefully screened audience of partisan idolizers and pre-authorized media. Governor Perdue gushed, “Georgia loves you, Mr. President!”
The event itself was sponsored by the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, which bills itself as “non-partisan” even though its website proclaims its support for repeal of the multi-millionaire estate tax, distributes “in-depth, common sense guides for privatizing services at any government level,” and supports private medical savings plans as opposed to universal health coverage.
Outside the venue, about 75 demonstrators sported a colorful array of large banners and signs and engaged in a variety of political street theatre.
Several wore bright orange prison uniforms with black hoods similar to those worn by Guantanamo detainees.
Two Buddhist monks chanted and sang.
One individual dressed as Dick Cheney acted as a puppeteer controlling another person costumed as George W. Bush. “Bush and Cheney” come to a lot of local protests, and today became a sensation in the corporate media’s coverage of today’s events.
“I feel like [Bush] is a poor leader. He’s doing a bad job. He just doesn’t care about working class people like my family. All he thinks about is big business owners and the wealthiest one percent. He’s not putting enough programs together to help people who are struggling. All he thinks about is going over to fight some unjust illegitimate war that’s killing thousands of people,” Brandon Barren of World Can’t Wait, told Atlanta Progressive News.
“I’m here because Bush is here talking about his vision for the US in coming years and I am totally opposed to what he stands for…the lies he keeps repeating to the American people about Muslims and instilling fear of terrorism in the US public. I think the transfer of the prisoners over from Europe was just a way for him to have a reason to keep Guantanamo prison camp open,” Randy Aronov, of the Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition (GPJC), said.
“He is completely on the wrong track. He has led us into an illegal war. He has demonized anyone who speaks out against him. I am against his war on the middle class, number one. Wages are down, jobs are gone, and people just can’t make it anymore. Gas prices are sky high. He’s in the oil business. He’s got buddies and he could do something about it today but he won’t. He and his bunch are guilty of war profiteering. They won’t allow any
investigation into Halliburton’s war profiteering led by Cheney,” Levon Otwell, a local resident, said.
“I’m against the Bush regime. I don’t believe in the war that’s going on right now and the war crimes that he’s imposed on the world.” Astha Ghimiri, of World Can’t Wait, said.
One of the groups that called for today’s protests was the International Action Center (AIC).
“Top on many peoples’ list why they are here is the ongoing death and destruction in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US sponsorship of the war on Lebanon, the attacks on the people of Gaza—so all these international issues,” Dianne Mathiowetz, local organizer with the IAC, told Atlanta Progressive News.
“He’s not listening to the world! He’s not listening to his own constituency—even Republicans are saying to him now, ‘You are not speaking for us. You are not acting like our president. You are following a failed policy and you are acting like you are too proud to admit it!'” Florence Dawson of Atlanta Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND) exclaimed.
“But I think as well, the issues here at home. The Bush administration’s abysmal failure to meet the needs of New Orleans and the people of the Gulf Coast. A year later the destruction is almost untouched, unrepaired. There’s the issue of jobs, health care, declining educational standards, all the social service benefits, tax cuts for the rich, growing poverty, secret wiretapping, use of torture. I think the list is as endless as the number of people in the United States who are being impacted negatively by the Bush
administration whether it’s the environment, women’s issues, or homophobia from the White House. It’s all part of a package that is imperiling the living standard, the civil liberties, and rights of people here in the United States, but has a global impact because globally it’s creating war and destruction,” Mathiowetz said.
Atlanta Progressive News asked Mathiowetz further about what she thought about the president’s admission on Wednesday that the US has been detaining terrorism suspects in a secret global network of CIA interrogation prisons.
“This is an incredible thing. He is on this national tour to pump up the war on terrorists supposedly as the strong issue that his administration represents. So yesterday, after months of denying—not only denying but attacking the patriotism of the reporter at the Washington Post [Dana Milbank] who put this story out months ago—he, so nonchalantly, totally admits to it. It is illegal. It’s a violation of international law and this president is guilty of war crimes, of crimes against humanity. He has broken multiple international treaties that the US is bound to go by,” Mathiowetz explained.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) reported the protesters left after only a couple hours, when they realized the President’s motorcade would not be passing by. The AJC also reported the protesters were moved by police at one point when the crowd grew larger.
Atlanta Progressive News interviewed several protesters for their reaction to Bush’s assertion this week that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions–that deals with degrading treatment and due process rights for detainees–is “vague” and “unacceptable.”
“I think he’s just saying that because he’s violated a lot of those laws that’s pertaining to the Geneva Conventions with the prison torture and the war itself and the way he’s handling the whole thing,” Barren said.
“You know I think those talking points are acts of desperation. Whatever Karl Rove says he repeats. And that Geneva Convention, which is supported by the world with one other exception, is accepted and embraced by everyone. How dare he deliver an address that like that? That’s how I feel. I’m insulted that he would do that. He’s not acting like anybody’s president; he’s certainly not acting like mine,” Dawson said.
On the September 6, 2006 edition of the PBS Jim Lehrer News Hour, Eugene Fidell of the Institute for Military Justice commented on this specific topic, “The claims that the current prohibitions of Common Article 3 which is incorporated in the War Crimes Act are too vague to be enforced is, I think, without foundation…There are provisions in the Uniform Code of Military Justice that are at least as broad in their scope, for example the prohibition on oppression or maltreatment, those are in Article 93 of the code. The notion that these are simply too vague to permit a prosecution is very troublesome. What’s more troublesome is that by purporting to clarify a matter the effect will be to immunize past conduct and that is extremely disturbing.”
Recently, President Bush and US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld made recent comments equating Islamic fundamentalist terrorism with the crimes of secular dictators like Hitler and Lenin. Rumsfeld went so far as to compare those who criticize the Bush regime as those who wanted to appease the Nazis before World War II.
“This whole ‘Islamofascism’ charge that they’re trying to come out with is to me just ridiculous. If you look at them, if anything, they are the fascists,” Bob Bernstein, an activist with the GPJC, told Atlanta Progressive News.
Scott Crutcher is a Staff Writer for Atlanta Progressive News. He may be reached at: email@example.com
Ignoring the Military, Sanctioning Torture
It’s been five years since 9/11 and the Bush administration has still failed to create a system to prosecute terrorists in U.S. custody. The administration’s previous efforts have been soundly rejected by U.S. courts and the U.S. Congress.
Yesterday, President Bush took another bite at the apple. He announced that 14 terrorist suspects would be transferred from secret CIA prisons to Guantanamo Bay, where they would face trial under a new set of procedures. As a concept, it’s a positive step “toward cleaning up the mess his administration has made of the detention, interrogation and prosecution of those captured in the war on terrorism.” But the proposal is still problematic.
Bush would”permit the use of evidence obtained through coercion, along with hearsay evidence, and evidence that is kept secret from the accused,” all provisions that have been “publicly opposed” by “the military’s top lawyers.” It would also “rewrite American law to create a glaring exception to the Geneva Conventions, to give ex post facto approval to abusive interrogation methods, and to bar legal challenges to the new system.” It is already drawing bipartisan skepticism. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said of the new proposal, “I do not think we can afford to again cut legal corners that will result in federal court rejection of our work.”
Bush’s proposal, which he is urging Congress to rubberstamp without meaningful debate, would “authorize the CIA to engage in…’enhanced’ interrogation techniques — e.g., hypothermia, threats of violence to the detainee and his family, prolonged sleep deprivation, ‘stress positions’ and waterboarding” which the new Army Field Manual expressly forbids.
These methods violate common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which outlaws “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.” In the Hamdan opinion, the Supreme Court held that common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions applies as a matter of treaty obligation to the conflict against al Qaeda. That being the case, interrogation tactics that violate common Article 3 are presumptively illegal.
Moreover, by doing so little to address the Court’s concerns about due process, the President’s proposed new trial procedures can invite only further protracted litigation and uncertainty, not the “closure” he claims to be seeking for the families of 9/11 victims.
IGNORING THE MILITARY
On the same day Bush sought to legally authorize the CIA to conduct torture, the military flatly stated that such coercive practices were counterproductive. In a briefing, Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence John Kimmons argued, “I am absolutely convinced [that] no good intelligence is going to come from abusive practices. I think history tells us that. I think the empirical evidence of the last five years, hard years, tell us that.”
As a result, the military has released a new field manual banning such practices. Kimmons added, “Our most significant successes on the battlefield have been — in fact, I would say all of them, almost categorically all of them, have accrued from expert interrogators using mixtures of authorized humane interrogation practices.” He concluded, “We don’t need abusive practices in there. Nothing good will come from them.”
BUSH’S KEY SUCCESS STORY IS SUSPECT
In his speech, Bush defended the use of coercive interrogation by reporting that the interrogation prompted suspected al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah to reveal that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a key figure in the 9/11 attacks, used the alias “Mukhtar.” This information, according to Bush, “was a vital piece of the puzzle that helped our intelligence community pursue KSM.”
According to a fact sheet released by the Director of National Intelligence, Zubaydah was captured in March 2002. According to the 9/11 Commission Report, however, the CIA learned that Mohammed used the alias Mukhtar in August 2001. From page 277: “The final piece of the puzzle arrived at the CIA’s Bin Ladin unit on August 28  in a cable reporting that KSM’s nicknamewas Mukhtar.”
EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN
The new procedures for military commissions “largely hew to those that the Supreme Court rejected in June.” The main difference is that this time, the administration is seeking congressional approval. Powerful conservatives in Congress may not play along.
The New York Times reports, “Senate Republicans, who have been working on their own bill, said they were wary of the provisions on hearsay and classified evidence and questioned whether the administration had resolved the problems that the court raised.” Nevertheless, there is pressure to approve the administration’s proposal before the November elections in order to score political points.
VITAL WEAPONS SYSTEM DELAYED FOR YEARS
AFTER PENTAGON BOWS TO RAYTHEON
Last year, “commanders in Iraq began asking the Pentagon for a new system to counter” what is quickly becoming the weapon of choice for insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan: rocket-propelled grenades, or RPGs. Instead of employing an already well-established defense system, the Pentagon chose to award the contract to “one of its favored defense contractors,” Raytheon. Indeed, the “Trophy” system, designed by an Israeli company, is “designed to fit on top of tanks and other armored vehicles like the Stryker now in use in Iraq” and protect against RPGs using radar and interceptor missiles. When the Pentagon’s Office of Force Transformation (OFT) tested the Trophy system in March, they “found it at least 98 percent effective against RPGs in near-battlefield conditions.”
Despite the OFT’s initial plan to buy several system, the Army rejected the idea. Instead, the $70 million contract was granted to Raytheon, a company which, “at almost every turn…was given a significant competitive advantage over other defense contractors,” according to an NBC News investigation. For example, of the 21-person team chosen by the army to evaluate competing systems, nine were from Raytheon. Unlike the Trophy system, which is nearing use in Israel, the Raytheon system must be developed from scratch and “will not be fielded before 2011 at the earliest.” Asks one senior Pentagon official, “what are our troops in the field supposed to do for the next five or six years?”
A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report finds that “the U.S. isn’t prepared to handle disasters and lacks an effective way to track $88 billion doled out to help rebuild the Gulf Coast after last year’s killer hurricanes.”
NATO’s top commander, Gen. James Jones, said more troops are needed to in southern Afghanistan where Taliban militants are inflicting heavy casualties on foreign forces. “[The violence is] something akin to poking the bee hive and the bees are swarming,” he said.
39: The percentage of Americans who feel less safe now than they did five years ago. Only 14 percent say the feel safer, and 46 percent feel the same.
“President Bush’s once-solid relationship with Southern women is on the rocks,” the AP reports, thanks to “anger over the Iraq war and frustration with the country’s direction.”
Newest tool in the war on terror: renewable energy. Without renewable power, US forces “will remain unnecessarily exposed” and will “continue to accrue preventable…serious and grave casualties,” according to Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Richard Zilmer.
Congress is “giving up” on comprehensive immigration reform. “I think it would be next to impossible to pass a comprehensive bill that includes dealing with the diversity of 12 million people here in the next three weeks,” Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) said yesterday.
A new poll found that on a 100-point “thermometer” scale, with 100 being the friendliest feeling, “Turkish attitudes toward the United States fell to 20 degrees, from 28 degrees, in the past two years. Over the same period, feelings toward Iran increased to 43 degrees, from 34 degrees.”
Global warming “may be triggering a self-perpetuating climate time bomb trapped in once-frozen permafrost.” Greenhouse gases “once stuck in the long-frozen soil are bubbling into the atmosphere” at a rate five times faster than originally measured.
And finally: The U.S. Office of Special Counsel becomes the fashion police. In last month’s employee newsletter, the agency issued a list of “do’s and don’ts” for “Business Casual” dress. The agency, “whose job includes fighting workplace sex discrimination,” advised women to “avoid tight pants and, ‘before choosing a skirt to wear, sit down in it facing a mirror.'”
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