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This Weekend Be a Patriot: Stop Another US Military Intervention in Iraq

By: codepink Thursday July 3, 2014 11:58 am

By Medea Benjamin

Medea Benjamin speaks at a microphone

For Independence Day, CODEPINK’s Medea Benjamin speaks out against sending more American forces to Iraq.

This July 4, the fireworks won’t just be in celebration of Independence Day. There will undoubtedly be fireworks in cities throughout the Middle East, as the region, engulfed in violence, further explodes. The US military and US taxdollars are already deeply entangled in Middle Easterners’ lives (and deaths), and President Obama is under pressure to get further involved in the wars in Iraq and Syria. But what advice would our nation’s founders give the 44th president this July 4?

The Founding Fathers, who revolted against a foreign power, were vehemently opposed to getting involved in military adventures overseas. George Washington cautioned our new nation against the “mischiefs of foreign intrigue.” James Madison said the US should steer clear of unnecessary wars. Thomas Jefferson said, “If there be one principle more deeply written than any other in the mind of every American, it is that we should have nothing to do with conquest.” Secretary of State John Quincy Adams warned in 1821 that America should not go abroad in search of “monsters to destroy”—for such folly would destroy “her own spirit.”

But this Independence Day marks yet another year of seemingly endless US involvement in wars. Despite promising the American public that US troops would leave Afghanistan by the end of this year, President Obama is poised to negotiate a continued US troop presence with the next Afghan president (if the Afghans can figure out who that is!). Current president Karzai has explicitly rejected this decision. Karzai has insisted that the US-led invasion has made his country even worse than it was under the repressive Taliban, and lamented that “Afghans died in a war that’s not ours.”

Obama’s drone wars have gotten the US militarily entangled in the internal affairs of Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. The President recently called for an alarming expansion of the US role in Syria’s civil war, requesting $500 million to aid the Syrian opposition. US funds continue to fuel Israel’s 47-year-long military occupation of Palestine, an occupation that has escalated recently with the tragic murders of both Israeli and Palestinian children. And in Egypt, where a brutal military coup has been murdering and jailing thousands upon thousands of nonviolent, pro-democracy protesters, the US government is intervening on the side of the coup leader, draconian dictator Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, in the magnitude of $1.5 billion of our taxdollars per year.

In Iraq, President Obama is sliding down the slippery slope of another disastrous intervention. Armed drones are now patrolling the Iraqi skies, ready to unleash their Hellfire missiles at any moment and sink us deeper into this quagmire. And President Obama just authorized sending 750 troops, less than three years after our troops withdrew from a disastrous nine-year war. Those familiar with the history of the Vietnam War might recognize that this is exactly how that 20-year-long conflict was started. The US sent in military “advisers,” and then sent in troops to protect them, and then troops to protect them, and then troops to protect them—ad infinitum.

As President Obama contemplates even further engagement in Iraq, 70 congresspeople have signed a letter, initiated by Representatives Scott Rigell (R-VA) and Barbara Lee (D-CA), calling on the President to respect the Constitutional requirement to go to Congress for authorization before using military force. Indeed, the Founding Fathers made it clear that no individual president should have the authority to drag our nation into war, that a decision of such magnitude had to be debated and decided on by the people’s representatives in Congress.

Though just because we oppose war and military intervention doesn’t mean we have to be complete isolationists, by any means. What is does mean is we should stop spending hundreds of billions of taxdollars on wars that don’t work, harming and killing innocent civilians. If we truly want to help people around the world, there are myriad better ways to do so. The U.S. should put its energy and influence toward a comprehensive ban on the transfer of weapons from outside powers. Rather than attempting additional unilateral moves, the U.S. should be collaborating with regional and international actors to address the root cause of the violence in Iraq. And we should more to help the millions of displaced Iraqis. The US is one of the least refugee-friendly countries in the industrialized world. Given we live in a time with the highest level of refugees since World War II, assisting refugees—often forced out of their homes because of wars we have engaged in or dictators we have supported—could be just one easy way to help others.

Poll after poll shows that the American people agree with our Founding Fathers’ insistence that our nation should disengage from overseas military misadventures.  Indeed, President Obama himself, in his May 23, 2013  foreign policy speech, quoted James Madison’s dire warning that “No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”

So this July 4th, be a true patriot. Take some action to stop the US military intervention in Iraq. Educate your friends and neighbors, write a letter to the editor, sign a petition. Take signs and banners out into the streets and tell everyone you want to end these pointless wars. Call your elected officials (202-224-3121) and the White House (202-456-1111). Do something to move us towards a foreign policy that uses diplomatic prowess, not military power, as the way to relate to, not violently dominate, the global community.

Medea Benjamin is the co-founder of the peace group CODEPINK and the human rights group Global Exchange. She is the author of Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control.

 

Children’s Lives in the Balance: Is One Worth More Than Another?

By: codepink Tuesday July 1, 2014 10:18 am

By Pam Bailey and Medea Benjamin

Israeli settlement in Palestine, surrounded by a wall

Israel is engaging in violent, indiscriminate retribution after the death of 3 teens from an illegal settlement.

With the news that the bodies of three missing Israeli teens had been found in a field not far from the stretch of road where they disappeared June 12, people everywhere reacted rightly with sorrow and anger.

Eyal Yifrah, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Fraenkel, also 16, were students who lived with their families in a Jewish-only settlement near the Palestinian city of Hebron in the West Bank. The settlement and others like it have been declared illegal by the International Court of Justice because they are located in occupied territory and impede Palestinians’ liberty of movement and right to employment, health and education. However, they were youth just starting out on life, sons and brothers whose families will forever grieve their horrific deaths. We must all condemn such violence.

We must also condemn the collective punishment and violence unleashed by the government of Israel in response. To date, the Israeli police and military have broken into and ransacked 1,500 homes, businesses and schools in its rampage, arresting more than 550 residents.  More than half of the abducted individuals are being held without charge or trial, more than 100 have been injured and at least six have died – including a 14-year-old boy who was shot in the chest at point-blank range and a 78-year-old woman who suffered a heart attack during a house raid. As this article was written, the 680,000 residents of greater Hebron had been surrounded by angry troops and settlers, with ominous reports trickling out of death and mayhem.

Imagine if similar homicides occurred in your town. Despite the tragedy of the crimes and the desperate desire to find the perpetrators, would civilized society countenance the widespread ransacking of property, imprisonment of hundreds and the death of innocents? No, of course not. So why should it be considered an acceptable response among a population pushed to desperation by decades of military occupation?

To fully understand just what happened and why, an analysis must begin before the June 12 disappearance of the three teenagers, residents of a Jewish-only settlement near the Palestinian city of Hebron in the West Bank. Rather, it should start with April 23, when the two main Palestinian political factions, Fatah (which had governed the West Bank) and Hamas (which filled the same role for the Gaza Strip) announced formation of a unity government. While the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority has long cooperated with Israeli security forces, Hamas continues to actively resist Israel’s control over the Palestinian territory. The announcement of the reconciliation was condemned by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was enraged when the U.S. and other governments instead took a wait-and-see approach.

When the three Israeli teens disappeared, Netanyahu immediately blamed Hamas, although it has reportedly denied responsibility, and launched a campaign to punish any person associated with the party, as well as those it wanted to target for other reasons (such as previously released prisoners). An informed observer cannot help but conclude that he seized on the personal tragedy of the families involved to pursue a broader political goal. Israel’s intention to “perform a root canal to uproot everything green [Hamas-related] in the West Bank” was announced on the national Army Radio, while Economy Minister Naftali Bennett promised to “turn membership of Hamas into an entry ticket to hell.” A high-ranking Israel Defense Forces (IDF) officer told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz  that the mass arrests are “a kind of thorough cleaning.” Israel, he said, had decided “to use the upcoming days to arrest anyone ‘infected’ with Hamas.” In one Israeli news source, an IDF officer even admitted that the operation had been planned ahead of time, and that its goal was not to find the boys, but to provoke unrest.

With the discovery of the Israeli teens’ bodies, Israeli military and the settlers intensified the attack on Hebron and other towns, with a 17-year-old boy shot in the Jenin refugee camp. Renewing his vow that “Hamas will pay,” Netanyahu ordered an escalation of airstrikes on the Gaza Strip – more than 40 in just the first night, terrorizing the entire population of 1.8 million. Although the strikes in part are in retaliation for rockets shot into Israel by a faction that is not affiliated with Hamas, Netanyahu’s own words make the connection clear.

According to the prisoner advocacy group Addameer, about a quarter of the hundreds of arrested Palestinians are being placed in “administrative detention,” a procedure that allows the Israeli military to hold individuals indefinitely based on secret information without charging them or allowing them to stand trial.  Israel routinely uses administrative detention in violation of the strict parameters established by international law, claiming to be in a continuous state of emergency since its inception in 1948. In addition, says Addameer, administrative detention is frequently used – in direct contravention to international law – for collective and criminal punishment rather than for the prevention of future threat.

10 Good Things about the Year 2013

By: codepink Thursday December 26, 2013 5:53 pm

Medea Benjamin, February 2013

By Medea Benjamin

It would be easy to make a list of 10 bad things—wars, government shut-down, drone attacks, lack of progress on immigrant rights, lousy health-care reform.  But it’s also been a year of extraordinary activism: whistleblowers, DREAMers, Walmart workers, peacemakers, gay rights advocates, garment workers. As the year ends, let’s pay tribute to the good things their efforts have wrought.

1. A spontaneous uprising by the American people kept President Obama from invading Syria. This Fall’s “peaceful insurrection” was by far my favorite moment of 2013. It was one of those all-too-rare occasions when folks came together across ideological divisions, flooding their congressional reps with calls. Yes, after 12 years, Americans have become “war-wise”, understanding that US intervention is no solution. So instead, chemical weapons are being destroyed thanks to successful negotiations. But the war in Syria rages on, with casualties mounting daily. Peace talks are scheduled for January 22 in Switzerland, and women’s groups—including CODEPINK—are mobilizing to surround the meetings with a desperate plea to all the guys with guns: Ceasefire NOW!

2. Talks with Iran are progressing, despite Israel and AIPAC’s objections. The P5+1 group of Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany has made great headway in finding a solution to diffuse the crisis around Iran’s nuclear program. Negotiators are anxious to take advantage of the opening represented by the election of a moderate Iranian leader, President Hassan Rouhani. Sadly, a group of both Democrats and Republicans in Congress, along with the AIPAC lobby, threaten to derail the talks by pushing for greater sanctions against Iran. If we can move ahead with talks, 2014 could be the year we finally ditch the Bush-era “axis of evil” treatment and build friendly relations with Iran.

3. Edward Snowden has rocked the world of NSA spying. When Edward Snowden first blew the whistle on the NSA’s sweeping surveillance, he said his greatest fear was not what the government would do to him, but that nothing would change. A mere six months later, the cascading effects have, according to the Washington Post, made themselves felt in Congress, the courts, popular culture, Silicon Valley and world capitals.” There is now a vibrant global dialogue about privacy rights. In December, a federal court judge declared the secret collection of domestic phone records unconstitutional and President Obama’s own review panel called a major overhaul of NSA’s activities. President Obama claims he will consider the review board’s suggestions, indicating that reforms are necessary to restore public confidence. While Snowden is under indictment for criminal acts here in the US, thanks to this whistleblower, the days of the NSA doing whatever it wants—in secret and free from public criticism—are coming to an end. Thanks, Edward, for your service!

4. Killer drones are taking a beating. The international community is finally standing up to the use of killer drones and the proliferation of this technology around the globe. With reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, investigations by the United Nation’s Special Rapporteurs, and two briefings in Congress with testimony by drone strike survivors, the dialogue and the outrage around the drone program has increased. This year saw a ban on drone strikes by both the Pakistani National Assembly and the Yemeni Parliament (if only the US would listen!), more protests inside the US and the creation of a global anti-drones network.

5. Yes, the Pope, who beat Snowden for Time’s Person of the Year, is astonishing. I must admit that even as a secular Jew, this pope fills me with awe. He sneaks out at night to feed the homeless; invites homeless people to celebrate his birthday in the Vatican; washes the feet of young prisoners; says he is not one to judge gay people; calls on the church to get beyond its fixation on reproduction and sexual morality; debunks trickle-down economics and questions the morality of capitalism; lives simply and loves to take public transportation. What a cool guy! Unfortunately he doesn’t support abortion rights or the ordination of women, but he is certainly injecting new spirit into the moribund, scandal-ridden Catholic church.

Drones have come out of the shadows

By: codepink Monday November 4, 2013 11:10 am

At each of the over 200 cities I’ve traveled to this past year with my book Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control, I ask the audience an easy question: Have they ever seen or heard from drone strike victims in the mainstream US press? Not one hand has ever gone up. This is an obvious indication that the media has failed to do its job of humanizing the civilian casualties that accompany President Obama’s deadly drone program.

Drone Warfare

Medea Benjamin’s latest book.

This has started to change, with new films, reports and media coverage finally giving the American public a taste of the personal tragedies involved.

On October 29, the Rehman family—a father with his two children—came all the way from the Pakistani tribal territory of North Waziristan to the US Capitol to tell the heart-wrenching story of the death of the children’s beloved 67-year-old grandmother. And while the briefing, organized by Congressman Alan Grayson, was only attended by four other congresspeople, it was packed with media.

Watching the beautiful 9-year-old Nabila relate how her grandmother was blown to bits while outside picking okra softened the hearts of even the most hardened DC politicos. From the Congressmen to the translator to the media, tears flowed. Even the satirical journalist Dana Milbank, who normally pokes fun at everything and everyone in his Washington Post column, covered the family’s tragedy with genuine sympathy.

The visit by the Rehman family was timed for the release of the groundbreaking new documentary Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars by Robert Greenwald of Brave New Foundation. The emotion-packed film is filled with victims’ stories, including that of 16-year-old Tariq Aziz, a peace-loving, soccer-playing teenager obliterated three days after attending an anti-drone conference in Islamabad. Lawyers in the firm pose the critical question: If Tariq was a threat, why didn’t they capture him at the meeting and give him the right to a fair trial? Another just released documentary is Wounds of Waziristan, a well-crafted, 20-minute piece by Pakistani filmmaker Madiha Tahir that explains how drone attacks rip apart communities and terrorize entire populations.

Just as the visit and the films have put real faces on drone victims, a plethora of new reports by prestigious institutions—five in total—have exposed new dimensions of the drone wars.

On October 22, Human Rights Watch issued a report on drone strikes in Yemen and Amnesty International issued another on drone strikes in Pakistan. While not calling for an end to all drone strikes, the reports detail cases of civilian casualties and criticize the US government for considering itself above the rule of law and accountability. A third report, License to Kill, released by the Geneva-based group Al Karama, is much more damning of US policy. While Amnesty and Human Rights Watch say drones are lawful under certain circumstances and mainly push for transparency, Al Karama asserts that the US drone war is a clear violation of international law. It calls for an end to extrajudicial executions and targeted killings; complete reparations to victims; and a resolution by the UN Human Rights Council opposing the US practice of extrajudicial executions.

Adding to these well-researched reports by non-governmental organizations are two documents commissioned by the United Nations. One is by Christof Heyns, the UN’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. The other is by Ben Emmerson, the special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism.  Heyns warns that while drones may be more targeted than other weapons, they are easier to use and may “lower social barriers against the use of lethal force.” He said that a “drones only” approach risks ignoring peaceful approaches such as individual arrests and trial, negotiations and building alliances.

Emmerson said states have the obligation to capture terrorist suspects, when feasible, and should only use force as a last resort. He blasted the US lack of transparency, calling it the single greatest obstacle to an evaluation of the civilian impact of drone strikes. He said states must be transparent about the acquisition and use of drones, the legal basis and criteria for targeting, and their impact. “National security does not justify keeping secret the statistical and methodological data about the use of drones,” he claimed.

Yemenis Have Moms Too

By: codepink Friday May 10, 2013 9:05 pm

By Jodie Evans and Charles Davis

He disappeared more than a decade ago, just 18-years-old and teaching abroad, separated from  his family for the first time in life. His mother and father, sick with worry, heard nothing. For all they knew he was dead. Then, one day they opened a newspaper and learned their son was being held in a military prison run by the US of A, accused of – but never charged with – being an enemy of the state.

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Yes We Can End War CODEPINK Banner Drop

Were Abdurahman al-Shubati a US citizen, his case would be featured on CNN, his face plastered on television screens next to a graphic listing his days in prison without trial. Some go-getting entrepreneur would be selling yellow wristbands with his name and “#solidarity” printed on them. The president, affecting the right level of empathy for the family and strong but stately anger toward his captors, would be telling us: “Never forget” and “There will be justice.”

But Abdurahman was born in Yemen. Which means he’s not entitled to all those rights said to be endowed to us by our creator, at least in the eyes of the US government. And that means, despite being detained since 2001 and formally cleared of any wrongdoing in 2008, he remains trapped in a prison cell at Guantanamo Bay, slowly starving to death. A combination of racism, Islamophobia and simple guilt by association, have caused the U.S. government to keep him locked up.

Since Barack Obama became US president after pledging to close Guantanamo, which his administration is now seeking to expand, conditions at the military prison have only gotten worse, prisoners there who were once promised their freedom complaining of physical and mental torture. Though he has unilaterally waged war, Obama has decided that he can’t – nay, won’t – unilaterally free them. In fact, the opposite: heissued an executive order creating “a formal system of indefinite detention for those held at the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay.” The Obama administration has unilaterally decided that dozens of men will never be tried so much as in a military tribunal because the evidence against them was obtained through torture, but that they can never be freed because they are nonetheless deemed “too dangerous.”

Not that the US government is too keen on freeing anyone else, either. A US military committee has already determinedthat Abdurahman, like 57 other Yemenis imprisoned at Guantanamo, should be returned home; that he spent his 20s in prison for a crime he didn’t commit and with which he wasn’t even charged, much less convicted. Obama, however, refuses to release the men, ostensibly out of fear they may seek revenge against their former captors once they return to Yemen.

Understandably, this has created a sense of hopelessness among the 166 people still imprisoned at Guantanamo. More than 100 of them are now on a hunger strike. What other option is left them at this point? Because of their symbolic act of defiance, however, they are being tortured even more – “how dare you embarrass us by dying” – with US personnel force-feeding them to avoid another public relations problem (the United Nations says the practice is simply “unjustifiable”).

“Can you imagine what this is like for a mother?” asks Abdurahman’s own mom in an appeal for his freedom. “To imagine my son in such a loveless place, refusing nourishment to protest his detention; to think of him being painfully force fed – it breaks my heart every second of every day.  Don’t they realize we are human beings, not stones?”

As Mothers’ Day is celebrated this year in the US, a holidaywith roots in the fight for peace and justice, Abdurahman and more than a hundred others never charged with crimes will be sitting in prison cells, alone. George W. Bush will get to hug his mom. Michelle Obama will get to hug her children, but the mothers of Guantanamo prisoners don’t get to hug theirs- ever. The best they can hope for is a phone call every two months.

In an 1870 appeal to women of the world, writer and activist Julia Ward Howe – the originator of the Mother’s Day we celebrate – implored her readers to not let their children become complicit in the machinery of war and injustice; to not let them unlearn the lessons they were taught “of charity, mercy and patience”; to not let them “be trained to injure others.”

Here in the 21st century, we need to relearn those lessons and focus on training our children to be instruments of peace, not oppression. Right now, too many kids of American mothers are making mothers in other countries cry. We need to teach them that the practice of compassion and mercy shouldn’t stop at one’s mailbox or a country’s borders. Mothers overseas are in anguish over the kidnapping and loss of their children too.

Join us in calling on Michelle Obama to open her heart to the cries of Abdurahman’s mother and ask Barack to send those cleared home and to expedite the closing of Guantanamo. Join Diane Wilson on her 11th day outside the White House and over 1000 others in a fast of solidarity with the prisoners.

Jodie Evans is the co-founder of CODEPINK @heartofj
Charles Davis is a writer living in Los Angeles @charliearchy

Julian Assange on George Bush’s Library and Bradley Manning’s Trial

By: codepink Thursday April 25, 2013 2:59 pm

By Medea Benjamin

Police surround a man with a Bush head mask.

Dallas police arrest an activist wearing a George Bush costume at the People's Response, instead of arresting Bush for war crimes.

I had an opportunity to interview WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he has been granted political asylum since June 2012. Assange is wanted for questioning in Sweden over sex allegations, although he has never been charged. Assange believes that if sent to Sweden, he would be put into prison and then sent to the United States, where he is already being investigated for espionage for publishing hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic and military memos on the WikiLeaks website.

George W. Bush’s new presidential library at Southern Methodist University in Texas has opened with great fanfare, including the attendance of Presidents Obama and former Presidents Carter, Bush Sr. and Clinton. George Bush has said that the library is “a place to lay out facts.” What facts would you like to see displayed at his library?

A good place to start would be laying out the number of deaths caused by the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. At Wikileaks, we documented that from 2004-2009, the US had records of over 100,000 individual deaths of Iraqis due to violence unleashed by that invasion, roughly 80% of them civilians. These are the recorded deaths, but many more died. And in Afghanistan, the US recorded about 20,000 deaths from 2004-2010. These would be good facts to include in the presidential library.

And perhaps the library could document how people around the world protested against the invasion of Iraq, including the historic February 15, 2003 mobilization of millions of people around the globe.

Many people worked hard during the Bush years to protest the wars, but the Bush administration refused to listen. It was very demoralizing for people to think that their efforts were for naught.

They should not be demoralized. I believe that the opposition to the Iraq war was very important, and that it actually altered the behavior of US forces during the initial invasion of Iraq. Compare it to the 1991 Gulf War, when massive numbers of Iraqis, both soldiers and civilians, were killed. In the 2003 invasion there was a lot more concern about casualties. The protests rattled their cage.

We released a memo that showed that if the prospective military operation might kill over 30 people, it had to be approved all the way up the chain of command. So while the protests did not stop the war, they did have an impact on the way the war was initially conducted, and that’s important.

While George Bush is feted in Dallas, Bradley Manning languishes in jail. His trial will begin on June 2. Bradley already pleaded guilty in February to ten charges, including possessing classified information and transferring it to an unauthorized person. Those pleas alone could subject him to 20 years in prison. On top of that, the government has added espionage charges that could put him in prison for life.

What do you think the trial will be like?

It will be a show trial where the government tries to prove that by leaking the documents, Bradley “aided and abetted the enemy” or “communicated with the enemy.” The government will bring in a member of the Navy Seal team that killed bin Laden to say that he found some of the leaked information in bin Laden’s house.

But it’s ridiculous to use that as evidence that Bradley Manning “aided the enemy”. Bin Laden could have gotten the material from The New York Times! Bin Laden also had a Bob Woodword book, and no doubt had copies of articles from The New York Times.

The government doesn’t even claim that Bradley passed information directly to “the enemy” or that he had any intent to do so. But they are nonetheless making the absurd claim that merely informing the public about classified government activities makes someone a traitor because it “indirectly informs the enemy”.

With that reasoning, since bin Laden recommended that Americans read Bob Woodward book Obama’s War, should Woodward be charged with communicating with the enemy? Should The New York Times be accused of aiding the enemy if bin Laden possessed a copy of the newspaper that included the WikiLeaks material?

What are some things that Bradley Manning supporters can do to help?

Bush’s Legacy Ought to Be on Trial – Instead, It’s Put on Display

By: codepink Tuesday April 23, 2013 7:21 pm

By Jodie Evans, Charles Davis

Giant war crimes puppets

What is Bush's true legacy to the world?

George W. Bush presided over an international network of torture chambers and, with the help of a compliant Congress and press, launched a war of aggression that killed hundreds of thousands of men, women and children. However, instead of the bloody details of his time in office being recounted at a war crimes tribunal, the former president has been able to bank on his imperial privilege – and a network of rich corporate donors that he made richer while in office – to tell his version of history at a library in Texas being opened in his name.

Kill a few, they call you a murderer. Kill tens of thousands, they give you $500 million for a granite vanity project and a glossy 30-page supplement in the local paper.

Before getting into that, some facts. According to the US government, more than 100,000 people died following the 2003 invasion of Iraq; of that number, 4,486 were members of the US military. So far, the wars started by Bush and continued by his heir, Barack Obama, have cost upwards of $3.1 trillion. That’s money that could have been spent saving lives and building things, not ending and destroying them.

But that’s not going to be the narrative at the George W. Bush Presidential Library, opening this week in Dallas, Texas. No, that’s going to be: 9/11, 9/11, 9/11 (see also: 9/11).

Called the “Day of Fire,” a main attraction at the new library will be a display on the events of September 11, 2001, where “video images from the attacks flash around a twisted metal beam recovered from the wreckage of the World Trade Center,” according to the Associated Press.

“It’s very emotional and very profound,” Bush explained in an interview. “One of the reasons it has to be is because memories are fading rapidly and the profound impact of that attack is becoming dim with time.” That is to say, the former president has a keen interest in fanning the embers of outrage over the killing of nearly 3,000 Americans more than a decade ago lest the world view him poorly for the dozens of 9/11s he perpetrated not just on Iraq, but Afghanistan. Never forget the harm done to us or you just might remember the harm we inflicted on others.

The corporate media doesn’t want you to remember those depressing and damning details either. In a supplement that reads as a paid advertisement, The Dallas Morning News calls Bush’s new library, “A place to learn,” featuring a silky soft interview with the former first lady, Laura Bush, and an editorial that states that her husband “stands out as a leader whose convictions guided him.”

The latter piece, penned by columnist William McKenzie, recounts the author’s dreamy encounter with a young George W. Bush on the campaign trail.  “When I met him, I certainly didn’t think I would one day walk up to his presidential library,” McKenzie tells us. “But the day I did, I felt a sense of pride for him.” (“Maybe journalists shouldn’t feel that way,” he sheepishly adds.)

Unfortunately, when CODEPINK tried to place an ad informing the paper’s readers of Bush’s real legacy – rivers of blood flooded by a war based on lies – The Dallas Morning News rejected it. Pressed as to why, the paper cited vague “advertising guidelines,” asking us to remove a graphic of a blood splotch and to include “sourced facts and how they prove the ‘lie’” of the Bush-approved official history. One wishes corporate advertisers were subject to such scrutiny.

Bush’s legacy is reflected not in his library, but in the regular bombings that rock Baghdad, killing dozens at a time. The Connecticut blue blood turned straight talkin’ Texan is of course welcome to tell his side of the story. That’s only fair. But let him do it at the Hague.

Senator Harry Reid and Guns: Time to Take a Stand

By: codepink Thursday December 20, 2012 1:01 pm

Medea Benjamin

When CODEPINK, MoveOn and representatives of other organizations marched into Senator Harry Reid’s DC office on Tuesday, December 18, they wanted a simple answer to a simple question: Does the Senator support a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity clips, such as the legislation proposed by Senator Dianne Feinstein and
supported by President Obama and Vice President Biden? It would seem like a no-brainer for the Senate Majority Leader to fall in line with the leadership of his party in backing a modest bill that would ban the sale of weapons that are only good for mass murder. Unfortunately, Reid’s senior policy advisor Kasey Gillette was unable to give an answer.

While there is a lot of talk in Democratic circles about Republicans standing in the way of sensible gun laws, a hidden secret is that the Democratic Senator leader from Nevada, who is key to getting gun control legislation passed in this country, has been as pro-gunas most Republicans.

In the past, Reid has touted the rights of gun owners and eagerly sought the NRA’s endorsements, contributions and praise. In 2004, Reid was one of the rare Democrats to be endorsed by the NRA. In 2009 he sought to please the powerful lobby by supporting a controversial bill to allow gun owners with concealed weapon permits to cross state lines. The legislation, which was vehemently opposed by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, fell just two votes short of the 60 votes needed. The NRA, however, was delighted that Reid had supported the bill and allowed it to be brought to the floor for a vote.

In 2010, when Reid was engaged in a bitter re-election campaign against Republican Sharron Angle, the NRA refrained from endorsing, but contributed to Reid’s campaign and reminded voters of his pro-gun record. An NRA letter to its Nevada members touted that Reid “opposed the Obama administration’s interest in reinstating the assault weapons ban, halting momentum; helped pass a law that allows gun owners to carry firearms in national parks; voted against the District of Columbia’s gun ban; voted for legislation to allow pilots in commercial airline cockpits to be armed.” It also noted that Reid was instrumental in passing legislation halting lawsuits that were attempting to hold gun manufacturers and dealers responsible for weapons used in criminal acts.

NRA head Wayne LaPierre called Senator Reid “a true champion of the Second Amendment” and said “no one has been a stronger advocate for responsible gun ownership than him.”

After the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shootings in July 2012, Senator Reid blocked any debate about gun control, insisting that the Senate schedule was “too packed” to spend time on it.

After this latest tragedy at Sandy Hook that left 20 children dead, Reid took a timid step forward, saying it was time to “engage in a meaningful conversation and thoughtful debate about how to change laws and culture that allow violence to grow.” Hinting at a softening of his position, he said that as we discuss how best to protect our nation’s
children, “every idea should be on the table.”

But for the gun control advocates in his office on Tuesday, Reid’s faint-hearted call for reform was not nearly enough. With alarm clocks in hand, they said the time for discussion was long past; they wanted action. They said it was time for Senator Reid to stand up to the NRA and to use his leadership to protect our children, not the gun manufacturers.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been making the same demand. “Calling for ‘meaningful action’ is not enough,” he said. “We need immediate action. We have heard all the rhetoric before. What we have not seen is leadership — not from the White House and not from Congress. That must end today. This is a national tragedy and it
demands a national response.”

In a move that seems to heed the call for action, President Obama just appointed Vice President Joe Biden to lead a task force on new gun laws. Senator Dianne Feinstein said she will introduce legislation early next year to ban the sale of new assault weapons, as well as big clips, drums and strips of more than 10 bullets. Even Virginia’s Mark Warner, one of the few staunch pro-gun Senate Democrats, reversed course to back restrictions on assault weapons, declaring that “the status quo is not acceptable anymore.”

With 20 children dead, President Obama insisting that preventing gun violence will be a second-term policy priority, and Harry Reid not facing re-election until 2016, perhaps the Senator will now be willing to stand up to the NRA? The clock is ticking.

Medea Benjamin is cofounder of www.codepink.org and www.globalexchange.org. She is author of the recent book Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control.