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

7:21 pm in Uncategorized by codepink

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.

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Colin Powell: Another War Criminal Cashes In

2:43 pm in Uncategorized by codepink

By Charles Davis and Medea Benjamin

One could be forgiven for thinking there’s anything honorable or honest about Colin Powell. For more than two decades now the Washington media has portrayed the former Secretary of State as something of a real life action hero, a reluctant warrior whose greatest fault – should they deign to mention any – was just being too darn loyal to a guy named George and his buddy Dick. What you might have missed is that Powell is a war criminal in his own right, one who in more than four decades of “public service” helped kill people from Vietnam to Panama to Iraq who never posed a threat to America. But don’t just take some anti-war activists’ word for it: Powell will proudly tell you as much, so long as he can make a buck from doing it in a book.

Powell’s latest $27.99 account of his legendary life is billed as a “powerful portrait of a leader who is reflective, self-effacing, and grateful for the contributions of everyone he works with.” But the title, It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership, could very well refer to Powell’s own careerist ambitions: saying and doing whatever served the interests of power – as a young officer in Vietnam, as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the illegal invasion of Panama, as Secretary of State under George W. Bush  – has worked out tremendously well for the man, if not so much for those unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of his public service.

Though billed as a self-effacing, humble leader prepared to admit mistakes, the real Colin Powell is not the one advertised by the P.R. department at HarperCollins. His book makes that clear enough when he discusses his now infamous 2003 presentation before the United Nations on Iraq’s alleged stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction. Nearly every line in that speech has since proven to be false – indeed, much of his presentation was known to be false at the time – but you won’t find Powell owning up to that.

“There is nothing worse than a leader believing he has accurate information when folks who know he doesn’t don’t tell him that he doesn’t,” Powell writes. “I found myself in trouble on more than one occasion because people kept silent when they should have spoken up. My infamous speech at the U.N. in 2003 about Iraqi WMD programs was not based on facts, though I thought it was.”

In other words, according to Powell, the fact that he lied to the American public as well as the international community on the eve of a disastrous war is not his fault – heavens no – but the fault of his anonymous underlings, the allegedly timid State Department staffers who lacked the courage to speak truth to their courageous boss. Like much of Powell’s anecdotes, it’s a tidy little story about leadership that’s about as truthful as his U.N. speech.

The reality is Powell, like most powerful men in Washington, is a well-documented liar. In fact, those State Department employees Powell blames for his repeating thinly sourced lies before the international community did in fact speak up. Powell just ignored them since what they had to say wasn’t convenient to the task at hand: selling an unjust war against a third-rate military power.

As writer Jonathan Schwarz notes, State Department staff actually went through all the claims Powell was to make in his U.N. speech – and they found most of them wanting. But Powell ignored them, boasting that “every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we’re giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence.”

Let’s look at a few of those definitely-not-just-assertions. In an effort to dismiss the value of the U.N. weapons inspectors who were on the ground – and not finding anything – Powell declared that the Iraqis had in fact replaced actual scientists in at least one facility with “Iraqi intelligence agents who were to deceive inspectors about the work that was being done there.” However, in a memo prepared by the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), that assertion was characterized as “weak” and “not credible.”

But that didn’t stop Honest Powell, who went on to make what INR termed a “[h]ighly questionable” claim about the Iraqi government placing its WMD experts “under house arrest . . .  at one of Saddam Hussein’s guest houses.” Likewise, veteran journalist Bob Woodward noted in his book Plan of Attack, that Powell took a transcript of a benign conversation between Iraqi soldiers talking about complying with U.N. weapons inspectors and portrayed it “in the most negative light” possible” as an effort to deceive the inspectors, even adding dialogue that wasn’t in the original.

But in terms of Powell’s own credibility, the most damning part of his U.N. presentation came when he cited documents smuggled out of Iraq by the Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law as evidence of ongoing Iraqi perfidy. Powell insisted that Iraq only came clean about its possession of “the deadly nerve agent, VX,” after “inspectors came across documentation as a result of the defection of Hussein Kamal.” What he left out: that Kamal was categorical that all WMDs Iraq may have ever had in the past were destroyed well before the 2003 invasion. “All weapons,” Kamal told inspectors, “biological, chemical, missile, nuclear, were destroyed.” Asked about this in 2006 by journalist Sam Husseini, Powell claimed ignorance and angrily shut the door to his chauffeured vehicle. He has never taken responsibility for his own role in a war that killed well over 115,000 Iraqis and more than 4,400 U.S. soldiers.

When it comes to admitting his own role in war crimes, though, Powell wasn’t always so tight-lipped. In an earlier book, My American Journey, Powell was upfront about the collective punishment he inflicted against the people of Vietnam when he led a contingent of South Vietnamese soldiers in an attack on a village full of noncombatants. “The people had fled at our approach, except for an old woman too feeble to move,” he wrote. “We burned down the thatched huts, starting the blaze with Ronson and Zippo cigarette lighters.” That’s because “Ho Chi Minh had said the people were like the sea in which his guerrillas swam,” Powell explained. “We tried to solve the problem by making the whole sea uninhabitable.”

If Powell’s sorry about violating the Geneva Conventions and killing innocent people, he’s never said so. But he has tried to explain his thinking. “I had been conditioned to believe in the wisdom of my superiors, and to obey,” Powell wrote. “I had no qualms about what we were doing.”

Blinding obeying authority – always for personal gain – has been a hallmark of Powell’s career. As the top deputy to Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger during the Reagan administration, Powell was a party to the transfer of thousands of missiles to Iran as part of an illegal arms-for-hostages swap, with proceeds from the sales used in defiance of Congress and the World Court in support of the right-wing Contra insurgency in Nicaragua, later known as the Iran-Contra scandal. And as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under the first George Bush, Powell led a brutal invasion of Panama in which hundreds of civilians died, an illegal act that was widely condemned by Latin American governments.

Powell’s career culminated with the illegal and disastrous invasion of Iraq. Rather than apologize to the victims of that war, however, he has decided to cash in, hawking his latest volume of apologia at a Costco or Sam’s Club near you. Since President Barack Obama had decided to let Bush administration war criminals go free – a “look forward, not backward” privilege allowed powerful men in Washington but denied America’s 2.3 million mostly non-violent prisoners – it’s up to us to remind Powell that while his subservience to deadly state power may have worked for him, it didn’t work out so well for the hundreds of thousands of victims that lay in his wake. And not all of us are willing to forget.

 

Medea Benjamin is cofounder of CODEPINK: Women for Peace and Global Exchange. She is author of the new book Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control.

Charles Davis is a writer who has covered politics for public radio and outlets including Al Jazeera and Inter Press Service. More of his work may be found on his website.

Ten Good Things About a (Not So) Bad Year

12:06 pm in Uncategorized by codepink

I had the privilege of starting out the year witnessing, firsthand, the unfolding of the Egyptian revolution in Tahrir Square. I saw people who had been muzzled their entire lives, especially women, suddenly discovering their collective voice. Singing, chanting, demanding, creating. And that became the hallmark of entire year–people the world over becoming empowered and emboldened simply by watching each other. Courage, we learned in 2011, is contagious!

1. The Arab Spring protests were so astounding that even Time magazine recognized “The Protester” as Person of the Year. Sparked by Tunisian vendor Mohamed Bouazizi‘sself-immolation to cry out against police corruption in December 2010, the protests swept across the Middle East and North Africa—including Egypt,Libya, Bahrain, Syria, Yemen, Algeria, Iraq, and Jordan. So far, uprisings have toppled Tunesian President Ben Ali, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi–with more shake-ups sure to come. And women have been on the front lines of these protests, highlighted recently by the incredibly brave, unprecedented demo of 10,000 Egyptian women protesting military abuse.

2. Wisconsin caught the Spring Fever, with Madison becoming home to some 100,000 protesters opposing Governor Walker’s threat to destroy collective bargaining and blame the state’s economic woes on public workers. Irate Wisconsinites took over the Capitol, turning it into a festival of democracy, while protests spread throughout the state. The workers managed to loosen the Republican stranglehold on Wisconsin state government and send a message to right-wing extremists across the country. This includes Ohio, where voters overwhelmingly rejected Governor Kasich’s SB 5, a measure designed to restrict collective bargaining rights for more than 360,000 public employees. A humbled Kasich held a press conference shortly after the vote, saying: “The people have spoken clearly. You don’t ignore the public.”

3. On September 17 Occupy Wall Street was born in the heart of Manhattan’s Financial District. Protesters railed against the banksters and corporate thieves responsible for the economic collapse. The movement against the greed of the richest 1% spread to over 1,400 cities in the United States and globally, with newly minted activists embracing–with gusto–people’s assemblies, consensus decision-making, the people’s mic, and upsparkles. Speaking in the name of the 99%, the occupiers changed the national debate from deficits to inequality and corporate abuse.  Even after facing heightened police brutality, tent city evictions, and extreme winter weather, protesters are undeterred and continue to create bold actions–from port shut-downs to moving money out of big banks.  As Occupy Wall Street said, “You can’t evict an idea whose time has come.” Stay tuned for lots more occupation news in 2012.

4. After 8 long years, U.S. troops were finally withdrawn from Iraq. Credit the Iraqis with forcing Obama to stick to an agreement signed under President Bush, and the peace movement here at home for 8 years of opposition to a war our government should never have started. The US invasion and occupation left the country devastated, and Obama’s administration is keeping many thousands of State Department staff, spies and military contractors in the world’s biggest “embassy” in Baghdad. But the withdrawal marks the end of a long, tragic war and for that we should give thanks. Now let’s hold the war criminals accountable!

5. The 2011 Nobel Peace Prize was presented to three terrific women: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the president of Liberia; Leymah Gbowee, the Liberian peace activist; and Yemeni pro-democracy campaigner Tawakkol Karman. A total of only 15 women have received the Nobel Peace Prize since it was first awarded in 1901.These three women were recognized for their non-violent struggle for women’s safety and for women’s rights to participate in peace-building work. Never before in history have three women been awarded the prize simultaneously. How inspiring!

6. The bloated Pentagon budget is no longer immune from budget cuts. The failure of the super-committee means the Pentagon budget could be cut by a total of $1 trillion over the next decade — which would amount to a 23 percent reduction in the defense budget. The hawks are trying to stop the cuts, but most people are more interested in rebuilding America than fattening the Pentagon. That’s why the U.S. Conference of Mayors, for the first time since the Vietnam war, passed a resolution calling for the end to the hostilities and instead investing at home to create jobs, rebuild infrastructure and develop sustainable energy. 2011 pried open the Pentagon’s lock box. Let’s make the cuts in 2012!

7. Elizabeth Warren is running for Senate and Rep. Barbara Lee continues to inspire. After the financial meltdown in 2008, Warren was appointed chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel to investigate the bank bailout and oversee TARP–and investigate she did. She dressed down the banks and set up a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to protect borrowers. Warren became so popular that tens of thousands of people urged her to run for the Senate in Massachusetts, which she is doing. And let’s give a shout out to Rep. Barbara Lee, who worked valiantly all year to push other issues with massive grassroots support: a bill to “only fund the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan” and a bill to repeal the 2001 Authorization of the Use of Force bill that continues to justify U.S. interventions anywhere in the world.

8. Burmese opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi  is running for Parliament! Released last year from nearly 15 years of house arrest, this year Suu Kyi held discussions with the Burmese junta. These talks led to a number of government concessions, including the release of many of Burma’s political prisoners and the legalization of trade unions. In November 2011, Suu Kyi’s party, the NLD, announced its intention to re-register as a political party in order run candidates in 48 by-elections. This puts Suu Kyi in the running and marks a major democratic opening after decades of abuse by the military regime.

9. Opposition to Keystone pipeline inspired thousands of new activists, together with a rockin’ coalition of environment groups across the U.S. and Canada. They brought the issue of the climate-killing pipeline right to President Obama’s door, with over 1,200 arrested in front of the White House. The administration heard them and ordered a new review of the project, but the Republican global warming deniers are trying to force Obama’s hand. Whatever way this struggle ends, it has educated millions about the tar sands threat and trained a new generation of environmentalists in more effective, direct action tactics that will surely result in future “wins” for the planet.

10. Following the tragic meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan, the growing appetite for nuclear energy has been reversed. Women in Japan are spearheading protests to shut down Japan’s remaining plants and focus on green energy. Braving a cold winter, they have set up tents in front of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and pledged to continue their demonstration for 10 months and 10 days, traditionally considered in Japan as a full term that covers a pregnancy. “Our protests are aimed at achieving a rebirth in Japanese society,” said Chieko Shina, a grandmother from Fukushima. Meanwhile Germany, which has been getting almost one quarter of its electricity from nuclear power, has pledged to shut down all 17 nuclear power plants by 2022. Chancellor Angela Merkel said she hopes Germany’s transformation to more solar, wind and hydroelectric power will serve as a roadmap for other countries. Power (wind and solar, that is) to the people!

* * * * *

The common thread in the good news this year is the power of ordinary people to counter the abuse of privileged elites, whether corrupt politicians, banksters or greedy CEOs. People all over the globe are insisting that social inequality and environmental devastation are not inevitable features of our global landscape, but policy choices that can be–and must be–reversed. That certainly gives us a full plate for 2012!

 

Medea Benjamin is cofounder of the human rights group Global Exchange and the peace group CODEPINK.

Challenging AIPAC’s Abuse of Taxpayers Money – By Omar Barghouti

1:08 pm in Uncategorized by codepink

The Arab democratic spring, striving to end authoritarian rule and establish freedoms and social justice, has not been welcome by all. Israel and its main lobby in the U.S., the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), for instance, appear to have been caught off guard and visibly disturbed by the seemingly irreversible transformations that these uprisings promise to bring about in the Arab world and, to an extent, the world at large.

Having stood on the wrong side of history during the Tunisian and then the Egyptian revolutions, supporting the despots and authoritarian regimes against the people, Israel has a lot to lose from the democratic winds of change in the region. When Hosni Mubarak was about to be overthrown by the people’s revolution in Egypt Israel launched a diplomatic campaign to convince key Western capitals to support him lest stability is lost and Israel’s other tyrannical friends in the region feel abandoned.

In Tunisia, as well, the vaunted electronic surveillance apparatus of the former dictator Ben-Ali was run in close cooperation with Israel, as exposed by Tunisian civil society organizations. With more of Israel’s friends in the region being dethroned, it is becoming abundantly clear how much Israel and its Western partners have invested in safeguarding and buttressing the unelected, autocratic regimes in the Arab world, partially to make a self-fulfilling prophecy of Israel as the “villa in the midst of the jungle” — the myth often repeated by AIPAC. The impact of debunking that myth cannot be overstated. Israel has, for decades, extracted billions of dollars, not to mention diplomatic, political, and scientific support from the U.S. and European states partially based on this misleading image of Israeli democracy, and despite all the evidence to the contrary. A state that has been imposing an occupation regime for almost 44 years on Palestinians in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza, that has denied on racial grounds millions of refugees their UN-sanctioned right to return home, and that is regularly condemned by its chief benefactor and ally, the U.S. government, for its “system of institutional, legal and societal discrimination” against its own Palestinian minority carrying Israeli citizenship cannot reasonably be regarded as a “democracy.”

The fact is, U.S. citizens have been bankrolling Israel’s system of occupation, racial discrimination and denial of basic human rights to the tune of billions of dollars annually without knowing what they were funding and why. AIPAC is the main culprit in this process of defrauding the American people, while one cannot ignore the fact that the U.S. military and oil establishments have also stood to gain from Israel’s colonial expansion, endless bloody wars of aggression, and role as the police of the region, preventing popular revolt from threatening the pillage of its vast strategic resources.

For many years AIPAC has falsely advertised Israel as a democratic state that best serves U.S. interests in a turbulent and unpredictable part of the world, covering up Israel’s suppression of human rights and its very nature as a state premised on fanatic militarism, racial segregation and injustice, contrary to the supposed “shared values” with the “West” that AIPAC has fed to the American public so effectively with its well-oiled media machine and its unmatched power of intimidation as well as suppression of debate and dissent by anyone who dares to slightly step out of line and question the “Israel-first” agenda.

But given that Israel in the last few years, especially since the start of the recent Arab revolutions, has largely and quite demonstrably failed in hindering the outbreak of popular uprisings and democratic transformations in the Middle East, leading pundits have started to raise serious doubts about the taken-for-granted mantra of convergence between Israeli and American interests.

Furthermore, at a time when average Americans are losing jobs, benefits and hope, should the U.S. be spending billions to help Israel maintain its regime of oppression and violations of international law? When schools and hospitals in the U.S. are being closed, and when hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers are mired in endless wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and elsewhere, where they sow mass destruction and death among the populations of these countries, while they themselves suffer increasing casualties, should U.S. taxpayers continue to fund this immoral war agenda? Should Israel and its lobby groups be allowed to pull the U.S. into more wars or to continue to justify Israel’s own brutal and patently illegal wars of aggression, as the one against Palestinians in Gaza in 2008-09 and on Lebanon in 2006?

If members of the U.S. Congress dare not ask these critical questions for fear of AIPAC’s wrath – perceived and carefully marketed as invincible – and an almost certain loss of career, shouldn’t the working people of the U.S. pose them and demand accountability and, indeed, democratic regime change?

It is in this context that one cannot but highly admire the courage, creativity and resilience of human rights and advocacy groups in the U.S., like CODEPINK, the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, Jewish Voice for Peace and many others that insist on challenging AIPAC’s domination of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and beyond and its detrimental and deeply corrupting influence over U.S. decision making in general. The CODEPINK-led campaign to “expose AIPAC and usher in a new foreign policy,” to be launched in Washington, DC in May is a badly needed and truly inspiring effort that should be widely supported by all those who care about the cause of justice and peace in the U.S. and, by extension, the entire world.

Omar Barghouti is a human rights activist and author of Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS): The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights (Haymarket, 2011)
Take action by attending Move Over AIPAC, a gathering in Washington DC from May 21-24, 2011, to expose AIPAC and build the vision for a new US foreign policy in the Middle East! More information can be found at www.MoveOverAIPAC.org.