November 2nd, 2006
Reasons to be Voting
There’s another good reason to vote on November 7th. Those registered to vote in Cook County will find a rather surprising referendum on the ballot: “Shall the United States Government immediately begin an orderly and rapid withdrawal of all its military personnel from Iraq, beginning with the National Guard and Reserves?”
The referendum is the result of several months of organizing by the Illinois Coalition for Peace and Justice, which includes activist groups such as Chicagoans Against War and Injustice. In Cook County over 100 volunteers gathered tens of thousands of signatures in support of the referendum, and here it made its way onto the ballot.
Some areas outside of Cook Country, however, will not see the referendum. In Dupage County, the petition was challenged, and they “didn’t have quite enough valid signatures” to make their way onto the ballot, stated Carl Davidson, of Chicagoans Against War and Injustice, who described the process as “truly an exercise in grassroots democracy, giving a voice to the anti-war majority.
”If you aren’t voting in Cook County or the surrounding area, there’s still might be an interesting referendum on your ballot. John Nichols, of The Nation, reported on his blog that in Pittsville Wisconsin, voters will be asked if they believe that “The U.S. House of Representatives should start an impeachment investigation against President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney now.” Questions of impeachment will also appear on ballots in San Francisco, Berkley, Urbana, Ill. and Vermont.
Reasons to be impeaching
A study by The Lancet, a British medical journal has placed the number of fatalities linked to the war in Iraq at 655,000 since the beginning of the U.S. led invasion, a significantly higher figure than the 117 civilian deaths per day estimated by the department of defense.
The study received funding and researchers from Johns Hopkins University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The Lancet described their methodology alongside their findings: “Between May and July, 2006, we did a national cross-sectional cluster sample survey of mortality in Iraq. 50 clusters were randomly selected from 16 Governorates, with every cluster consisting of 40 households. Information on deaths from these households was gathered.”
An article on Stats.org, a publication of George Mason University stated, “655,000 deaths is only an estimate; the range of possible deaths is actually 392,979 to 942,646. What this means is that we can be 95% certain that the number of excess deaths is in this range, but our best estimate is 654,965… the methods used by this study are the only scientific methods we have for discovering death rates in war-torn countries without the infrastructure to report all deaths through central means.”
Bush was quick to dismiss the study, stating simply that its methodology was “not credible.” Juan Cole, an expert on the Middle East and Professor at the University of Michigan responded to Bush on his blog: “Can you imagine the profits being made by the military-industrial complex on all this? Do they really want the U.S. public to know the truth about what the weapons they produce have done to Iraqis?”
The trials of four prisoners at Guantanamo Bay began in October. Amnesty International describes Guantanamo as “an unlawful detention center of “enemy combatants… [holding] hundreds of people of around thirty different nationalities.”
Bush signed the Military Commissions Act into law on October 17th. Bill O’Reilly, Fox News’s outspoken conservative commentator explained the Act: “It works this way: A three officer military panel will determine a detainee’s status. If the person is deemed to be an ‘enemy combatant,’ he can be held indefinitely. The military will also conduct trials for detainees accused of committing war crimes. If the classified information is necessary, the detainee will not be able to see it.”
The Washington Post summarized the ways in which these trials will be different from those ordinarily seen by the U.S. legal system. “Hearsay evidence will be allowed. Conversations between defendants and lawyers can be monitored in some circumstances. Exculpatory evidence can be kept secret from suspects. And appeals will go to a panel selected by the same government official who helped establish the commissions: Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.”
UK set to join Right-Wing Europe
Four Muslim employees at Charles de Gaulle airport are appealing a decision by Parisian Government officials to revoke their security passes, a move that renders the airport employees jobless.
The BBC reported, “Lawyers acting for the four men say that dozens of other Muslims who work at the airport have also been stripped of their security passes.” Those who led the investigation, which caused the effective dismissal of these employees, deny racism. Jacques Lebrot, one of the government officials involved, stated to Reuters: “For us, someone who goes on holiday to Pakistan several times raises questions.” The BBC also noted that the investigation followed the publication of a book by French right-wing politician, Philippe de Villier, which “alleged that Islamic radicals worked at Charles de Gaulle airport and were planning terror attacks.”
This is not the first time the French government has been accused of racism. In 2004 a ruling by the French Government prohibited students at public schools from wearing religious symbols in the classroom. At the time the reaction from Britain was one of protest. Anas Altkriti, a spokesperson for the Muslim association of Britain stated to the BBC: “Such policies will only divide European communities and initiate a downward spiral towards bigotry, xenophobia and extremism of all sorts and colors.”
Last month Jack Straw, a Labour MP and Leader of the House of Commons was quoted in his constituency’s newspaper The Lancaster Telegraph, calling for Muslim women in Britain not to wear veils: “The value of a meeting, as opposed to a letter or phone call, is so that you can–almost literally–see what the other person means, and not just hear what they say.”
This use of false-logic to defend potentially anti-Islamic policies was reflected in the dismissal of 23-year-old teaching assistant Aishah Azmi, a Muslim woman from Wales, who chooses to wear a veil while in the presence of men. The BBC stated, “Ms Azmi said she had never received complaints from pupils… but was told her veil could not be worn in class.” A government minister, Phil Woolas, said to tabloid paper The Daily Mirror, that Ms. Azmi had “put herself in a position where she [couldn’t] do her job.”
U.S. Space Imperialists
A study by Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, published earlier this year, estimated that the cost of the war in Iraq would total over $2 trillion. While one might assume that Bush would start to scale down his plans for the rest of his term, he is instead still more concerned with defending the US, at the expense of and taxpayers, and any reasonable logic.
In October, Bush signed a new National Space Policy, which would see manned missions to the Moon and Mars, as well as leaving the way open for the development of Galactic weaponry.
The new policy states, “The United States will seek to cooperate with other nations in the peaceful use of outer space, to enhance space exploration, and to protect and promote freedom around the World.” It continues, “Proposed arms control agreements or restrictions must not impair the rights of the United States to conduct research, development, testing, and operations or other activities in space for U.S. national interests.”
There are genuine fears that Russia and China may seek to develop a military presence in Space. However, it is the U.S. which has perhaps been most forthcoming with wishes to develop such arms. A vote by the UN on whether to begin talks banning the development of arms in space passed 160-1.
The tone of the document would appear to suggest that Neil Armstrong was merely calling fives when he stepped onto the moon.
Civil Rights Lawyer sentenced
On October 17th Lynne Stewart, a civil rights lawyer based in New York, was sentenced to 28 months in prison following her conviction in February last year for “conspiracy, providing material support to terrorists, and defrauding United States government.” Since 1995, Stewart has represented Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, on charges of conspiracy to commits acts of terrorism. Rahman was found guilty, and was prohibited from having any contact with the outside world while in prison, aside from his family and attorneys.
As his attorney, Stewart was prohibited from transmitting messages from Rahman to the outside world. In 2000 Stewart broke this legally binding agreement, and called the Reuters news agency with a message from her client to his followers in Egypt.
Truthout.org interviewed Heidi Boghosian, executive director of the National Lawyers Guild, last year. According to Boghosian, Stewart was a “prime target for the Attorney General, who needed desperately to show that the Justice Department was actively fighting terrorism.” Truthout continued, “Lynne Stewart’s indictment, and conviction, will also chill attorneys from taking on cases of unpopular clients. “The purpose of this prosecution,” said Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, “was to send a message to lawyers who represent alleged terrorists that it’s dangerous to do so.” As the trials of those held at Guantanamo begin, this seems an especially worrying state of affairs.
Prosecutors had recommended that Stewart, now 67, serve a 30-year sentence. Currently Stewart is free on bail, pending her appeal.