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November 30, 2005

Shrub Misses the Point (Again)

President Bush announced his "Plan for Victory in Iraq" at the US Naval Academy this morning. The White House simultaneously released a de-classified portion of the "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq."

Brilliant quote from the prez:

Bush characterized the U.S. enemy in Iraq as "a combination of rejectionists, Saddamists and terrorists." The terrorist group, he said, "is the smallest but the most lethal" of the three.

"Our strategy in Iraq is clear," Bush said. "Our tactics are flexible and dynamic. We have changed them as conditions required and they are bringing us victory against a brutal enemy."[...]

"Most Americans want two things in Iraq: They want to see our troops win and they want to see our troops come home as soon as possible," Bush said. "And those are my goals as well. I will settle for nothing less than complete victory."

Apparently, Shrub and his advisors are unable to read the newspaper. They cannot understand that the violence in Iraq is primarily caused by ethnic tensions and that their attempts to push forward pseudo-democracy through elections does not actually bring political cohesion to the country. Further, there is no emphasis on bringing women into the process - which is mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 1325. There is no recognition that "the enemy" and "our allies" are neighbors in Iraq and must work together to create a lasting peace. Further, US allies wreak as much havoc on Iraqi stability as US enemies.

Obviously, complete victory is a black and white term from a man who cannot think in shades of grey. It is empty, tired rhetoric that speaks in terms of the conquering empire frame. Creating a robust, peaceful democracy in Iraq is not something that can be done by the occupying imperial army. It must be created from within, with support from the international community.

More info from CNN:
"Bush: U.S. to stay in Iraq till war is won; President does not set timetable for withdrawal of troops"
"National Strategy for Victory in Iraq" (pdf)

Posted by cj at 11:58 AM | Comments (0)

November 29, 2005

Death Squads Acknowledged

I originally became aware of death squads in Iraq on June 15, 2005 when I blogged about a WaPo article re Kurdish retribution killings of Arabs and Turkmens.

It turns out that all ethnicities in Iraq have death squads, and the US military and Iraqi government are finally acknowledging them.

Al Mahdi militia, founded by anti-American cleric Muqtada Sadr, has infiltrated the Iraqi police force. Many are part of the "Punishment Committee" within the police and Sunni Arab Muslims are the victims of their ethnic violence agains.

The Badr militia, a Shiite militia with ties to Iran, is prevalent in the Maghawir (Fearless Warrior) special commando brigades of the Interior Ministry, torturing and murdering people with impunity because Interior Minister Bayan Jabr is tied to the militia.

Briefly mentioned in the LAT article on the subject, Sunni insurgents have also been attacking Shiites. There are secular Baathist supporters of Hussein, along with Ansar al Sunna and Al Qaeda. Sunnis are a minority of the Iraqi population and received preferential treatment during Hussein's rule, which is part of the reason for the ethnic violence imposed on them by the Shiites. The fact that most Al Qaeda members are Sunni must be part of the reason the USG aligned itself with Shiite goons.

I do not think one ethnic group can be blamed for the current violence in Iraq. Clearly, Shiite militias have the backing of the Iraqi government which makes them more powerful and more deadly right now. But without international support for true peace-building and reconciliation in Iraq, there is no way to stop this sectarian violence. I pray that instead of American hubris and occupation, the USG recognizes the need for a UN peacekeeping mission that works on all levels, including diplomatic and grassroots to quell the ethnic conflict that is causing this violence. Of course, my prayers are pipe dreams in the current political climate. Nevertheless, I must dream.

More info:
"Killings Linked to Shiite Squads in Iraqi Police Force: With loyalties to banned paramilitary groups, the fighters have kidnapped, tortured and slain Sunnis, officials and witnesses say." by Solomon Moore in the LAT

"Abuse of prisoners in Iraq widespread, officials say," by Leila Fadel, Knight Ridder Newspapers

"Sunni Politicians Killed; 4 Abductions Confirmed," by Jonathan Finer and Naseer Nouri in WaPo

Posted by cj at 7:52 AM | Comments (0)

US Congressmen Attempt to Meet with Venezuelan Officials, End Up in Aruba

A delegation of House politicians went to Venezuela yesterday to meet with Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel and others. Customs officials held them up in their airplane for approximately two hours and refused to let them de-board. After speaking with a US Embassy official, the politicians left Venezuela and headed for Aruba (presumably as a layover before returning to the States). According to the head of the airport, the US officials never contacted Venezuelan authorities, and that's the reason they weren't allowed to de-plane.

More info:
CQ Midday Update
"US: Venezuela scuttles visit by congressmen," by Reuters via ABC News
"Venezuela denies entry to Hyde, others," by AP via Chicago Sun Times
"Venezuelan, U.S. officials gave conflicting accounts of 'visit'," from wire reports in News from Russia

Posted by cj at 2:00 AM | Comments (0)

November 27, 2005

Meet the Press and US Foreign Policy

Senator John Warner (R), Chairman of the Armed Services Committee and Senator Jospeh Biden (D), ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee squared off today on Meet the Press. It represented my favorite parts of the Senate and Sunday morning talk shows.

First of all, both men are articulate, passionate civil servants. True, they are also politicians. But, unlike many party hacks, they have passionate intelligence that they use to lead the country. While Warner refused to comment on his meeting with ten officers with experience on the ground in Iraq, Tim pointed out that Sally Donnelly in Time magazine covered the substance of the meeting.

As he has since the Balkan Wars, Biden presented a balanced view of foreign policy that makes sense and gives me hope for the future of this country. I don't know anything about his domestic priorities, but I know when it comes to international relations, I have not heard a politician I agree with more than Joe Biden. Too bad his hair is thinning considerably, making him unlikely to gain the support needed to become the leader of this myopic, insular and provincial citizenry.

The round table was a let down after the intense discussion of Biden, Warner, and Russert. Most interesting was the consternation of David Broder and Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post over the ridiculous poor taste of their fellow Post employee, Bob Woodward, in his handling of his own part within the CIA leak case while acting as a partisan pundit throughout the proceedings.

Woodruff than rambled about bloggers speculating that Republicans mistook Russert for Woodward during their grand jury testimony and Woodruff said she understood the confusion, as she believes both men are great journalists. (Or something like that; the transcript isn't up yet, only the podcast.) Russert replied that while he is friends with Woodruff, he is no Woodward. For my part, my mind is either experiencing a mild case of dyslexia or early morning befuddlement, because during the majority of the roundtable, I thought Woodruff was related to Woodward, because I thought they had the same last name. Turns out Woodruff is married to "Wall Street Journal executive Washington editor Al Hunt, a liberal pundit who also appears regularly on the Sunday talk shows," according to this weird website that came up on top of a Google search for her.

Posted by cj at 11:09 AM | Comments (0)

November 20, 2005

Bolivia: The New Frontier

I am fascinated by all areas of the world. Recently, I've been intrigued by the conundrum of Latin America - why have most countries remained extremely poor and poorly developed despite having natural resources? According to one informed friend, it is a 50/50 combination of corrupt, European-descendant leaders within the region and corrupt, Western corporations and governments. It seems to me that deeply ingrained racism is a serious pillar of the poverty experienced by the majority of Latin Americans. My friend told me there are areas of Argentina that are large, gated communities where you must prove German ancestry to gain residency (and outsiders are not allowed in). This is another problem Latin America faces - many Nazis took refuge there at the end of WWII. And they were, for the most part, welcomed with open arms.

Don't get me wrong, there is hope both for Latin America and the world through the influence of new Latin American leaders. Evo Morales is the first full-blooded indigenous Bolivian to run for president, and as the leader of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), he has a really good chance of winning. The David Rieff in the NYT magazine refers to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez as a "leftist populist military strongman" several times, but from my previous reading of current events, he also seems to be leading the charge against corruption and undo influence of corporate greed on national economic development plans. The article says that the USG is tone-deaf to the new movements for change in Latin America; clearly the USG leadership is worse than tone-deaf. There are very few Evil Men in the world, and equating Morales with Osama bin Laden, as several high ranking USG officials have, only proves that ignorant, reactionary, isolationists are in charge of the USG (partially because The Left in this country has never had a truly effective political arm).

I am surprised that Rieff never mentioned the amazing uprising of ordinary Bolivians against Bechtel's attempt to privatize all water in the country (including rainfall). Perhaps I will find a more complete article on Morales and Bolivia in the future. I think using Che as the frame for his article led Rieff to omit more important, more recent events in Bolivia.

"Che's Second Coming?" by David Rieff in today's NYT Magazine

Posted by cj at 6:09 PM | Comments (0)

November 19, 2005

Middle East News Round Up From a Sister WILPFer

Katharina Harlow is an amazing activist whom I have unfortunately only met via email and conference call. She occasionally sends out compendiums of Middle East News and our WCUSP leadership team would like to make this available to a wider audience. I re-ordered the clippings, to emphasize US involvement.

WCUSP = Women Challenge US Policy: Building Peace on Justice in the Middle East, a national campaign of the US Section of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.
Salaam-Shalom to you from Katharina

How did the Presbyterians move from passing resolutions to proposing action against corporations that support the Israeli occupation? This move did not start, as some critics would claim, with Naim Ateek, an Anglican priest in Jerusalem who directs Sabeel, the Jerusalem-based ecumenical peace center. Aggressive supporters of Israel have been attacking Ateek and Sabeel. The focus on Ateek is ironic, since he advocates a nonviolent approach to ending the occupation.

Rice Trip Raises Concern Over U.S. Pressure on Israel
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's unusual personal involvement this week in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations over a border crossing in Gaza has some Jewish organizations voicing concern about American pressure on (OCCUPIED) Jerusalem.

N.Y. Jewish leaders lobby Rice on Gaza Strip border deal
In particular, the sources said, they urged her to take a tough line against Israel, especially on issues such as a settlement freeze and dismantling illegal settlement outposts.

Dare We Hope?
For that, the United Nations called an urgent Security Council meeting which ordering Syria to cooperate with Mehlis, or risk economic sanctions, among other possible penalties. It seems the UN can only find effective means to enforce its resolutions when the offending party isn't Israel, toward whom the UN either turns a blind eye or claims powerlessness.

All he is saying is - give peace a chance
Coincidentally, that same morning, the special emissary of the Quartet had been the chief intermediary in an agreement that, for the first time, grants Palestinians a certain authority that bears a similarity to independence. Six months after complying with President George W. Bush's request to rescue the Gaza Strip from the siege imposed on it by his friend Ariel Sharon, the Australian Jew with the gray shock of hair was raising a glass and toasting "Lechaim."

Clinton: Iraq war "big mistake"
"The mistake that they made is that when they kicked out Saddam, they decided to dismantle the whole authority structure of Iraq. ... We never sent enough troops and didn't have enough troops to control or seal the borders," Clinton said. As the borders were unsealed, "the terrorists came in," he said.

Walls of Jerusalem's Old City in danger of collapse
Large sections of the 16th century walls surrounding Jerusalem's Old City are in danger of collapse unless they undergo immediate restoration. According to an engineering survey conducted by the Israeli Antiquities Authority, 380 metres (yards), or one-tenth, of the walls' extension are in immediate danger of collapse, Israeli newspaper Maariv reported on Friday.

VIDEO: Protests in Bil'in
The apparently un-Semitic features of some of the Israeli soldiers prompted us to question their origin, in which some willingly answered: Poland, Russia, and Bulgaria. A Palestinian standing behind us immediately asked: "So why are you here with guns forcing me out of my land?". One of the Israeli soldiers then stepped towards the questioning Palestinian in an attacking motion threatening hurt him for questioning the soldiers, reminding the Palestinian of his formidable power.

NCLD: "Israel is isolating Jerusalem"
The National Office for Land Defense based in the West Bank city of Nablus, warned that Israel is attempting to isolate Jerusalem from its surrounding Palestinian areas by announcing the EJ 1 settlement project which extends on 21.000 Dunham's of Palestinian lands between Maale Adumim settlement and Jerusalem.

Construction in West Bank continues despite road map

Tenders have been issued for 315 housing units in the territories since the beginning of the year. The most recent tenders were issued 24 hours after Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said "the settlement blocs will continue to be Israel's eastern border in the future."

IOF Wounds a Citizen East of Gaza, a Child in Ramallah

Local sources revealed that Israeli soldiers backed by tanks and armoured vehicles swept into Silwad town and opened fire at a child, seriously wounding him. They added that Israeli soldiers kidnapped the boy and took him into an unknown place.

IDF troops shoot Palestinian teen playing with toy gun

Israel Defense Forces troops in the West Bank on Friday shot and wounded a Palestinian teenager playing with a toy gun, whom they had mistaken for an armed militant, Israel Radio reported Friday.

Palestinians Reforming Foreign Service
The Palestinians are cleaning out their embassies around the world, removing entrenched ambassadors and establishing a code of conduct in reforms aimed at transforming their calcified foreign service into a professional diplomatic corps, officials said.

Let them breathe
The economy will rely on agricultural exports. Those and other products will leave not via Rafah but by the Kerem Shalom goods terminal to Egypt, which will stay under Israeli control with PA officers present; and via the Karni crossing, the gateway via Israel for goods both to the West Bank, virtually a separate part of the Palestinian economy since the second intifada began in 2000, and to the rest of the world, since Gaza does not yet have a working seaport or airport.

Court orders Ramle to renew bus service for Arab children
The Ramle municipality was yesterday ordered to continue to provide a bus service to 50 school children from an Arab neighborhood adjacent to the city. The order was given as an interim injunction by the Tel Aviv District Court, pending the continued debate on the petition filed by the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) against the suspension of the bus service.

Ulster police chief to lead EU mission in Palestine
A senior officer with the Police Service of Northern Ireland has been chosen to head up a new European Union police mission in the Palestinian territories. Mr McIvor has spent the last 20 months working on the development of civil policing in the Gaza and West Bank areas.

PNA condemns killing of two militants in W. Bank
The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) condemned on Thursday the killing of two members of al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, the armed wing of the ruling Fatah movement led by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, near the West Bank city of Jenin.

Palestinians postpone first-ever Fatah party primaries
The Palestinians' ruling Fatah party postponed its first ever primaries, which had been scheduled to start Friday, saying it was unprepared to run the poll and citing internal dissent and extortion attempts by violent activists.

Arab MK: Syrian FM told me he's pleased with Peretz's election
MK Talab al-Sana (United Arab List) told Israel Radio on Friday that Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Shara believes the election of Amir Peretz as Labor's chairman brings hope to Damascus he would be a partner to peace negotiations.

Shalom: If PA decides to fight terror, Israel will reciprocate
If the Palestinian Authority makes the strategic decision to fight terror then Israel will respond with a return to negotiations and the road map, Army Radio quoted Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom as saying Wednesday. ( Terror = Acting Against Illegal Occupation! )

Sharon to decide this weekend on quitting the Likud
Sharon's need to decide quickly stems from the fact that new elections are only a few months away: At a meeting between Sharon and Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz yesterday, the two decided that the vote would take place sometime between the end of February and the end of March.

Independent Sharon party would trounce Likud
Amid mounting speculation that the premier is about to jump ship, the survey for the Yediot Aharonot newspaper showed that a centrist party led by him would win 28 of the 120 seats in the Knesset (parliament) against 18 for Likud. The survey also showed that the centre-left Labour party would win 28 seats if an election were held today.

Sharon camp: Netanyahu bid is of little concern
Associates of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who is expected to decide this weekend whether he will stay in the Likud or form a new party, say that a primaries challenge from MK Benjamin Netanyahu is not a major factor in his decision.

Israel detains whistleblower Vanunu at checkpoint
Israeli police detained nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu on Friday as he tried to pass through a West Bank checkpoint in an apparent violation of restrictions imposed after his release from prison in 2004.

India can push forward peace process: Palestine
"We are confident the Indian government will continue to take keen interest in solving the region's problems," he said. India's pledge of $15 million to the Authority would also go a long way in revitalising Palestinian economy, the ministry said in a statement.

Palestinian UN refugee agency appeals for cash
"We have a $13-million deficit and we have no new pledges except from Italy which promised one million dollars," Karen Koning Abu Zayd told a news conference in Shuneh, on the Jordanian shores of the Dead Sea.

Vatican sets conditions over Israel papal visit
Diplomatic sources said however that the Vatican had set firm pre-conditions for such a visit. The Vatican wants decade-long negotiations over the legal and financial status of the Roman Catholic Church in Israel to be concluded before Benedict sets foot in Israel, the sources said.

Bill offers funds to settlers who move inside fence
It's the second such bill to be proposed, as Labor Party chairman Amir Peretz has also filed a similar bill. Peretz's bill differs from theirs in that it looks at the settlement as a whole, offering compensation only if 60 percent of the community agrees to leave.

For justice, please hold
I innocently believed that the Or Commission's mandate included truth and consequences for the death of Asil Asleh, a beloved friend to me and his Arab and Jewish comrades in the Seeds of Peace coexistence program. Asil was killed by police at a demonstration in his village of Arabeh - one of 13 Palestinian citizens of Israel killed during the terrible days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur 2000.

Israeli-Arab to join Betar to dispel racism reputation
The reports noted that Betar has the reputation of being a racist, anti-Arab club, and Gaidamak, who wishes to build Betar as an international brand, decided the time was ripe for a dramatic move.

At least 82 killed in bombings in Baghdad, northeastern Iraq
The suicide attackers targeted the Sheik Murad mosque and the Khaniqin Grand Mosque - both homes to Shi'ite Muslims - in Khanaqin, 140 kilometers northeast of Baghdad, as dozens of people were attending Friday prayers, police said. The police command said 74 people were killed and 75 injured in the largely Kurdish town.

Posted by cj at 7:41 AM | Comments (0)

November 17, 2005

More on the President's Lies

"Ignoring the Facts," an Op-Ed by Richard Cohen in WaPo:

[T]he insistence that Hussein was somehow linked to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 -- a leitmotif of Bush administration geopolitical fantasy -- tells you much more than whether this or that fact was right. It tells you that to Bush and his people, the facts did not matter. [...]

It would be nice, fitting and pretty close to sexually exciting if Bush somehow acknowledged his mistakes and said he had learned from them.

Good to see Inside the Beltway types getting excited about something again. Interesting to see the MSM rail against the prez and his cronies.

Also found via Today's Papers

Posted by cj at 8:27 AM | Comments (0)

Lies My President Told Me

Knight Ridder has an amazing article on the distortions of the Bush administration. You should read it in its entirety. Some key excerpts:

The administration's overarching premise is beyond dispute - administration officials, Democratic and Republican lawmakers and even leaders of foreign governments believed intelligence assessments that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. That intelligence turned out to be wrong.

But Bush, Cheney, and other senior officials have added several other arguments in recent days that distort the factual record. Below, Knight Ridder addresses the administration's main assertions: [...]

ASSERTION: In his speech, Bush noted that "more than a hundred Democrats in the House and the Senate - who had access to the same intelligence - voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power."

CONTEXT: This isn't true.

I feel like quoting the whole article, so please go read the good work of James Kuhnhenn and Jonathan S. Landay with contributions from William Douglas and Warren P. Strobel for yourself.

found via Today's Papers

Posted by cj at 8:01 AM | Comments (0)

November 15, 2005

Forward Movement on Recognition of Palestinian Sovereignty

After marathon talks, some agreements were reached by representatives of the Palestinian Authority and Israeli government. I'm always intrigued that more is accomplished by talks that last all night than in the normal routine of stopping to sleep.

Six things were agreed to - Palestinian control of a crossing between Rafah and Egypt, construction of a Palestinian seaport in Gaza, negotiating to begin construction of a Palestinian airport, regular bus caravans between the West Bank and Gaza, expansion of crossing of people and cargo between Gaza, West Bank, and Israel, and obstacles to movement within the West Bank will be removed.

Its not the greatest thing in the world. Palestinian statehood should be immediately recognized; the Israel army should stop carrying out military operations within Palestine; Israel settlers should cease construction in East Jerusalem and the West Bank and should get out of those Palestinian lands immediately; and the entire world should recognize Palestinian politicians as important to the peace process as anyone from Israel.

More info:
"Rice declares deal reached between P.A and Israel on the Rafah Terminal," by Saed Bannoura-IMEMC & Agencies

"Israel is pushing the Palestinians into Civil War, Abbas says," by Saed Bannoura-IMEMC & Agencies

"Joint Press Availability With European Union High Representative Javier Solana and Quartet Special Envoy Jim Wolfensohn," US State Department

Posted by cj at 6:57 PM | Comments (0)

November 11, 2005

Action Alert from WCUSP Campaign

The leadership team of the Women Challenge U.S. Policy: Building Peace on Justice in the Middle East (WCUSP) National Campaign of US WILPF, urge you to voice your solidarity with Dr. Sami Al-Arian who is being tried based on "secret evidence" by the federal government in Florida. Background information and suggested actions follow. The defense will resume its closing arguments on Monday.


Dr. Sami Al-Arian, a son of Palestinian refugees who came to the U.S. in 1975 and has been a Professor teaching computer science since 1986 at the University of South Florida, has found himself defending against "secret evidence" on charges of racketeering and fund-raising. The difficulty of refuting charges based on "secret evidence" provided by "unindicted co-conspirators" is generally deemed an insurmountable obstacle to a defense.

For many years, political and human rights activists have been intimidated by such accusations. These tactics are often used by governments to stifle legitimate criticism of policies which those governments wish to carry out. The McCarthy era, currently being re-visited by the movie "Good Night, and Good Luck" which exposes the tactics used by the House Un-American Activities Commission (HUAC), was a prime example of this type of intimidation. Some of our WILPF sisters were caught up in HUAC's wide net during that frightening era. The case of Sami Al-Arian resembles the cases of that era. It stems from the draconian measures instituted under the U.S.A.
Patriot Act.

The case is an attack on academic freedom and free speech, and is an assault on First Amendment rights. If another nation were engaged in this type of intimidation and was holding a U.S. citizen on "secret evidence," the U.S. government would protest loudly.

It is telling that Professor Al-Arian's brother-in-law, Dr. Mazen Al-Najjar, was locked up in 1997 and charged under similar laws, but was released in 2000 when a court ruled the procedure unconstitutional. Dr. Al-Najjar taught at the same University. Sami Al-Arian worked hard to get his brother-in-law released, and he himself was arrested a day after the university filed suit in a Florida court against him, seeking "declaratory relief," a judicial determination that the university has the right to fire Dr. Al-Arian and that the firing does not violate the victim's constitutional rights.

The filing took place one day after Dr. Al-Najjar (married to Sami Al-Arian's sister) was expelled from the U.S. (August 22, 2002), having been re-arrested again in November of 2001, still under the onus of proving his innocence against "secret evidence" and unknown accusers. Dr. Al-Najjar is currently staying with relatives in Lebanon, separated from his family, who remain in the U.S.

It is somewhat ironic that Dr. Al-Arian is a co-founder of the Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace, a local coalition opposed to the unconstitutional use of secret evidence and other civil rights violations, as well as ongoing media attacks against Arabs and Muslims. He is the recipient of three Civil Rights Awards from the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the American Muslim Council (AMC), and the American Muslim Alliance (AMA). In 1990, he co-founded the World and Islam Studies Enterprise (WISE), a research and academic institution dedicated to promoting dialogue between the Muslim and Western worlds.

Dr. Al-Arian has been married for 25 years and has five American-born children. It can only be surmised that his arrest is an effort to stifle his work to raise awareness about human rights violations against Palestinians. His trial is currently underway at the federal courthouse in Tampa, Florida. His original arrest took place on February 20, 2003, after nearly eight years of government harassment. Bail was not allowed in his case, despite the testimony of more than 35 witnesses in defense of his character and the fact that the prosecution had no witnesses and no evidence to present at the bail hearing.

Many people in the peace and justice community are following this case closely, as Dr. Al-Arian had become well-known as a frequent speaker and lecturer on college campuses, at churches and conferences, where he has spoken on interfaith dialogue, community development, and civil rights. He is one of the founders of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the largest Muslim grassroots organization in this country. He has served as the imam of the Islamic Community
of Tampa. It appears to be his association with the Islamic Committee for Palestine (ICP), a group that raised awareness about the plight of Palestinians, that is the focus of the case against him, although the exact nature of the charges, as well as the identity of his accusers, is not available to him or to his attorneys.

Dr. Al-Arian was arrested along with three other co-defendants. Two of these co-defendants have been released on bail, while Dr. Al-Arian is currently being detained in a facility with hardcore criminals. The charges against him also include terrorism, which stems from the contention that the money raised for ICP was somehow channeled to terrorists. How this connection is being made, or who has leveled these charges, remains a mystery. Part of the confusion is related to a telephone conversation he had with someone identified as "Abu Ahmad," a common name which simply means "father of Ahmad," but which is also the alias of a Gazan named Abd Al-Aziz Awda, assumed to be someone identified by the U.S. as a terrorist. Dr. Al-Arian says that the man with whom he spoke was a Gaza school principal and the men were discussing contributions to his school. Additionally, although Al-Arian spoke frequently, he was not known as an active fund-raiser for any cause, but mainly a spokesperson.

Another charge leveled against him is that his name appeared on the bank account of an organization with which he was associated many years before, The World and Islam Studies Enterprise (WISE). The government has concluded that WISE was a "racketeering enterprise" and has based part of its case around the fact that another name on the bank account was that of Abdullah Shallah, who several years later became the leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). Guilt by association and the fact that many people have known someone who later went on to do something with which they do not agree are both reasons for concern that any of us might find ourselves in a similar situation to Sami Al-Arian. There were no laws specifying that WISE was an illegal organization at the time that Dr. Al-Arian worked with the group.

All of us should be concerned about this case, as it brings up the possibility of arrest under secret evidence, inability to face one's accuser (or even know who that person is), guilt by association, an assault on freedom of speech, and on academic freedom. The chilling effects of this case (and of the previous case again Dr. Al-Arian's brother-in-law) could be felt by everyone in the peace and justice community. Although Dr. Al-Arian is a stateless Palestinian, having been born outside Palestine and therefore not able to carry the passport of his homeland, once this type of case becomes rampant, the pursuit of U.S. citizens for similar offenses of being critical of the U.S. government, or calling for peace and justice overseas, can affect everyone involved in this type of work.

To learn more about the case, go to freesamialarian.com .
To hear about it in his own words, read his book, Shackled Dreams: A Palestinian's Struggle for Truth, Justice, and the American Way, or his poetry book, Conspiring Against Joseph - Reflections of a Prisoner of Conscience in a Federal Penitentiary.
NPR has profiled Dr. Al-Arian several times. Here is the search page for their material regarding his case.


To help Dr. Al-Arian, donate to: National Liberty Fund, P.O. Box 3568, Washington, D.C. 20007; attend the trial if you are nearby (seating will be limited); inform others about the case (To put on an event, email tampabayjustice AT yahoo.com); send letters of encouragement to Dr. Sami Al-Arian and co-defendant Sameeh Hammoudeh; write to your congressperson and request that he/she repeal the portions of the U.S.A. Patriot Act which allow for secret evidence. In appeals to Congress, stress that secret evidence is counter to democratic government and that its result is that no one held under secret evidence is capable of mounting a defense, resulting in greater possibility that innocent persons will be convicted. Also remind your Congressperson that this government would be highly critical (and has been highly critical) of any other nation using secret evidence or the testimony of unknown witnesses as a part of their case. Say that you value freedom of speech and that this nation is greater when there is an open debate on crucial issues. Remind him/her that pushing ideas underground is a greater risk than keeping them out in the open.

Posted by cj at 7:57 AM | Comments (0)

November 8, 2005

Afghan Poet Nadia Anjuman Beaten to Death

Prominent poet Nadia Anjuman was beaten to death by her husband and her mother is suspected of having a role in her death.

"The United Nations condemned the killing Tuesday as symptom of continuing violence against Afghan women four years after the fall of the Taliban."

More info from the AP via Yahoo News.

News found via Feminist Peace Network.

Posted by cj at 7:00 PM | Comments (1)

Another Attempt to Place a Crony in Office

Shrub nominated Ellen Sauerbrey to be the Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration. You probably haven't heard of this particular nut job. She was in charge of Shrub's Maryland presidential campaign in 2000. Since then she's made a fine name for herself as the US Ambassador to the Commission on the Status of Women. She tried to insert language in the Beijing +10 consensus document that said the original document guaranteed no new human rights and did not include the right to abortion. Not one single country stood with her attempt to demolish women's rights and she had to withdraw the ammendment.

Clearly, the Senate should reject her nomination.

More info in "Editorial: Another Bush crony deserves rejection: Ellen Sauerbrey is neither ready nor right for State job." in the Minneapolis - St. Paul Star Tribune

Posted by cj at 6:36 PM | Comments (0)

November 2, 2005

U.S. Foreign Aid Spending in 2006

When bills are passed by the House and the Senate, they go to a review committee for reconciliation, to create a unified bill that then must be passed by both houses before it becomes law. The review committee for the foreign aid budget has completed their work. Of interest:

The bill also has $150 million in economic aid for the West Bank and Gaza region, doubling current aid and matching Bush's request. The money is only for projects approved by the U.S. Agency for International Development, not for direct budgetary assistance.

Israel would get $2.3 billion in military assistance, up $60 million from current levels and matching Bush's request. [...]

The bill also has $432 million for international family planning programs, keeping the ban Bush insists on against U.S. foreign aid funding for organizations that support or perform abortions.

From "US lawmakers agree to $20.9 bln in foreign aid," by Vickie Allen for Reuters via AlterNet

Basically, our sisters in Palestine and Israel will be bombarded by more U.S.-funded Israeli weapons and our sisters around the world will continue to have inadequate access to healthcare because of the religious beliefs of the U.S. President. I pray that our work as WILPFers, by challenging U.S. policy directly, will help alleviate the harm done by the misguided appropriations priorities of our elected representatives.

Cross-posted from US WILPF blog.

Posted by cj at 9:41 PM | Comments (0)

November 1, 2005

Democrats Find Juevos, Force Investigation into Cause of US War on Iraq

While I was busy working this afternoon, the Senate Democrats led by Harry Reid forced the Senate to do its job of oversight of the Administration by calling a Secret Session and forcing action on the Intelligence Committee's probe of the creation of the intelligence that was the basis for invading Iraq in 2003.

Senate Rule 21 which can force the Senate to go into closed session - calling all Senators to the floor and kicking everyone else out - is usually not used as a surprise element by the minority party. The Democrats have finally shown some national leadership by forcing the Senate to create a new bipartisan committee to report on the progress of the Intelligence Committee's investigation into how the Administration sold the US public on going to war.

More information:
"Democrats close Senate to push war probe: Deal struck to advance investigation on prewar intelligence," by CNN with contributions by Ted Barrett

Initial Reactions at AMERICAblog

Senate goes to closed session by BarbinMD on Daily Kos, including explanation of the Closed Senate Rule

partially cross-posted from US WILPF blog.

Posted by cj at 9:08 PM | Comments (0)