SYNDICATED COLUMN: Sign the Pledge!

Trim Bush from American History A couple of weeks ago I wrote a column that resonated with a lot of people. Since 2001, I noted, “We’ve lost our right to see an attorney, to confront our accusers, even to get a fair trial. Government agents have kidnapped thousands of people, most of whom have never been heard from again. Bush even signed an edict claiming the right to assassinate anyone, including you and me, based solely on his whims. Torture, the ultimate sign that civilized society has been replaced by a police state,” has been legalized. None of the major presidential candidates are currently promising to do what it would take to restore democracy: close Gitmo and the CIA torture chambers, get out of Afghanistan and Iraq, revoke the protofascist USA-Patriot and Military Commissions Acts, obey the Geneva Conventions and turn over Bush, his torturers, his Congressional allies and his top civilian and military officials to an international war crimes…
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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Against Us Or Against Us

Pakistan’s Con Man Still At It “You’re either with us, or against us.” Bush had his then-Secretary of State, Colin Powell, deliver that stark message to Pervez Musharraf after 9/11. “Be prepared to be bombed,” Musharraf says Powell’s number two at State, Richard Armitage, told him. “Be prepared to go back to the Stone Age.” Faced with that bleak choice, the military dictator promised Pakistan’s cooperation in the “war on terror.” Like Ahmed Chalabi and the Iraqi codenamed “Curveball,” Musharraf was nothing more than a con man. He collected $10 billion from American taxpayers. Six years later, all we have to show for it is Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, alleged Al Qaeda strategist, poster boy for waterboarding and a candidate for worst morning face ever. But don’t blame the general for selling us a line of crap. Allying himself “with us” was never an option. In October 1999 I was traveling along the Karakoram Highway from Kashgar in western China to…
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SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Time-to-make-the-doughnuts Candidate

Hillary Clinton, Joyless Uniter “The fact that a lot of people dislike you is troubling,” says the director of the Quinnipiac University poll, talking about Hillary Clinton (D-Carpetbagger, Slept Her Way Into National Prominence, NY). She scores 47 percent of likely Democratic primary voters, leaving Barack Obama (21 percent) and John Edwards (12 percent) in the dust. This is supposed to make her inevitable. Why bother to hold primaries? But a funny thing happens when Democrats and Republicans talk about 2008: they find common ground. “I can’t stand Hillary,” the Republican opens. “She’s disgusting,” the Democrat agrees. At last, a Uniter. Half the electorate hates her–and not just members of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. She’s a juggernaut, at least in a Howard Dean-in-November 2003 kind of way. Liberals will vote for her if she’s the nominee. But it’ll be a chore. She epitomizes joylessness. Win or lose, who cares? She’s the time-to-make-the-doughnuts candidate. Every voter has his or her limit,…
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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Who Will Be Our Next Torturer-in-Chief?

George W. Bush has shoved American politics into the dark realm of the lunatic right, zipping past Joe McCarthy into territory previously covered by historical accounts of Germany in the 1940s. We’ve lost our right to see an attorney, to confront our accusers, even to get a fair trial. Government agents have kidnapped thousands of people, many of whom have never been heard from again. Bush even signed an edict claiming the right to assassinate anyone, including you and me, based solely on his whims. Torture, the ultimate sign that civilized society has been replaced by a police state, was repeatedly authorized by government officials who smirked the few times reporters had the temerity to ask them about it. The 2000, 2004 and 2008 presidential elections have been and will prove to be decisive moments in American history. In each case the American people were offered a stark choice between a future of freedom and one under tyranny.In 2000 the…
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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Hey, Soldiers: Quit Whining!

Troops Suck Up to Bush, Ask for Support Over a year ago, in March 2006, the military newspaper Stars and Stripes published the results of a Zogby poll of troops serving in Iraq. 72 percent said U.S. forces should withdraw within a year. Twenty-five percent thought we should pull out right away. But 85 percent said a major reason they were there was “to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the September 11 attacks.” These people are confused, to say the least. Even more confusing is the persistent flow of complaints by Iraq War veterans that Americans on the home front are partying like it’s 2009 while their comrades back in Vichy Mesopotamia are getting blown up. Army infantry officer Will Bardenwerper gave voice to this oft-stated sentiment in an October 20th New York Times op/ed. “As I began my 13-month deployment (in Tal Afar, Iraq),” wrote a dispirited Bardenwerper, “I imagined an American public following our progress with the same…
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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Onward, Christian Panderers

Pols Push U.S. Toward Theocracy A poll finds that 55 percent of Americans think the U.S. was created as a Christian theocracy. “The strong support for official recognition of the majority faith appears to be grounded in a belief that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, in spite of the fact that the Constitution nowhere mentions God or Christianity,” says Charles Haynes of the First Amendment Center. Sadly, these morons are allowed to vote. Tragically, one of them is a major presidential candidate. “The Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation,” John McCain recently told an interviewer. Here’s an offer that an erstwhile front-running shoe-in, now low on cash, ought not to refuse. Senator McCain: If you can show me where the Constitution makes us a Christian nation, I’ll donate $10,000 to your campaign. If you can’t, please explain why we should trust your presidential oath to preserve, protect and defend a document…
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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Scapegoating Blackwater

U.S. Soldiers Commit War Crimes at One-Ninth the Price Private security companies in Iraq have come under political attack after mercenaries for Blackwater USA fired upon unarmed Iraqi civilians in Baghdad’s Nisour Square, killing 17 and wounding 24. Angry Iraqis, including collaborationist officials of the U.S.-backed occupation regime, have complained that swaggering rent-a-soldiers operate with callous disregard for the safety of Iraqis. A 27-year-old ex-paratrooper for Blackwater even stands accused of–but faces no possibility of prison time for—shooting, while in a drunken frenzy, a man who was guarding Iraqi Vice President Adil Abd-al-Mahdi. A media pile-on has ensued. Condi Rice, whose State Department is a major Blackwater client, ordered cameras mounted on vehicles in the company’s convoys. The House of Representatives, normally so divided it can’t agree that torture is bad or that sick kids need doctors, came together as one–389 to 30–to pass a bill that would subject mercenaries to criminal prosecution when they blow away foreigners in a…
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SYNDICATED COLUMN: “We Don’t Speak to Evil”

A nation’s leaders choose peace, setting aside years of distrust. Forgiving decades of political subversion and economic sabotage, they send emissaries to request full diplomatic relations from their once and present nemesis. They persist, even though they’re repeatedly rebuffed. When war breaks out, they offer military assistance–to their “enemy.”The nation is Iran. And the reaction is ridiculous. “The Evil Has Landed,” shrieked the headline of the New York Daily News on the occasion of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speeches at the United Nations and Columbia University. A “madman,” Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post spat, setting the tone for a week of Bizarro News. On “60 Minutes,” the Iranian president said there was no reason his country and ours couldn’t be friends–even the best of friends. “La la la la–we can’t hear you” was the response. “Is it the goal of your government, the goal of this nation to build a nuclear weapon?” CBS News’ Scott Pelley asked Ahmadinejad. He replied: “You have…
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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Jena 6, Or Downscaling MLK’s Dream

White policemen patrol black neighborhoods, less as guardians of public safety than troops subduing occupied territory. They hassle young black men, subjecting them to “random” searches. Sometimes–too often–they shoot them. All-white juries acquit them, validating tall tales of squirt guns and wallets and shadows that look like guns. Our prisons look like America–the part of America that’s downtown and predominantly African-American. Being born black means you’ll probably attend substandard, poorly funded schools, that you’ll earn less than if you’d been born another race. You’ll get sick more often and die sooner. Why aren’t these life-shattering, soul-crushing injustices, rather than the overzealous prosecution of the schoolyard thugs known as the “Jena 6,” attracting thousands of marchers? I used to live on a street next to a strip of park created to separate my neighborhood–which was white–from Harlem. On my side of the park the New York ritual called “alternate side of the street parking” required motorists to move their cars daily.…
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SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Antiwar Movement’s Dirty Secret

Antiwar Left Shuns Iraqis “What non-violent antiwar activists are unable to realize,” writes Peter Gelderloos, “is that the most important resistance, probably the only significant resistance, to the occupation of Iraq is the resistance being waged by the Iraqi people themselves.” This comes from a relatively tangential passage in a thought-provoking book, “How Non-Violence Protects the State,” that will get a more detailed look in a future column. Although its appearance in The Nation guaranteed it would receive scant notice, a July 30 essay by Alexander Cockburn was one of the first to seriously address the most troubling internal contradiction of the anti-Iraq War left. War, everyone knows, is a zero-sum game. For one side to win, the other has to lose. If you “support our troops” you hope, at minimum, for their safe return. But each day a U.S. soldier survives at the front means another day he will occupy Iraq and another day he can kill Iraqi resistance…
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