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Two documents released today reveal that the FBI investigated gatherings of the Thomas Merton Center for Peace & Justice just because the organization opposed the war in Iraq. Although previously disclosed documents show that the FBI is retaining files on anti-war groups, these documents are the first to show conclusively that the rationale for FBI targeting is the group's opposition to the war.
“It makes no sense that the FBI would be spying on peace activists handing out flyers,” said Jim Kleissler, Executive Director of the Thomas Merton Center for Peace & Justice. “Our members were simply offering leaflets to passersby, legally and peacefully, and now they’re being investigated by a counter–terrorism unit. Something is seriously wrong in how our government determines who and what constitutes terrorism when peace activists find themselves targeted.”
“From the FBI to the Pentagon to the National Security Agency this administration has embarked on an unprecedented campaign to spy on innocent Americans,” said Ann Beeson, Associate Legal Director of the national ACLU. “Investigating law-abiding groups and their members simply because of their political views is not only irresponsible, it has a chilling effect on the vibrant tradition of dissent in this country.”
ACLU Releases First Concrete Evidence of FBI Spying Based Solely on Groups’ Anti-War Views, ACLU, 3-14-06
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said she and former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor have been the targets of death threats from the "irrational fringe" of society, people apparently spurred by Republican criticism of the high court. Ginsburg revealed in a speech in South Africa last month that she and O'Connor were threatened a year ago by someone who called on the Internet for the immediate "patriotic" killing of the justices.
Security concerns among judges have been growing.
Conservative commentator Ann Coulter joked earlier this year that Justice John Paul Stevens should be poisoned...
According to Ginsburg, someone in a Web site chat room wrote: "Okay commandoes, here is your first patriotic assignment ... an easy one. Supreme Court Justices Ginsburg and O'Connor have publicly stated that they use (foreign) laws and rulings to decide how to rule on American cases. This is a huge threat to our Republic and Constitutional freedom. ... If you are what you say you are, and NOT armchair patriots, then those two justices will not live another week."
Gina Holland, Supreme Court Justice Reveals Death Threats, Associated Press, 3-15-06
Citing a Bible verse, "Where there is no vision, the people perish," Gore cited issues in which he believes the Bush administration has left the country far removed from the Founding Fathers' ideals.... Just like there were warning signs before Sept. 11, there were warning signs last year that the levees were in danger in New Orleans, Gore said....There have been warnings for many years about rising temperatures being caused by global warming, Gore said....Gore mentioned the nation's official policy against torturing prisoners, dating to the American Revolution, when Gen. George Washington refused to allow captured British soldiers to be abused. "Every president since, all the way through until now, has honored that principle," he said. "I truly believe that American democracy faces a time of challenge and trials that are more serious than we have ever faced," Gore said. He pointed to the current White House, backed by a Republican Congress, which allows the government to eavesdrop on anyone's home, "sneak and peek," without a warrant. "It sounds so strange, doesn't it, so contrary to the Constitution?"
Stephanie Murphy, Gore: Country straying from principles, Palm Beach Daily News, 3-13-06
This is not the “unipolar moment” that the Bush-Cheney regime sycophants would have you think it is, but it may be our bipolar moment. As I have written in previous postings, a convergence of factors, including global warming, over-population, a dwindling water supply, the cultivation of religious extremism, the end of peak oil, and the proliferation of nuclear weapons, has plunged the human race into a planetary crisis that threatens its security and sustainability, both near-term and long-term; and yet, in Washington, D.C., at the center of power, the ruling party is lost in a fantasy world of its own manufacture, and the opposition party is cowering in a corner, with its hands to its eyes, attempting to wish it all away.
Meanwhile, somewhere between 9/11 and the swearing in of Bush-Cheney for their second term, much of the populace sank into depression. Over the past few years, I have seen so many fellow citizens, sitting in the airports, staring into blank space, ignoring the Fox and CNN “news broadcasts” that drone on from the TV monitors overhead. I have seen so many of them, hunkered down in their SUVs, hurtling along beside me on pot-holed highways, going nowhere. It is chilling to look into their vacant stares. What I see reflected back from that dim mirror is a nation of lambs that is going to be hit again, unless it wakes up to the lion half of its nature, i.e., its strength and nobility, and fights back in a real way.
There are, of course, notable exceptions to this mass break with reality.
Lieutenant General William E. Odom, U.S. Army (Ret.), who served as Ronald Reagan’s NSA Director, and former Sen. Gary Hart (D-CO), who pioneered the Homeland Security concept, have continued to speak out on about the Mega-Mogadishu rapidly developing in Iraq:
The Vietnam War had three phases. The War in Iraq has already completed an analogous first phase, is approaching the end of the second phase, and shows signs of entering the third….Phase Three in Vietnam was marked by “Vietnamization” and “make-believe diplomacy” in Paris, policies still ignoring the strategic realities at the war’s beginning….Phase Three in Iraq is only beginning.…Will Phase Three in Iraq end with helicopters flying out of the “green zone” in Baghdad? It all sounds so familiar. The difference lies in the consequences. Vietnam did not have the devastating effects on U.S. power that Iraq is already having….Only by getting out of Iraq can the United States possibly gain sufficient international support to design a new strategy for limiting the burgeoning growth of anti-Western forces it has unleashed in the Middle East and Southwest Asia.
Lieutenant General William E. Odom, U.S. Army (Ret.), Iraq through the prism of Vietnam, www.niemanwatchdog.org, 3-8-06
“It is strange to contemplate the possibility that the greatest army in world history could be slaughtered in a Middle East conflagration. But prudent commanders have no choice but to plan for this danger. In greatest danger are the units in the Sunni central region cities. They are in real jeopardy if tens of thousands of angry Sunni and Shi'ite citizens, supported by their sectarian militias, surround and then overrun those units before they can be withdrawn….The character of warfare and violence is being transformed. The warfare of the future is not World War II, or even Korea or Vietnam. It is Mogadishu and Fallujah -- low-intensity conflict among tribes, clans, and gangs. We are not prepared for that kind of warfare.
The United States is in danger of finding combat forces trapped in a civil war that they cannot prevent, control, or win. America's army is in danger, and that danger is possibly just around the corner.”
Gary Hart, US Army in jeopardy in Iraq, Boston Globe, 3-11-06
In the aftermath of the debacle in Mogadishu, Les Aspin, Clinton’s Secretary of Defense, resigned. And yet, Donald Rumsfeld, the chief architect of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, still sits behind a desk at the Pentagon. How is such an outrage politically possible?
Profiles in Courage and Cowardice
The answer is that all three branches of the US federal government, under the control of the ruling party, and the US mainstream news media, under the control of its corporate overlords, have been swept up in this bipolar moment.
Indeed, as Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) and retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor have said in recent days, the US Constitution itself is at risk:
The President authorized an illegal program to spy on American citizens on American soil, and then misled Congress and the public about the existence and legality of that program. It is up to this body to reaffirm the rule of law by condemning the President’s actions. All of us in this body took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and bear true allegiance to the same. Fulfilling that oath requires us to speak clearly and forcefully when the President violates the law….At moments in our history like this, we are reminded why the founders balanced the powers of the different branches of government so carefully in the Constitution. At the very heart of our system of government lies the recognition that some leaders will do wrong, and that others in the government will then bear the responsibility to do right. This President has done wrong. This body can do right by condemning his conduct and showing the people of this nation that his actions will not be allowed to stand unchallenged….
As we move forward, Congress will need to consider a range of possible actions, including investigations, independent commissions, legislation, or even impeachment. But, at a minimum, Congress should censure a president who has so plainly broken the law….
Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), Introducing a Resolution to Censure President George W. Bush, www.commondreams.org, 3-13-06
“In an unusually forceful and forthright speech, O’Connor said that attacks on the judiciary by some Republican leaders pose a direct threat to our constitutional freedoms. O’Connor began by conceding that courts do have the power to make presidents or the Congress or governors, as she put it ‘really, really angry.’ But, she continued, if we don’t make them mad some of the time we probably aren’t doing our jobs as judges….The nation’s founders wrote repeatedly, she said, that without an independent judiciary to protect individual rights from the other branches of government those rights and privileges would amount to nothing. But, said O’Connor, as the founding fathers knew statutes and constitutions don’t protect judicial independence, people do. And then she took aim at former House GOP leader Tom DeLay. She didn’t name him, but she quoted his attacks on the courts at a meeting of the conservative Christian group Justice Sunday last year when DeLay took out after the courts for rulings on abortions, prayer and the Terri Schiavo case….It doesn’t help, she said, when a high-profile senator suggests there may be a connection between violence against judges and decisions that the senator disagrees with. She didn’t name him, but it was Texas senator John Cornyn who made that statement, after a Georgia judge was murdered in the courtroom and the family of a federal judge in Illinois murdered in the judge’s home…. O’Connor said we must be ever-vigilant against those who would strong-arm the judiciary into adopting their preferred policies. It takes a lot of degeneration before a country falls into dictatorship, she said, but we should avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings.
Nina Tottenberg, National Public Radio, quoted in Retired Supreme Court Justice hits attacks on courts and warns of dictatorship, www.rawstory.com, 3-10-06
Sadly, like Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and the thirty or so Democrats in the House of Representatives who have called for impeachment, Sen. Feingold stands almost alone in the Senate. It is a disgrace that only two of his colleagues, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), have joined with him.
While Sen. Feingold’s bold demand for censure offers an unqualified profile in courage, Justice O’Connor’s remarks could be perceived as a profile in cowardice, or perhaps simply a profile in convenience.
Remember, it was O’Connor who provided the swing vote in Bush vs. Gore, over-ruling the Florida State Supreme Court’s order for a state-wide recount. That recount would have shown Gore to have won Florida’s electoral vote, as an independent study commissioned by major US mainstream news media organizations proved. Yes, she put Bush-Cheney in power, and her retirement from the highest court in the land opened the door for the lifetime appointments of John Roberts and Samuel Alito, both of whom endorse the Bush-Cheney vision of an all-powerful executive on issues of national security and civil liberties.
Will the USA survive this bipolar moment? Only if a sufficient number of citizens choose courage over convenience, and reality over fantasy.
Richard Power is the founder of GS(3) Intelligence and www.wordsofpower.net. His work focuses on the inter-related issues of security, sustainability and spirit, and how to overcome the challenges of terrorism, cyber crime, global warming, health emergencies, natural disasters, etc.
You can reach Richard Power via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, go to www.wordsofpower.net.