Monday, June 12, 2006

Radio Interview on "La Otra Campaña"

In preparation for our 3 day tour "From Below and to the Left" taking place from June 19th to the 21st, RJ Maccani (one of the speakers on the tour) and fellow Left Turn author Mary Ann Tenuto Sanchez, did an extended one hour radio interview on Against the Grain last Tuesday.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Courage To Resist: A US Lieutenant Refuses Deployment to Iraq
by Sarah Olson

Ehren Watada is a 27-year-old First Lieutenant in the United States Army. He joined the Army in 2003 during the run-up to the Iraq war. He turned in his resignation to protest the war in Iraq in January 2006. He expects to receive orders to deploy in late June and will become the first Lieutenant to refuse orders to deploy to Iraq, setting the stage for what could be the biggest movement of GI resistance since the Vietnam War. He faces a court-martial, up to two years in prison for missing movement by design, a dishonorable discharge, and other possible charges. He says speaking against an illegal and immoral war is worth all of this and more. Journalist SARAH OLSON spoke with Watada in May.

SARAH OLSON: When you joined the Army in 2003, what were your goals?

LT. EHREN WATADA: 2003 was a couple of years after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. I had the idea that my country needed me and that I needed to serve my country. I still strongly believe that. I strongly believe in service and duty. That’s one of the reasons I joined: because of patriotism.

I took an oath to the US Constitution, and to the values and the principles it represents. It makes us strongly unique. We don’t allow tyranny; we believe in accountability and checks and balances and a government that’s by and for the people. The military must safeguard those freedoms and those principles and the democracy that makes us unique. A lot of people, like myself, join the military because they love their country, and they love what it stands for.

OLSON: You joined the Army during the run-up to the Iraq war, but you had misgivings about the war. How did that happen?

WATADA: Like everybody in America and around the world, I heard what they were saying on television about the stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, and the ties to al-Qaeda and 9/11. I also saw the millions of people around the world protesting and listened to the people resigning from the government in protest. I realized that the war probably wasn’t justified until we found proof of these accusations the President and his deputies were making against Iraq.

But I also believed we should give the President the benefit of the doubt. At that time, I never believed—I could never conceive of—our leader betraying the trust we had in him.

Read the full article

Monday, June 05, 2006

Video presentation on political prisoner Seth Hayes


Susan Tipograph has been a criminal defence lawyer in New York City for 30 years. A long-time member of the National Lawyers Guild, she has been a staunch defender of activists, organizers and others made the target of state repression. Some of Susan's notable trials include the Ohio 7 prosecution, the state and federal cases arising from the 1981 Brinks incident in Rockland County, New York (defending Judith Clark, Silvia Baraldini and David Gilbert) and the 1998 rebellion in New York City's Tompkins Square Park. Among her clients have been Raise the Fist webmaster Sherman Austin, Lynne Stewart, former Black Panthers including Robert 'Seth' Hayes and Herman Bell, members of the FALN, Macheteros and other Puerto Rican independistas, as well as countless civil disobedience and demonstration arrestees arising out of the anti-globalization, HIV/AIDS, anti-war and other movements.

This is the video from her talk on Saturday, May 13th, 2006 in Toronto. For more info on how to support Robert "Seth" Hayes please check out

For a good article on why political prisoner support is so crucial right now, check out Dan Berger's article in Left Turn issue #20.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

*** Left Turn Magazine Presents ***

From Below and to the Left: The Zapatistas "Other Campaign"
& US Movement Building

Ashanti Alston, Kristin Bricker, Walidah Imarisha, RJ Maccani

June 19th 7pm [Washington DC]
Cafe Nema
1334 U Street NW
Upstairs Lounge

June 20th 7pm
The Contemporary Museum
100 W Centre St, btw Cathedral St and Park Ave.

June 21st 7pm [Philadelphia]
LAVA Space
4134 Lancaster Ave

For the past twelve years, the Zapatistas' struggle for

democracy and indigenous rights in Mexico has been a major

inspiration to social justice movements throughout the
particularly the Americas. The initial uprising in
January of 1994
became a global reference point for the
resistance to the policies
of neo-liberalism and corporate

The Zapatistas are now in the midst of their largest
grassroots mobilizing effort, La Otra Campaña (The Other
Campaign), which is seeking to build a grassroots movement
"from below and to the left" uniting struggles throughout
Mexico's 31 states. Recently the campaign has come under
serious attack from the Mexican government, including mass
arrests,torture, rape, and several murders.

From June 19-21st we want to invite local activists and
organizers to a conversation with a diverse group of US
based activists who have all recently traveled to Mexico
to cover the Other Campaign and the Zapatistas movement.
We will be discussing the current state of the campaign and
what this means for those of us in the US looking to expand
our own movement building efforts. One thing that the Zapatistas
have always asked of us is that we "be rebels where we are,"
which means building our own movements here in the "brain of the

The event will also serve as a celebration for the
five-year anniversary of Left Turn magazine, a movement publication
which has featured the writings of several of the presenters.

Ashanti Alston, Kristin Bricker, Walidah Imarisha, RJ Maccani


June 19th 7pm [Washington DC]
Cafe Nema
1334 U Street NW
Upstairs Lounge

June 20th 7pm [Baltimore]
The Contemporary Museum
100 W Centre St, btw Cathedral St and Park Ave.

June 21st 7pm [Philadelphia]
LAVA Space
4134 Lancaster Ave

Friday, June 02, 2006

Haditha Is Arabic for My Lai

Yesterday (May 31) the Associated Press reported that U.S. soldiers killed a pregnant
Iraqi woman at a checkpoint. The news comes as the military's official report on
the deaths of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha is about to be released. Military officials
have already hinted to the press that the report will confirm allegations of a
cold-blooded massacre followed by a cover-up.

Below activist and author Rahul Mahajan probes beneath the gruesome headlines to
analyze the underlying dynamics of the Haditha massacre, what it reveals about the
U.S. occupation and more generally about U.S. political culture since 9/11, and
what responsibilities fall upon the antiwar movement.

Haditha Is Arabic for My Lai

By Rahul Mahajan

One day in November 2005, Marines in Haditha decided to take revenge for the death
of one of their comrades from an IED by deliberately murdering 24 innocent, unarmed
men, women, and children. They went into their houses and shot them at close range.
Adults begged and pleaded and attempted to save their children by shielding them
with their bodies, praying to the same god the soldiers pray to.

Afterward, the Marines lied to cover up their actions. The eight helpless men they
slaughtered became "insurgents." The other 15, necessarily "civilians"
because of age or sex, they first claimed were also victims of the same IED; later,
some were supposed to have been "collateral damage" of a supposed "exchange
of gunfire" with said "insurgents."

Unluckily for them, a journalism student had taken video of the bodies in the Haditha
morgue, with images that showed victims shot in the head from close range in
execution-style killings. According to Rep. John Murtha, speaking last week to the press
and on
Hardball with Chris Matthews, the military investigation of the incident will uphold
the above claims.

Although Murtha was much more interested in making excuses for the Marines because
of the stressful nature of the situation they were being put in than in talking
about the actual incident, the old militarist deserves credit. When Matthews tried
to spin the incident, Murtha calmly corrected him and said, no, there was no battle,
no exchange of gunfire, no explosion - the troops killed 23 people "in cold
blood." When Matthews asked him if this was like My Lai, Murtha quite honestly
said it was.

Indeed, the parallel to the My Lai massacre in the Vietnam War, where American soldiers
slaughtered up to 500 Vietnamese civilians, lining men, women, and children up to
be machine-gunned, is inescapable. The scale is smaller and most likely no women
were raped this time, but the bestiality of the Haditha massacre is equivalent.

Now is not the time to bleat about our "support" for "the troops."
These particular depraved murderers deserve the best of medical care when they get
home - but they should get it in prison.

Although for most Americans My Lai has somehow become a metonym for all American
crimes in Vietnam, the truth is that My Lai was simply the tip of the iceberg.
Smaller-scale massacres were common; in some areas, the indiscriminate killing of
Vietnamese was
standard operating procedure.

Haditha is also the tip of an iceberg. Two aspects of the incident suggest the
possibility that there have been many more just like it. First, the attempted coverup, with
stories about a firefight and collateral damage. Had it not been for video evidence
that contradicted this, it's very unlikely a military investigation would have been
anything more than a rubber stamp.

Second, the attempt to pass off the eight men as insurgents. This, of course,
encapsulates the logic of the U.S. military in the worst areas. During the second
assault on
Fallujah, for example, the operative principle was that any "military age male"
in the city was presumptively a fighter and thus subject to attack. Plant a gun
on a man you've killed, or, for that matter, a shovel, and instantly he's an

Haditha also connects organically to a whole series of different ways to kill civilians
- checkpoint killings by trigger-happy soldiers, indiscriminate return fire in
crowded civilian areas, use of area weapons like 2000-pound bombs on "suspected
insurgents," and a general "shoot first ask questions later" policy
- that frequently amounts to, if not deliberate murder, a depraved indifference
to Iraqi life. Then add on to that incidents like the two 2004 assaults on Fallujah,
where civilian "collateral damage" is so widespread as to be a feature
rather than a bug.

An innumerate and unempathetic American public was never able to comprehend the
enormity of the crime that was the Vietnam War. To this day, people estimate that
perhaps 100,000 Vietnamese - 3 to 5% of the actual number - were killed. While it
was going on, the massive bombardment, the devastation of the ecosystem, the systematic
destruction of life in certain rural areas, did not fully register with the vast
majority of Americans. It was only the My Lai massacre that brought home to them
the savage immorality of the war. Although Tet marked a turning point regarding
winnability of the war, it was My Lai that turned the public morally against the war.

The time is ripe for a similar transformation regarding Iraq. So far, the brutality
of parts of the insurgency on the one hand and the valorization of the troops on
the other have made it difficult for any moral case against the war to be made (it's
hard mentally or emotionally to associate immoral acts with heroes and choirboys,
let alone the heroic choirboys who are constantly presented to us). That must change
now, and the Haditha massacre shows the way. Haditha is, indeed, Arabic for My Lai.

The Lessons We Learn

In the past several days, the Haditha massacre has been covered in depth by the
New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and TIME magazine, as
well as garnering some network news coverage. So far, local and regional papers
have not followed suit.

When the results of the military investigation are released, supposedly next week,
the level of media coverage should increase further.

John Murtha and even Republican John Warner of the Senate Armed Services Committee
say that there was a coverup of the incident that quite clearly involved higher-up
officers in the Marines. According to Murtha, "Until March, there was no serious
investigation. There was an investigation right afterward, but then it was stifled."
Had it not been for the Iraqi journalism student's video of the bodies, turned over
by TIME magazine to military authorities, there would have been no investigation
at all. Without further video evidence, like a Marine's cell-phone picture of Iraqis
kneeling before they were shot, the initial conclusion of the investigators, that
the incident was a mere example of "collateral damage," would likely have
been sustained.

The U.S. news media effectively helped to keep the story under wraps. Although TIME,
the Independent, and other foreign media had covered it months earlier, until Murtha
spoke up at a May 17 press conference, essentially nobody else had picked up the
story - even though a massacre of civilians by U.S. troops is unquestionably

Despite some consternation within official ranks over this story, there are already
signs that an American public conditioned by longstanding prejudices to see the
Iraq occupation as a savage bellum omnium contra omnes involving senseless Iraqis,
with American troops trying vainly to impose order, will find it hard to process
a story about atrocities committed by those same U.S. troops, much less one that
suggests what an atrocity the whole occupation is. The predictable reprise of the
Abu Ghraib - a few rotten apples - spin from the right wing, along with denunciations
of John Murtha and others for attacking the troops will not help; neither, in turn,
will Murtha's and others' constant protestations that they are not attacking the
troops but supporting them nor their invocations of the great stress the Marines
were under that forced them to go and shoot small children at point-blank range.

To understand the kind of intellectual and moral culture these revelations will
fall into, one need look no further than Maureen Dowd's last column. A sensitive
humanist and liberal, she is clearly disturbed by the killings. And yet the upshot
of her piece is this: the occupation of Iraq is making us become like them. We should
not allow our contact with this particular heart of darkness to make us into them.

It is true that there are groups in Iraq that have distinguished themselves by
phenomenal, senseless brutality. Even so, it is galling for America to invade a country,
it, destroy its social structures, cause the death of hundreds of thousands, kill
tens of thousands itself, permanently destabilize the country, and even, occasionally,
deliberately murder civilians, and have the only lesson be that we shouldn't let
Iraqi brutality contaminate us.

Two other stories will have to be covered in order for the American public to make
sense of this story - in addition to the obvious one that Haditha is the tip of
the iceberg. First, it is not true, as Murtha suggested, that lack of training has
anything to do with this. On the contrary, U.S. military training makes such incidents
inevitable. Soldiers march to chants like "Kill! Kill! Kill! Blood makes the
grass grow." This is not mindless sadism, but rather a specifically developed
regimen designed to overcome the natural human aversion to killing another human.
Soldiers are made into killing machines; a culture that will do this on the one
hand and on the other constantly tout "humanitarian intervention," where
soldiers are supposed to safeguard the interests of a civilian population, is a
culture in deep denial.

Second, racism and the peculiar brew of racialized militant nationalism and religion
in the wake of 9/11. British officers have remarked numerous times on how U.S.
interaction with Iraqis is characterized by racism. Remarking on the propensity of U.S.
to use massive return fire in civilian areas, something it's hard to imagine them
doing in, say, Europe, one British officer said, "They don't see the Iraqi
people the way we see them. They view them as untermenschen." This component
has been ignored for too long.

Even My Lai, unfortunately, did not teach Americans lasting lessons of the kind
they really need to learn. It is unquestionably up to the antiwar movement to try
to ensure that Haditha does.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Arna's Children

This past Wednesday my favorite radio show on Pacifica, Against The Grain, ran an interview with Juliano Mer Khamis, the director of one of the best documentaries to come out in recent years called Arna's Children. The film documents a group a young Palestinian children who live in the Jenin refugee camp (Palestine) coming of age under Israeli occupation.

There have been several excellent documentaries produced over the past few years shot from the perspective of Palestinians themselves, but this might be the best of them. For anyone needing a more in depth primer on the background of the Israel/Palestine "conflict" check out this resource produced by the group Jews for Justice in the Middle East.