Wednesday, June 17, 2009

US has no business condeming Iranian elections...

As I wrote over at Consortium News:
The Right has been bashing President Obama for not calling the Iranian elections a fraud. Perhaps Obama understands that you can’t tell someone to fix a problem you haven’t first fixed in your own house.

American democracy is seriously at risk so long as many of our votes are counted solely by machines.

As electronic voting has moved into the U.S. (and other countries), the notion that a handful of people can swing entire elections is not just a fantasy; it is a definite possibility.
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Why Would Anyone Oppose Torture? By David Swanson

Dear Readers,

I'm reposting, with David Swanson's permission, his important and succinct ten reasons why no thinking person should support torture as U.S. policy. This came from his blog at Please share broadly.

Why Would Anyone Oppose Torture?
By dswanson - Posted on 09 June 2009
By David Swanson

Someone recently asked if I could please explain to him why anybody would oppose torture. After all, we defend killing in wars, so why not defend torture? And wouldn't I torture to save my kidnapped child?

Here are my top 10 reasons for opposing torture:

1. It's illegal. If you want to legalize it, legalize it, but don't discard the whole idea of following laws.

2. When the United States tortures, it loses the ability to tell any other nation not to torture, including nations you wouldn't want torturing the people you wouldn't want tortured, namely Americans.

3. U.S. torture, according to the U.S. military and the FBI, has been a major recruiting tool for anti-U.S. terrorists and a cause of the death of thousands of Americans.

4. False statements created by torture were used to take this nation into a war in Iraq that has killed over a million Iraqis and thousands of Americans at enormous cost in dollars and in safety and prospects for peace. One justification for that war was to stop Iraqi torture, but Iraq now tortures and America can say nothing against it.

5. Torture was used even after the invasion to generate more false statements purely for political purposes.

6. There is no evidence that torture has saved anyone's life, but the United States has tortured dozens of people to death.

7. Expert interrogators do not use torture because it does not work as quickly or as reliably as other methods. So torturing someone to save your kidnapped child would be less likely to save your kidnapped child than relying on a skilled interrogator.

8. Torturing people brutalizes the torturers as well, damaging them and those they live with.

9. Torturing damages our society, brutalizing the thoughts and practices of prison guards, police, and citizens.

10. The myth that certain people cannot be spoken to and must be tortured creates deeply damaging prejudices, because those people are always defined as part of a certain racial, religious, or cultural group that comes to be seen as sub-human.

I hope this clears up the confusion.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Remembering RFK's call on the anniversary of his last day of life

Forty-one years ago, on the morning of June 4, 1968, reporter Jack Newfield rose early and drove around Los Angeles before the sun came up, before the polls for the California primary opened. What he saw contradicted the conventional wisdom that people of color and poverty didn’t vote. He saw long lines of people in some of the poorest areas of the city lined up to vote for Senator Robert Francis Kennedy. In fact, more people would vote in Watts and East LA than in Beverly Hills in that election.

A great part of Robert Kennedy’s appeal came from his authenticity. Unlike most people in politics, he didn’t focus on the politically expedient. Kennedy campaigned for gun control in pro-gun Oregon. He chided medical students seeking Vietnam War draft deferments because he didn’t feel it was fair to put the burden of fighting the war solely on the backs of the poor. He complained many times about welfare, feeling that it caused dependency, when what the people really needed were jobs. In South Africa, he denounced apartheid and wondered aloud, “What if God is black?”

As a Senator, frustrated by the slow pace of the legislative process, he became a community organizer, rounding up leaders in both the activist and business communities to turn an economically disadvantaged New York neighborhood into the nation’s first community redevelopment program, the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation. As Newfield wrote in his memoir “RFK,” “Kennedy seemed to believe in moral outrage as public policy. He felt that the ‘unacceptable’ – like living conditions in Bed-Stuy – had to be changed, not just deplored in speeches.”

Kennedy became a fierce opponent of the war he and his brother helped to start. Under pressure from Tom Wicker on “Face the Nation” as to his contradictory stance of opposing the Vietnam War while refusing (at that point) to challenge President Lyndon B. Johnson for the Democratic party presidential nomination, Kennedy breached his own dam, saying:

“…we’re killing innocent people because we don’t want to have the war fought on America soil, or because they’re 12,000 miles away and they might get to be 11,000 miles away. … Those of us who stay here in the United States, we must feel it when we use napalm, when a village is destroyed and civilians killed. This is also our responsibility. This is a moral obligation and a moral responsibility for us here in the United States. And I think we have forgotten that. … I think we’re going to have a difficult time explaining that to ourselves.”

The day after Kennedy’s now famous speech in the wake of Martin Luther King’s assassination, Kennedy spoke these words at a luncheon in Cleveland:

“What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? … [W]e seemingly tolerate a rising level of violence that ignores our common humanity and our claims to civilization alike. We calmly accept newspaper reports of civilian slaughter in far-off lands. We glorify killing on movie and television screens and call it entertainment. We make it easy for men of all shades of sanity to acquire whatever weapons and ammunition they desire.”

Kennedy also spoke of “another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly, destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions, indifference and inaction and slow decay. This is the violence that afflicts the poor, that poisons relations between men because their skin has different colors. This is a slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books and homes without heat in the winter.”

But Kennedy’s strongest words could well be repeated today when considering the terrible conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis, our battles in Iraq and Afghanistan, or even the rhetoric of hate radio, for that matter:

“When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies—to be met not with cooperation but with conquest, to be subjugated and mastered. …

“We must admit the vanity of our false distinctions among men and learn to find our own advancement in the search for the advancement of all. We must admit in ourselves that our own children’s future cannot be built on the misfortunes of others. We must recognize that this short life can neither be ennobled or enriched by hatred or revenge. Our lives on this planet are too short and the work to be done too great to let this spirit flourish any longer in our land.”

Kennedy’s own life was short indeed. He lived only eight more weeks after that speech before an assassin’s bullet took him down in the pantry in Los Angeles.

Kennedy was asked by the British TV host David Frost just a month before his death how he would like to be remembered.

Kennedy responded, “Something about the fact that I made some contribution to either my country, or those who were less well off. I think back again to what Camus wrote about the fact that perhaps this world is a world in which children suffer, but we can lessen the number of suffering children, and if you do not do this, then who will do it? I’d like to feel that I’d done something to lessen that suffering.”

Whose suffering can you lessen today? Will you do it? There are so many ways. If you don’t see a direct path, consider contributing money to a charity. If you have no money, consider volunteering at a homeless shelter. Write a letter to your Congressperson asking them to create more jobs. Do something today, in honor of one of the best leaders this country never got the chance to have at the helm.

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