Zambia AIDS orphan to speak at SPU

Tuesday is World AIDS Day, and to mark the occasion Seattle Pacific University is sponsoring a speech by Princess Zulu, a woman who grew up an AIDS orphan in Zambia. According to the press release, “for someone with the first name of ‘Princess,’ this HIV-positive Zambian woman certainly has not lived a charmed life.”

Princess Zulu (photo from her Web site)

Princess Zulu (photo from her Web site)

She now lives in the United States with her daughters, Joy and Faith, and speaks across the nation to spread awareness about the AIDS epidemic. Zulu has spoken with President George W. Bush, the ONE campaign, World Vision, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and many others. Her visit to the SPU campus comes with the help of World Vision.

Zulu will share her story on Tuesday, December 1, at 7:30 p.m. in Beegle Hall 201 on the SPU campus. Her quest is to raise world awareness about AIDS, hunger, malaria, and poverty.

Following Zulu’s speech, the ACT:S club will hold a candlelight vigil in SPU’s Tiffany Loop. This will include a display of 1,000 crosses, which represent the number of people who die of HIV/AIDS every three hours.

The event is sponsored by ACT:S, an SPU student club concerned with poverty and injustice. The vigil is in collaboration with the international humanitarian non-profit organization World Concern.

For more information about the event, contact SPU News and Media Relations Manager Tracy Norlen at 206-281-2977 or ACT:S club representative Alyssa Musgrave at musgra1@spu.edu.

Huge outcry over political massacre of 57 people in The Philippines

Yesterday in the Philippines, Ismael Mangudadatu registered to run for governor of Maguindanao province on the southern island of Mindanao. It doesn’t sound like an unusual event unless you know that on Monday 57 men and women on their way to register Mangudadatu were massacred, execution style.

The group included Mangudadatu’s wife, Genalyn, and other relatives, and 22 Filipino journalists.

Mangudadatu and his supporters had thought it would be safe to send his female relatives to register his candidacy even though he knew that people in the province, primarily the powerful Ampatuan family, were out to prevent him from running. Maguindanao, after all, is predominantly a Muslim province, and women are traditionally safe even from the bitterest enemies. Besides, there were many journalists in the group to help keep them safe.

The attack, according to the TimesOnline of London, “has raised questions about the relationship between the gangster clans such as the Ampatuan family and the highest levels of the Philippines metropolitan elite.

“Yesterday Andal Ampatuan Jr, the son of one of the most powerful men in Mindanao, was charged with seven counts of murder. “He was the one who gave the instructions,” Agnes Devanadera, the Justice Minister, said. “He was among those … who killed the victims.’

“Until they were expelled this week, Mr. Ampatuan and his father were important members of the ruling party of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the President. Her Government has also moved against members of its security forces suspected of being complicit in the violence.”

The National Union of Journalists of The Philippines issued this statement:

Today we say, “Enough.”

The massacre of 57 people in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao goes beyond a rido, or clan war. The sheer scope of barbarity, the brazenness of the murders betrays the perpetrators’ belief in being beyond the reach of the law.

Women, lawyers and journalists – no one escaped the butchers’ wrath. Fifty-seven people killed in broad daylight. The murderers had planned the deed, down to the mass burial of victims. That is the mark of the untouchable.

The Ampatuan massacre not only highlights the capacity for abuse by a political clan that has acted as ruler, judge, jury and executioner in its feudal turf; it is the graphic proof that State forces actually abet crime and protect criminals who provide favors for government officials.

Amid the outrage, even as President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo placed Maguindanao in a state of emergency, the government tried to downplay the role of the Ampatuan clan in the massacre.

Filipinos have been jailed, tortured and killed for petty crimes and for exercising their right to peaceful dissent. Yet PNP officials displayed an abject reluctance to even name the Ampatuans as suspects. President Arroyo even issued a public reaffirmation of her friendship with the Ampatuans. And for good reason.

The Ampatuans, feudal rulers of Maguindanao, gifted President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo with unbelievable margins of victory in the 2004 polls. They delivered the same service for her allies in 2007 election. They provide food and money for the military and para-military forces. They command a proxy army in the fight against secessionist rebels.

The Ampatuans and other warlords across the country have been doing these for a succession of administrations. Philippine leaders like to boast of our democracy. What confront us are images of a failed State, where institutions are unable to exercise mandated functions, and the central government cedes substantial power to warlords who maintain private armies, which include “civilian volunteers.”

The cozy ties between central government and local warlords blanket the Philippine countryside with a climate of fear born of a culture of impunity. While this is a long-standing problem, it has reached monstrous proportions under the Arroyo administration, which has spent the nine years devouring the very bases of public power in its relentless effort to privatize that power as the public monies.

We have had enough.

We demand the arrest and prosecution of all persons involved in the Ampatuan massacre, especially the masterminds. We demand the immediate suspension from office of all persons linked to the crime.

We demand the immediate arrest of all police and military officials who, by commission or omission, allowed the massacre to happen. We demand full punishment for all officers that tried to coddle the perpetrators of this massacre.

We demand the creation of an independent commission, to include media representatives, to probe the massacre and the events that led to it.

We demand that a special court with a presiding judge of impeccable credentials undertake the trial of the suspects in the Ampatuan massacre.

We demand that media access be guaranteed in all stages and processes of the investigation and prosecution.

We demand full and immediate coverage of victims’ families and witnesses in the witness protection program.

We demand the immediate dismantling and disarmament of para-military forces nationwide as they have long been used as private armies of local warlords.

We demand the creation of an independent body composed of impartial persons of the highest integrity to oversee the disarming of para-military forces and the disposition of their arms.

We also demand an overhaul of a justice system that rewards criminals and tramples on the innocent.

We … concerned Filipino individuals and organizations vow to hold a national protest to demand meaningful action from this administration. If government is unwilling to govern, IT MUST STEP DOWN. Only when the culture of impunity has been defeated can this nation proceed with the task of building peace and democracy in the Philippines.

On a Facebook page, journalist Inday Espina-Varona, said the statement “is not limited to journalists. It is NOT limited to just demanding justice for the Ampatuan massacre victims. It contains demands that, hopefully, can start the ball rolling for badly needed reforms.

“These reforms will not change our society overnight. But if we don’t even start, we’ll be forever trapped in this cycle of violence and corruption.

“The statement is non-partisan. The call is for a non-partisan national protest. It is our hope that you, all of us, prod our organizations, our churches, political parties to sit down and work together and, please, dear god, put aside self interests for a while.”

An Associated Press report quotes local police saying that six senior officers, including the provincial police chief and his deputy, 20 members of Ampatuan township’s police station and nearly 400 militiamen were in custody.

For the Philippines, unfortunately, that’s just a start. And the real test will come when it’s time to charge and prosecute those believed to be involved in the massacre.

Conference will focus on negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program

A coalition of Seattle academic, religious, and peace groups, and individual activists are co-sponsoring a community conference on resolving the Iranian nuclear crisis through negotiations rather than force.

The event, “Iran-Israel-U.S.: Resolving the Nuclear Impasse,” is planned for December 16th at Seattle’s Town Hall. The organizers say that many in the progressive community are deeply concerned that the United States and/or Israel may take military action against Iran. These fears have been exacerbated by the recent House bill that provides for severe sanctions against Iran and by the continued statements from neocons in the United States and Israel declaring military force as the only way to curb Iran’s nuclear efforts.

The organizers of this event, in a recent fundraising letter, say, “This conference will present a comprehensive approach that could resolve major difference through diplomacy and open a new era in relations between these three current enemies. It will also discuss the best means of supporting the Iran reform movement in its efforts to encourage a government based on democracy and tolerance.”

One of the key organizers, Richard Silverstein, said, “The purpose of this event is to show the American people that there are legitimate ways to resolve the differences between the U.S. and Iran short of force and violence. Most analysts believe that neither sanctions nor a military attack can impede Iran’s nuclear program in any serious way. The only way to resolve this issue is through diplomacy and negotiation.”

The conference will feature three analysts who will discuss U.S. and Israeli policy options including sanctions and the possible military attack. The speakers will be: Reza Firouzbakht, national board chair, National Iranian American Council; Ian Lustick, political science professor, University of Pennsylvania; and Dr. Keith Weissman, former director of AIPAC’s Iran desk.

The conference coalition includes: the Middle East Center, Jackson School of International Studies, Univ. of Washington; the Stroum Jewish Studies Program, Univ. of Washington; the American Friends Service Committee; the United Nations Association; Peace Action of Washington; the Network Promoting Peace with Iran; Jewish Voice for Peace; and American Muslims of Puget Sound.

“I hope to show that Israel sees its interest as stirring up as much animosity as possible against Iran within this country — if Israel had its way I believe it would attack Iran,” Silverstein said. “But I hope we can do everything possible to show that the way to ease a possible Iranian nuclear threat is not through the path Israel would choose.”

The conference, despite its support, is not a done deal. Organizers are still trying to come up with the full $4,000 that the Town Hall event costs. So far, donors have come through with about $1,500. So there is a considerable amount of money to be raised.

If you are able to help, a tax-deductible contribution may be made to:

American Friends Service Committee
c/o Iran Conference (note this on your check as well)
814 NE 40th Street
Seattle, WA 98105

Or you may mail a check to:
Richard Silverstein
1110 37th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98122

Iraq may hang 126 women by year’s end despite international appeals

Iraq is planning to execute up to 126 women by the end of this year. At least 9 may be hanged within the next two weeks. Human rights groups say the only crime committed by many of these women was to serve in the government of Saddam Hussein. Others, according to human rights groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, were convicted of common crimes based on confessions that were the result of torture.

Amnesty reports that at least 1,000 men and women are now on death row in Iraq, a country that has one of the highest rates of execution in the world. Amnesty released the following appeal in late August:

“At least nine women under sentence of death in Iraq are now in imminent danger of execution, as Iraq’s Presidential Council has ratified their death sentences. Three other women have been executed since early June.

The authorities have transferred a number of women to the 5th section of Baghdad’s al-Kadhimiya Prison, which is where condemned prisoners are held immediately before they are executed…

One of the women now in imminent danger, Samar Saed Abdullah, was sentenced to death in August 2005 for the murder of her uncle, his wife

Photo of Samar Saed Abdullah provided to CNN by her family

Photo of Samar Saed Abdullah provided to CNN by her family

and one of their children. She blamed her fiancé, saying he had committed the killings in order to rob her uncle. It is not known whether her fiancé has been arrested… At her trial, she alleged that after her arrest she had been held at a police station in Hay al-Khadhra in Baghdad and tortured by being beaten with a cable, beaten on the soles of her feet and subjected to electric shocks to make her confess…”

In an article written in September by CNN.com’s Arwa Damon, Samar Saed Abdullah describes her confession:

“They kept beating me, and they told me, ‘Say whatever we want you to say, and do not say anything else, and say yes, I was an accomplice to this crime.’ Although I had nothing to do with it. Finally, they made me sign a blank piece of paper, and they filled it out afterwards.”

An Iraqi organization, the Women’s Will Association, is trying to build an international coalition to put pressure on the Iraqi government to stop the executions immediately. This group and others suggest sending appeals immediately to representatives in Congress and to people and organizations like these:

Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights,
commissioner@coe.int

(United Nations) Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights,
civilsocietyunit@ohchr.org

Amnesty has suggested that urgent appeals be sent via the Iraqi embassy or diplomatic representative in your country, asking them to forward your appeals to Iraqi President Jalal Talabai.

Also, it can’t hurt to let the White House know what you think:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact

Doctors report “unprecedented” birth deformities, cancers in Iraq

As we in the news media like to say, violence has “abated” in Iraq. For example, on Monday it was reported that 16 people – including a member of the country’s main Sunni political party and several of his relatives – were killed by gunmen. And a parked car bomb exploded in a market in Kirkuk, killing five people and wounding seven others.

It’s sad to say that the death of 21 people is not too bad, but this is a country that, since the U.S. invasion, often saw a daily civilian death toll topping 100.

But there is another, more insidious violence that is on the rise and will likely continue to rise for generations to come.

The Guardian.co.uk reports that doctors in Fallujah are dealing with up to 15 times as many chronic deformities in infants and a spike in early life cancers that may be linked to toxic materials left over from the fighting.

The report said, “Neurologists and obstetricians in the city interviewed by the Guardian say the rise in birth defects – which include a baby born with two heads, babies with multiple tumours, and others with nervous system problems – are unprecedented and at present unexplainable.”

Actually, this rise in birth defects has been reported on – by, at least a handful of journalists – for years. Iraqi researchers and doctors – for years – have documented the rise of birth defects and cancer primarily in southern Iraq where most of the fighting took place in the first Gulf War. With the second war in Iraq, it seems obvious that the problem is spreading. Depleted uranium has been singled out as the most likely cause.

Depleted uranium, which is used for armor-piercing shells of various sizes, is a highly dense metal that is the byproduct of the process during which fissionable uranium used to manufacture nuclear bombs and reactor fuel is separated from natural uranium. DU remains radioactive for about 4.5 billion years. Many governments have outlawed the use of DU as weapons. The United States has not.

In 2002 and 2003, I researched the effects of depleted uranium in Iraq for stories in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper.

In the 2002 story:

“Although the Pentagon has sent mixed signals about the effects of depleted uranium, Iraqi doctors believe that it is responsible for a significant increase in cancer and birth defects in the region. Many researchers outside Iraq, and several U.S. veterans organizations, agree; they also suspect depleted uranium of playing a role in Gulf War Syndrome, the still-unexplained malady that has plagued hundreds of thousands of Gulf War veterans…”

At the Saddam Teaching Hospital in Basra, Dr. Jawad Al-Ali, a British-trained oncologist, showed me photo albums he kept of dead and deformed infants that he believed were linked to DU. There were photos of infants born without brains, with their internal organs outside their bodies, without sexual organs, without spines, and the list of deformities went on and on.

In the 2003 story:

“Doctors in Iraq say the number of cancers and birth defects may be devastating.

“‘This is the right time for active support to help prevent the catastrophic effects of the bombing,’ said Dr. Alim Yacoub, dean of the Al Mustansiriya Medical School in Baghdad.

‘“If there isn’t a centralized health plan soon, the consequences could be devastating,’ said Yacoub, the foremost Iraqi authority on the effects of DU. Yacoub has tracked the rise of cancer in Iraq for years, and places the blame squarely on DU.”

An Iraqi scientist, Souad N. Al-Azzawi documented the entire history of DU in Iraq and its devastating effects on the people there, in a presentation to the Kuala Lumpur International Conference to Criminalise War in October. Al-Azzawi, who was forced into exile from Iraq, has devoted many years to her work, at considerable personal risk.

So, the problem isn’t that the rise in cancer and birth defects in Iraq is “unprecedented” or “unexplainable.” The problem is the United States government, and other governments, won’t do anything about it.

Afghan politician visits West to call for withdrawal of troops

Malalai Joya, an Afghan politician who the BBC has called “the bravest woman in Afghanistan” for denouncing the warlords in the parliament, was in Western Washington recently. You wouldn’t know it from reading any of our struggling online or print news media. The only coverage was an interview Wednesday on KUOW’s Weekday program with Steve Scher.

One would think, with President Obama poised to send more troops to Afghanistan, that a book tour by a woman who became the youngest person to be elected to Afghanistan’s new parliament in 2005, would be a big deal for our local news folks. But, it wasn’t. I only found out about it after seeing a mention of it on an Afghan site, and then finding her itinerary on a local activist web page, Peace Action of Washington. The lesson, I guess, is that I should tune in to KUOW more often.

Malalai on Wednesday spoke about her country’s struggle and about her new memoir, A Woman Among Warlords at Antioch

Malalai Joya's new book

Malalai Joya's new book

University, Pacific Lutheran University and at Seattle First Baptist Church. On Thursday, she spoke at Western Washington University. From there she is heading across Canada.

In May 2007, Malalai, who, incidentally, has survived five assassination attempts, was suspended from the parliament on the grounds that she had insulted fellow representatives (War lords and drug lords are a sensitive lot). Her suspension, which she is appealing, has been protested by lawmakers, activists and intellectuals around the world.

Since most of us missed her talks, I’m reprinting some of Malalai’s key messages, taken from an essay she wrote for Britain’s The Independent just after the August elections in Afghanistan and from an article she wrote for the San Jose Mercury News on Tuesday:

“Democracy will never come to Afghanistan through the barrel of a gun, or from the cluster bombs dropped by foreign forces. The struggle will be long and difficult, but the values of real democracy, human rights and women’s rights will only be won by the Afghan people themselves.

“So do not be fooled by this façade of democracy. The British and other Western governments that claim to be bringing democracy to Afghanistan ignore public opinion in their own countries, where growing numbers are against the war.

“In my tours to countries that have troops in Afghanistan, I’ve met many bereaved parents who have lost their loved ones in the war in my home. I am very sorry to see governments putting the lives of their soldiers in danger in Afghanistan in the name of bringing democracy. In fact the soldiers are serving the strategic and regional interests of the White House and the consequences of their occupation so far have been devastating for my people.

“The worst casualty of this war is truth. Those who stand up and raise their voice against injustice, insecurity and occupation have their lives threatened and are forced to leave Afghanistan, or simply get killed.

“We are sandwiched between three powerful enemies: the occupation forces of the U.S. and NATO, the Taliban and the corrupt government of Hamid Karzai.

“Now President Obama is considering increasing troops to Afghanistan and simply extending former President Bush’s wrong policies. In fact, the worst massacres since 9/11 were during Obama’s tenure. My native province of Farah was bombed by the U.S. this past May. A hundred and fifty people were killed, most of them women and children. On Sept. 9, the U.S. bombed Kunduz Province, killing 200 civilians.

“My people are fed up. That is why we want an immediate end to the U.S. occupation.”

Obama talks of Hiroshima, Nagasaki visit, a guest blog by Joe Copeland

(This is a guest blog by Joe Copeland, a former Seattle Post-Intelligencer editorial writer. Joe was a visiting researcher at Hiroshima City University’s Hiroshima Peace Institute earlier this year as a Fulbright Scholar. Visit his blog here.)

Barack Obama would like to go where no sitting U.S. president has gone before: to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It’s a real statement of Obama’s interest in eliminating nuclear weapons.

In an interview with Japan’s NHK public broadcasting network in advance of a trip to the Asian country this week, Obama said, “The memories of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are etched in the minds of the world and I would be honored to have the opportunity to visit those cities at some point during my presidency.” After Tuesday’s broadcast, the mayors of the two atomic-bombed cities quickly welcomed the statement as a very positive sign.

In the United States, Associated Press reported the statement in terms of the possible political controversy at home. Some conservatives would try to make the president look like he was apologizing for the atomic bombings at the end of World War II and attempt to dismiss his pursuit of a nuclear weapons-free world as naïve.

Although an apology would be justified (as with so many actions on all sides of the war), it’s not going to happen when some 60 percent of Americans – especially those who are white and older – believe the bombings were justified. But thinking that something may have been justified in the context of the world’s worst war hardly eliminates the element of human sympathy most Americans can feel and their rational concern about nuclear dangers.

In any visit, Obama’s points would be to promote nuclear weapons nonproliferation, to mourn the tragic toll of hundreds of thousands of victims and to express the world’s hope that the August 1945 bombings remain the only atomic attacks. Across the political spectrum, most Americans would be in accord with the president. Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, former secretaries of state in Republican administrations, are active in promoting the complete abolition of nuclear weapons as a matter of national security.

Obama made no promises. But his interview will raise hopes even higher in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where people young and old had launched petitions asking the president to visit. As leaders of the international Mayors for Peace (Seattle’s outgoing leader, Greg Nickels, is a member), Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba and Nagasaki’s Tomihisa Taue have directed a great deal of attention to making progress on nuclear abolition when the United Nations holds a major review of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty next May. As Obama tries to contain and reduce nuclear dangers, a visit to Hiroshima or Nagasaki would be a powerful symbolic card to play.

New Jewish-American lobby pro-Israel and pro-peace

A reader comment about my blog on American Israel Public Affairs Committee, AIPAC, pointed out that there is new Jewish-American lobby called J Street that “seeks to present a different viewpoint on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that is more cognizant of the rights of the Palestinians.” He’s right. It is very different from AIPAC.

Here is how this new lobby describes itself: street photo

“J Street is the political arm of the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement.

“J Street was founded to promote meaningful American leadership to end the Arab-Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts peacefully and diplomatically. We support a new direction for American policy in the Middle East and a broad public and policy debate about the U.S. role in the region.

“J Street represents Americans, primarily but not exclusively Jewish, who support Israel and its desire for security as the Jewish homeland, as well as the right of the Palestinians to a sovereign state of their own – two states living side-by-side in peace and security. We believe ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is in the best interests of Israel, the United States, the Palestinians, and the region as a whole.

“J Street supports diplomatic solutions over military ones, including in Iran; multilateral over unilateral approaches to conflict resolution; and dialogue over confrontation with a wide range of countries and actors when conflicts do arise.”

As stated on its web site, the group’s positions on two key issues that have long stalled the peace process are encouraging.

On the status of Jerusalem: “Jerusalem’s ultimate status and borders should be negotiated and resolved as part of an agreement between official Israeli and Palestinian authorities and endorsed by both peoples.

“J Street would support the approach outlined in the Clinton parameters and other models of a two-state solution under which the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem would fall under Israeli sovereignty and the Arab neighborhoods would be under Palestinian sovereignty. Negotiations have produced creative ideas for resolving the hardest issues, including sovereignty and management arrangements for the Old City and the Holy Basin.”

On settlements: “Israel’s settlements in the occupied territories have, for over forty years, been an obstacle to peace. They have drained Israel’s economy, military, and democracy and eroded the country’s ability to uphold the rule of law.

“Continued settlement growth undermines the prospects for peace by making Palestinians doubt Israeli motives and commitment, and by complicating the territorial compromises that will be necessary in final status talks. The arrangements that have been made for the benefit of settlers and for security – checkpoints, settler-only roads, the route of the security barrier – have all made daily life more difficult for Palestinians, deepening hostility and increasing the odds of violence and conflict. A majority of Israelis have recognized this reality and oppose settlement expansion, yet their views have been outweighed by a small, vocal pro-settlement minority.

“J Street supports President Obama’s call for an immediate and total freeze of settlement construction.”

An Oct. 30 Reuters story described J Street as “a new pro-Israel lobby for the liberal majority of American Jews (78 percent voted for Obama) who do not feel represented by traditional pro-Israel advocacy groups, chief of them the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.”

For the sake of peace and justice for Palestinians and Israelis, let’s hope that that liberal majority of American Jews flock to J Street.

A few words on the Israeli lobby and Congress

Here’s how the powerful, pro-Israel lobby AIPAC describes itself:

“For more than half a century, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee has worked to help make Israel more secure by ensuring that American support remains strong. From a small pro-Israel public affairs boutique in the 1950s, AIPAC has grown into a 100,000-member national grassroots movement described by The New York Times as ‘the most important organization affecting America’s relationship with Israel.’”

Here’s how STOP AIPAC, a group formed by peace and justice activists in the San Francisco Bay Area, describes the lobby:

“AIPAC had played a key role in fomenting support for the U.S. invasion of Iraq. It is playing an even greater role in supporting a future military strike against the people of Iran… Only rarely is a critical word uttered among politicians regarding AIPAC and its associates that support unjust and aggressive and disastrous U.S. policies toward the peoples of the Middle East… For too long, policies that support Israeli militarism and occupation have gone unchallenged. Political voices raising even minor disagreements with prevailing policies are silenced or subject to campaigns of intimidation.”

Whichever view is right about AIPAC, the group – and Israel – certainly got a boost recently with the vote on House Resolution 867 which called on “the President and the Secretary of State to oppose unequivocally any endorsement or further consideration of the Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict… .”

You may recall from an earlier blog, that the report, by Richard Goldstone, a widely respected former prosecutor at the U.N. war crimes tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, condemned both Israel and the Palestinian authorities for war crimes during Israel’s military invasion of Gaza from December 27 to January 18. But it singled out Israel for “actions amounting to war crimes, possibly crimes against humanity.”

There were 344 representatives who voted for the resolution; only 36 voted against it. Washington state representatives Brian Baird and Jim McDermott were part of the lonely stand against the resolution. All the other Washington state representatives – Jay Inslee, Rick Larsen, Doc Hastings, Cathy McMorris, Norm Dicks, Dave Reichert and Adam Smith – voted in favor.

I’d like to hear sometime our lawmakers’ views on AIPAC.

On CIA rendition and torture charges

Italy convicted 23 CIA operatives on Wednesday in a 2003 Milan extraordinary rendition case.

Dan Murphy of the Christian Science Monitor wrote:

“After two years of wrangling to head off a case that centered around the Bush administration’s practice of abducting alleged terrorists abroad and sending them to friendly third states for interrogation, Italian prosecutors won a stunning victory on Wednesday, when 23 US intelligence agents were convicted in absentia by a Milan court for kidnapping.

“The practice of ‘extraordinary rendition’ became common for the CIA after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the US, with hundreds of alleged militants abducted in Europe and Central Asia and elsewhere, and delivered to states like Algeria, Egypt, and Syria, where torture is often used against presumed enemies of the state. The US says it received assurances that torture would not be used. But the practice has been especially controversial in Europe, where roughly 100 Muslim men have been abducted.

“In a ruling that could damage US-Italian relations, Robert Seldon Lady, the former CIA station chief in Milan, was handed an eight-year sentence, and the 22 others — all believed to have been CIA employees or contractors — were given five-year sentences for the 2003 abduction from a Milan street of Muslim cleric Hassan Moustafa Osama Nasr. The convicted Americans were also ordered to pay Mr. Nasr and his wife $2 million. It was the first conviction for a rendition case. None of the men are in Italy, and their whereabouts have not been disclosed.”

Meanwhile, also on Wednesday, Daniel Tencer writing for the alternative news site, “The Raw Story,” describes the experience of Britain’s former ambassador in Uzbekistan with the CIA rendition program in that totalitarian country:

“The CIA relied on intelligence based on torture in prisons in Uzbekistan, a place where widespread torture practices include raping suspects with broken bottles and boiling them alive, says a former British ambassador to the central Asian country.

“Craig Murray, the rector of the University of Dundee in Scotland and until 2004 the UK’s ambassador to Uzbekistan, said the CIA not only relied on confessions gleaned through extreme torture, it sent terror war suspects to Uzbekistan as part of its extraordinary rendition program.

“‘I’m talking of people being raped with broken bottles,’ he said at a lecture late last month that was re-broadcast by The Real News Network. ‘I’m talking of people having their children tortured in front of them until they sign a confession. I’m talking of people being boiled alive. And the intelligence from these torture sessions was being received by the CIA, and was being passed on.’”

Murray was dismissed as ambassador in 2004 after he documented and raised questions to his superiors about the CIA rendition program in Uzbekistan, the horrific torture taking place in prisons there and that the United States and Britain were relying on that torture to provide them information on suspected terrorists.

The British government first tried to convict Murray of 18 charges, ranging from issuing visas in exchange for sex to driving a car down a flight of stairs. He was cleared of all the charges but not before the details were leaked to the press. With his 20-year career with the British Foreign Service over, Murray continued to work to expose and end torture.

These two news items show how important it is that the U.S. investigation of torture and other war crimes that involve CIA officials and former White House officials be allowed to continue. It will likely be a very ugly can of worms, but it’s time we took a look.