War: April 2003 Archives

Our Constitution and the Fourth Amendment don't really mean anything if Congress can pass laws abrogating it and the courts don't care.

I can't even go out to dinner without worrying whether the restaurant will be raided?

Alternet has a story by an American who was held for an hour and a half in a Times Square area restaurant when it was raided by the NYPD, INS, and Department of Homeland Security. I will quote some of it, but you should go read the whole thing.

That night, March 20th, my roommate Asher and I were on our way to see the Broadway show "Rent." We had an hour to spare before curtain time so we stopped into an Indian restaurant just off of Times Square in the heart of midtown. I have omitted the name of the restaurant so as not to subject the owners to any further harassment or humiliation.

We helped ourselves to the buffet and then sat down to begin eating our dinner. I was just about to tell Asher how I'd eaten there before and how delicious the vegetable curry was, but I never got a chance. All of a sudden, there was a terrible commotion and five NYPD in bulletproof vests stormed down the stairs. They had their guns drawn and were pointing them indiscriminately at the restaurant staff and at us.


The police placed their fingers on the triggers of their guns and kicked open the kitchen doors. Shouts emanated from the kitchen and a few seconds later five Hispanic men were made to crawl out on their hands and knees, guns pointed at them.

After patting us all down, the five officers seated us at two tables. As they continued to kick open doors to closets and bathrooms with their fingers glued to their triggers, no less than ten officers in suits emerged from the stairwell. Most of them sat in the back of the restaurant typing on their laptop computers. Two of them walked over to our table and identified themselves as officers of the INS and Homeland Security Department.

I explained that we were just eating dinner and asked why we were being held. We were told by the INS agent that we would be released once they had confirmation that we had no outstanding warrants and our immigration status was OK'd.


"You have no right to hold us," Asher insisted.

"Yes, we have every right," responded one of the agents. "You are being held under the Patriot Act following suspicion under an internal Homeland Security investigation."

When I asked to speak to a lawyer, the INS official informed me that I do have the right to a lawyer but I would have to be brought down to the station and await security clearance before being granted one. When I asked how long that would take, he replied with a coy smile: "Maybe a day, maybe a week, maybe a month."

We insisted that we had every right to leave and were going to do so. One of the policemen walked over with his hand on his gun and taunted: "Go ahead and leave, just go ahead."


As I continued to press for legal counsel, a female officer who had been busy typing on her laptop in the front of the restaurant, walked over and put her finger in my face. "We are at war, we are at war and this is for your safety," she exclaimed. As she walked away from the table, she continued to repeat it to herself? "We are at war, we are at war. How can they not understand this."


After an hour and a half the INS agent walked back over and handed Asher and me our licenses. A policeman took us by the arm and escorted us out of the building. Before stepping out to the street, the INS agent apologized. He explained, in a low voice, that they did not think the two of us were in the restaurant. Several of the other patrons, though of South Asian descent, were in fact U.S. citizens. There were four taxi drivers, two students, one newspaper salesman – unwitting customers, just like Asher and me. I doubt, though, they received any apologies from the INS or the Department of Homeland Security.

Meanwhile, President Bush will tell Americans on Thursday evening that the major fighting in Iraq is over and the threat to the United States has ended, a Bush administration spokesman said.

I just came across this story from last week:

Marines Feast on Saddam's Wild Gazelles

TIKRIT, Iraq -- Supper time has become a double treat at a Marine base outside Saddam Hussein's hometown -- not only is there fresh meat, but it's from Saddam's personal hunting preserve.

The Tikrit South airfield, where Marine Wing Support Squadron 271 set up base in this week's campaign to take the city, is on the edge of a preserve where Saddam and favored guests once hunted gazelle.


The marines are using 9mm pistols to hunt after initially being forbidden to use firearms for fear that gunshots in the woods might be mistaken for enemy fire.

"We hunted them with rocks, as Stone Age as that sounds," Wicksell said. "We gutted them and skinned them and pretty much carried them over our shoulders barbarian-style."

FYI: The species of gazelles found in this region are endangered.

Worth Street Theater, the closest theater to Ground Zero, presents Voices of Peace & Dissent from Ground Zero.

Beginning Monday, April 7, The Worth Street Theater Compapny @ The Tribeca Playhouse presents Voices of Peace & Dissent from Ground Zero.

Voices of Peace & Dissent from Ground Zero will feature a rotating cast of actors, activists and celebrities in curated evenings of pro-peace/anti-war texts spanning history from the Ancient Greeks to the present day - featuring such political oratory as Robert Byrd's speech to the Senate, Robin Cook's recent resignation from the British Cabinet, as well as contributions from Eric Bogosian, Tony Kushner and other contemporary playwrights.

By that I mean us, not the Iraqi people. The Bush administration can spend $400-500 billion per year on weaponry, but we're not going to spend the money it will take to make Iraq any kind of livable place for its people.

Not only have we killed and maimed untold civilians -- warning: graphic photos, not what the U.S. media shows -- we have allowed treasures from the dawn of civilization to be plundered over a two day period from the National Museum of Iraq. Somehow we found the resources to protect the Oil Ministry in Baghdad and the oil facilities of Kirkuk, but not the hospitals.

The response of our "leaders"? Rumsfeld:

Rumsfeld: Let me say one other thing. The images you are seeing on television you are seeing over, and over, and over, and it's the same picture of some person walking out of some building with a vase, and you see it 20 times, and you think, "My goodness, were there that many vases?" (Laughter.) "Is it possible that there were that many vases in the whole country?"

Q: Do you think that the words "anarchy" and "lawlessness" are ill-chosen --

Rumsfeld: Absolutely. I picked up a newspaper today and I couldn't believe it. I read eight headlines that talked about chaos, violence, unrest. And it just was Henny Penny -- "The sky is falling." I've never seen anything like it! And here is a country that's being liberated, here are people who are going from being repressed and held under the thumb of a vicious dictator, and they're free. And all this newspaper could do, with eight or 10 headlines, they showed a man bleeding, a civilian, who they claimed we had shot -- one thing after another. It's just unbelievable how people can take that away from what is happening in that country!

Do I think those words are unrepresentative? Yes.


And, does that mean you couldn't go in there and take a television camera or get a still photographer and take a picture of something that was imperfect, untidy? I could do that in any city in America. Think what's happened in our cities when we've had riots, and problems, and looting. Stuff happens! But in terms of what's going on in that country, it is a fundamental misunderstanding to see those images over, and over, and over again of some boy walking out with a vase and say, "Oh, my goodness, you didn't have a plan." That's nonsense. They know what they're doing, and they're doing a terrific job. And it's untidy, and freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things. They're also free to live their lives and do wonderful things, and that's what's going to happen here.

The people of Baghdad are holding protests about the lack of power and water, and the inability of our troops to quell the looting. We responded with an example of how protest is allowed in our democracy these days:

Scores of Iraqis protested in Baghdad on Sunday, accusing U.S. forces of being concerned only with oil and not with helping Iraq get back on its feet.

American soldiers erected a barbed wire barricade to separate protesters from the central Palestine Hotel where most of the international media is based in the Iraqi capital.

The latest news out of Washington is that we expect to get away with not spending too much of our own money for reconstruction:

The Bush administration on Friday played down the need for a costly reconstruction effort in Iraq, citing limited damage to the country's oil fields and other infrastructure and rapid progress in the war.

The White House has not put a dollar figure on rebuilding Iraq, but officials expressed confidence that the cost to U.S. taxpayers can be offset with increased oil production and financial contributions from U.S. allies.

"There's just no reason that this can't be an affordable endeavor," said White House budget director Mitch Daniels.

Daniels and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the bombing campaign was so precise there was minimal damage to Iraq's civilian infrastructure.

"I don't know that there is much reconstruction to do," Rumsfeld told reporters late Thursday.

On the homefront, our slide into a police state continues unabated. The media and courts are silent as Mike Hawash, an American citizen, continues to be held without charge and without access to his family or a lawyer. Jose Padilla is still not allowed to talk to anyone, including a lawyer. A few days ago, more details were revealed about the NYPD's practice of asking protesters about their political background:

Donna Lieberman, the Civil Liberties Union executive director, said that after questioning the arrested demonstrators about their political ties, detectives filed the information on a form with a federal seal and entered it into a database.

In addition, she said, the protesters had been denied the right to counsel after they had been arrested.

Joel Kupferman, a lawyer representing the National Lawyers Guild, said that demonstrators have told him that while in custody at One Police Plaza they were asked the following questions by detectives:

"What is your view of Israel? What is your view of Palestine? What do you think of 9/11? And where were you during 9/11?"


Protesters did not have their constitutional rights violated because they were questioned during the arrest process, added the commissioner.

Apparently Police Commissioner Ray Kelly believes that asking someone about their politics while you're arresting them falls under the category of questions like name and address. A lot of people think he's behaving this way because he wants to get appointed to a position in the Bush regime.

Did they suspend the Constitution for NYC while I wasn't looking?

AP Story:

NEW YORK -- Police detectives have questioned hundreds of anti-war protesters about their political affiliations, a practice ended this week after civil libertarians complained that it violated the Constitution, police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Thursday.

Kelly said he had been unaware of the practice and was changing department policy to assure that such activities would not recur without top officials' approval.

He said the agency was destroying an internal database containing the information.

Detectives from the police department's intelligence division had used debriefing forms to record where arrested demonstrators attended school, what membership they had in any organizations and any involvement in past protests.

"I don't think there are constitutional issues here," Kelly said at a news conference at police headquarters. "We believe it was a legitimate question with no compulsion to answer."

Chris Dunn, associate legal director for the New York Civil Liberties Union, said Thursday that demonstrators were denied access to lawyers during the questioning and told that requesting an attorney would delay their release.

"They are investigating and interrogating people about protected political activity," Dunn said. "They are clearly coercing people into giving up this information."


The department did not believe suspects had the right to see an attorney during the questioning because it was a part of routine processing, he said.

Apparently we're not allowed to carry any signs except "approved" ones on the sidewalks either.

'Hitler' Exec Producer Fired Over Remarks

LOS ANGELES (Zap2it.com) - The executive producer of a CBS miniseries about Adolf Hitler's rise to power has been fired after giving an interview in which he compared the current mood of Americans to that of the Germans who helped Hitler rise to power.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Gernon was fired Sunday (April 6) from Alliance Atlantis, the production company making "Hitler: The Rise of Evil" for CBS. He had worked there 11 years and was head of the firm's long-form programming division.

Neither Gernon nor Alliance Atlantis is commenting on the matter.

"Hitler" has caused controversy ever since CBS announced its intentions last summer. In an interview with TV Guide about the four-hour film, scheduled for May, Gernon compares many Americans' acceptance of a war in Iraq to the fearful climate in post-World War I Germany, of which Hitler took advantage to become its ruler.

"It basically boils down to an entire nation gripped by fear, who ultimately chose to give up their civil rights and plunged the whole nation into war," Gernon said in the interview. "I can't think of a better time to examine this history than now."


[via Eschaton]

The American press acts like there were hundreds of thousands of Iraqis celebrating as the statue of Saddam Hussein was pulled down by an American tank in Baghdad -- a city of 4.8 million people.

statue1.jpg Goran Tomasevic/Reuters

Reuters TV

Reuters TV

Karen Moulding, fabulous activist lawyer and GLAMerican, gave me permission to post this report from yesterday's demo, where the police arrested people for simply being on the sidewalk with signs.

Yesterday morning I accompanied several members of the "Glamericans for Peace" at a legal, sidewalk demonstration in support of others committing non-violent civil disobedience outside a corporation called "The Carlyse Group." An attorney with ample demonstrations experience, I was there as a "legal observer," but no one in my group anticipated arrest, and we all assumed we'd be on our way to our jobs within an hour.

The Glamericans stood with a few dozen others, holding funny yet to-the-point signs (many ironic, such as, "make war not love," "paranoia is patriotic," "more blood for oil," "stocks and bombs," etc.), and dressed as rich folk (pin stripe suits, etc.). Across the street, those who had planned to commit civil disobedience sat at the corporation's entrance, and were arrested as planned.

Then, without warning, police surrounded and arrested the peaceful demonstrators on the sidewalk across the street. The police gave no order to disperse, and, in fact, the demonstrators were not even in the way of other pedestrians. The cops simply surrounded the legal protest, and conducted a "surprise arrest" of everyone standing on the sidewalk, including a 70+ year old woman, a journalist, and dozens of others who had planned to go to work that day. Many asked the police if they could please leave, and were refused. When I approached the captain and asked what the charges could possibly be, and informed him that people were not causing any blockade and wanted to leave, he said, "get on the sidewalk or I'll have you arrested too."

This no-warning "surprise" arrest of peaceful legal demonstrators, who were not blocking pedestrian or vehicular traffic, serves no purpose other than to chill the First Amendment right to demonstrate. Someone in command apparently hopes that next time the demonstrators will remember the inconvenience and stay home rather than assemble to express their views. Even some of the cops themselves seemed privately distraught by this senseless tactic, which, apart from the violation of the 1st Amendment, is a waste of both energy and tax payer dollars.

The one hundred plus arrestees were charged with Disorderly Conduct, and held for up to 10 hours for processing. Many were not released until 10 p.m. I attempted to gain entrance to the precinct to oversee processing, and police officials told me "attorneys can stand over there" and pointed to a barricaded area outdoors. (It was 30 degrees out, and snowing.)

I've been an attorney at all kinds of demonstrations --hundreds and hundreds of demonstrations-- for years, and I've never seen police behavior so obviously designed to discourage the right to peaceful protest. We need to demand that the police be encouraged to proudly protect the First Amendment right to demonstrate peacefully, rather than use scare tactics to pre-empt it. Otherwise, any claim to "patriotism" is a farce.


Greenpeace activist Mikey Rosato holds a 'No War' banner as he dangles from the bow of the guided missile frigate HMAS Sydney as she left for Iraq (AFP/GREENPEACE/Tim Cole)

(Click image for the story and more images)

After reading all of the puff pieces on the death of Michael Kelly, David E gives us a welcome antidote, titled Speaking Ill of the Dead. Michael Kelly, assuming homosexuality was some kind of decadence of the elite, gave us this as an example of what is wrong with liberalism:

One of those cultural interests is stamping out discrimination against gays. The problem is, all the people who are for this don't have their children in those schools anymore. The sons and daughters of editorial writers at the New York Times haven't been in those schools for generations. The children who are in those schools are the sons and daughters of working-class people, many of them immigrants, many of them Catholics, and they don't want their children propagandized against their wishes.

The working class don't have any homosexuals, right? It's only rich lefty pansies, and no working class man ever killed a homosexual who didn't deserve it.

Mourn for the dead Iraqis, Americans, British, and journalists of many nationalities who have died in the war, but not for those who helped send them there with writings like these:

The depth of denial here is stunning. Lieven concedes that the militarily superior United States probably could topple Saddam's regime. But what then? He writes: "The 'democracy' which replaces it will presumably resemble that of Afghanistan--a ramshackle coalition of ethnic groups and warlords, utterly dependent on U.S. military power and utterly subservient to U.S. (and Israeli) wishes."

Yes, I suppose what exists in Afghanistan is only (so far, at least) a "democracy,"' not a democracy. And it sure is ethnic. And ramshackle. And, sure, post-Saddam Iraq would probably be the same.

But isn't Afghanistan after America's rescue a better place to live than it was before? I mean, again, from the liberal point of view: no more throwing homosexuals off buildings, whipping women, banning kites, that sort of thing. No more fascists.


These people could be liberated from this horror--relatively easily and very quickly. There is every reason to think that an American invasion will swiftly vanquish the few elite units that can be counted on to defend the detested Saddam; and that the victory will come at the cost of few--likely hundreds, not thousands or tens of thousands--Iraqi and American lives. There is risk here; and if things go terribly wrong it is a risk that could result in terrible suffering. But that is an equation that is present in any just war, and in this case any rational expectation has to consider the probable cost to humanity low and the probable benefit tremendous. To choose perpetuation of tyranny over rescue from tyranny, where rescue may be achieved, is immoral.


To march against the war is not to give peace a chance. It is to give tyranny a chance. It is to give the Iraqi nuke a chance. It is to give the next terrorist mass murder a chance. It is to march for the furtherance of evil instead of the vanquishing of evil.

For those who think Afghanistan is fine now, and we're going do the same for Iraq, I recommend reading this post from Digby -- direct link might not work. The Taliban is organized enough in Afghanistan to be killing Red Cross workers, and remember this story from February 14:

The United States Congress has stepped in to find nearly $300 million in humanitarian and reconstruction funds for Afghanistan after the Bush administration failed to request any money in the latest budget.

A Tomahawk missile, of which we have dropped hundreds on Iraq, cost $1.4 million each.

Police Attack California Anti-War Protesters

OAKLAND, Calif. - Police open fired Monday morning with non-lethal bullets at an anti-war protest at the Port of Oakland, injuring several longshoremen standing nearby.

Police were trying to clear protesters from an entrance to the docks when they opened fire and the longshoremen apparently were caught in the line of fire.

Six longshoremen were treated by paramedics and at least one was expected to be taken to a hospital. It was unclear if any of the protesters was injured.

"I was standing as far back as I could," said longshoreman Kevin Wilson. "It was very scary. All of that force wasn't necessary."


A protestor, who refused to give her name, bears the wounds after she says was hit by Oakland police weapon during a anti-war protest in Oakland, Calif., Monday, Aug. 7, 2003 outside the port area. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

Also there was a demonstration at Carlyle Group in Manhattan today. I can understand that those engaged in non-violent civil disobedience were arrested, but the police also arrested legal protesters across the street from Carlyle.

There will be a demo in support of those people at One Police Plaza tonight beginning 5-6pm.

I think we all better leave before the 2004 GOP convention is held in NYC.


Update: Yahoo has a story with photos on the Oakland attack.

I wrote about this project in late February right before it happened: "a live satellite conversation between students in Iraq and students in America to include the voice of a younger generation in the current public discourse."

I just watched a few minutes of the show on WNYE (channel 25 in Manhattan), and I'm ordering the video. The American students were at DCTV, and the Iraqi students were at this gallery -- yes they have a web site. You can order the video, or watch a few minutes from it here.

They have been unable to get any of the major networks interested in the show. I heard the producers this morning on WNYC's On The Media show.

I'm not sure I recognize this country anymore. I think we've slipped down the rabbit hole and only a few people I know are still sane.

Americans say they're ready to go after Iran and Syria next, and that driving Hummers is patriotic. They think war is something to watch on TV. This is also war, more than driving some 10 mpg SUV is:


William Buesing III, the biological father of U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Brian Buesing, is overcome with grief as he holds the U.S. Flag presented to him at the funeral services for his son Saturday, April 5, 2003 at Cedar Key, Fla.

The government can hold American citizens in jail without charging them using sealed warrants. We are not a nation of laws if no one bothers to enforce the Constitution, and frankly that's one of the only good aspects of our society. If we lose that, what do we get to be proud of? A commercial culture? The fact we can't provide healthcare to over 41 million Americans? That we make things like Something About Mary: The Collectors Edition?

The latest Village Voice has a good essay by Barbara Pollack on the history of protest art. One of my favorite paragragraphs is:

Across the Met in the Assyrian gallery, artists gathered on March 5, Moratorium Day, to stage a more contemporary version of anti-war art-making, a "Draw-In for Peace," organized by Artists Against the War, and focusing attention to the wealth of archaeological treasures in Iraq, as well as the human life, that could be destroyed by American bombing. "If you are a serious artist, you don't want to make work that is thought of as agitprop," says Joyce Kozloff, one of the event's organizers, "but now I feel that what I want is to learn to do that and fast."

Here are links to some of the works and artists discussed in the essay:

I was at a meeting of queer anti-war activists last night, and we were talking about how some groups seem to want to focus on war profiteering, as if the dollars were the point as much as the lives being lost. My favorite response to that, from someone at the meeting:

I would still be against a not-for-profit war.

Via The Guardian and Common Dreams:

A few miles from the bridge to the south lie the ruins of the ancient city of Ur, founded 8,000 years ago, the birth place of Abraham and a flourishing metropolis at a time when the inhabitants of north-west Europe were still walking round in animal skins.

Sgt Sprague, from White Sulphur Springs in West Virginia, passed it on his way north, but he never knew it was there.

"I've been all the way through this desert from Basra to here and I ain't seen one shopping mall or fast food restaurant," he said. "These people got nothing. Even in a little town like ours of twenty five hundred people you got a McDonald's at one end and a Hardee's at the other."

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