Thursday, June 26, 2014

"A Call for Solidarity From Iraq"

2014-06-26 by Falah Alwan for "Common Dreams" []:
Falah Alwan, President of the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq, testifies on toxic legacy of U.S. war on Iraq at the People's Hearing in Washington, DC on March 27, 2014. (Photo: Cassidy Regan)
As violence in Iraq continues to escalate, and the United States deploys 300 special forces to gather intelligence for potential air strikes, ordinary Iraqi people are caught in the middle of a conflict set in motion by U.S. occupation. The United Nations reported on Tuesday that violence in Iraq over the past two weeks has killed at least 1,000 people and left another 1,000 injured. The U.S. hawks responsible for the 2003 invasion of Iraq  are calling for aggressive military action, but voices within Iraq and across the world warn that U.S. strikes, troops, and war will only make the tragedy worse.
Common Dreams staff writer Sarah Lazare interviews Falah Alwan, President of the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq. Communicating by E-mail from Sadr City, Baghdad where he is based, Alwan discusses discrimination, oppression, and 'modern-day colonialism' in Iraq; the U.S. role in militarizing and dividing society; and how people in the U.S. can stand in solidarity at this difficult time.

SL: What are the root causes of Iraq's escalating violence? What is the role of U.S. occupation and arms flow to the region in stoking sectarian politics?
FA: The main reason behind the current wave of violence is the policies of the sectarian government. The people's demands against discrimination are fair, but the armed political powers have conquered these provinces with their model: brutal fascist control. There is no need to add that the U.S, occupation was and still is the main motive, which is feeding and perpetuating the sectarian policies and conflicts.

SL: Some U.S. political forces are saying the violence in Iraq shows that the U.S. should never have "ended" the war and should in fact invade. What is your response?
FA: The violence—or rather, the recent tragedy of the society in Iraq—is the logical outcome of the U.S. war and invasion, so the U.S. has flamed an endless fire, and the new intervention will fuel the fire.

SL: How can people in the U.S. best stand in solidarity with the Iraqi people at this difficult time?
FA: I think the efforts to compel the U.S. administration to stop its political support to Maliki will be supportive to the front of the opposition against Maliki`s polices. On the other hand, revealing the role of the U.S. in installing Maliki personally as prime minister of Iraq during Bush's reign will be a good initiative, as well as supporting the Iraqi movements for progress.

SL: Are there any other messages you would like to send people in the U.S.?
FA: I think the situation in Iraq is not a result of merely arbitrary events or a result of the bad behavior of the leaders. It is the result of creating or forcing a new political regime and a new distribution of the wealth and power between new political parties, which have been installed by the occupation, according to the interests of the capitalists in the U.S., who are oppressing the people in both nations U.S. and Iraq, but in different ways.
This includes devastating the life and the society in Iraq, seizing the resources, converting it into a battlefield, militarizing daily life. They are oppressing the people, especially the working class, by stealing and seizing their real wages by the taxes, and militarizing the economy and causing vast unemployment.
All the parties in power are representing bourgeois wings.They have become rulers by the U.S. invasion, not by a political development and struggle, so they are backed by the U.S. administration. They all have signed the agreements with the IMF and World Bank, accepting all the orders and conditions of these imperialist organizations.
It is the same class hegemony of the imperialism exercised over the world: a modern kind of colonialism. The recent violence resulted, by the endeavor of the parties in power, to restrain and concentrate the power in the fists of a handful of politicians. This causes the continued ignoring of the people's demands, discrimination and marginalization of many people according to their sect, ethnicity, gender, race, etc. This government, and the whole state of Iraq, is corrupted, dysfunctional, and can never be reformed.

SL: How is the violence in Iraq affecting poor and working people?
We need to distinguish more than one kind of violence. All of them are affecting the poor, toiling, and working people.
Since 2003—for more than one decade—the daily bombing of cars and improvised explosive devices have targeting civilians, especially the poor and crowded provinces. The construction workers, the poor sellers, and porters were repeatedly targeted by the deadly attacks. The violence and oppression of the militias and armed groups are affecting the inhabitants in the provinces under their control, especially women. They are imposing their orders and traditions by force, under the name of Sharia.
The other manner of violence is that of the government against the people, especially against the workers. This includes: preventing the peaceful demonstrations, shooting the sit-in protests, and arresting the activists. In addition, the governmental forces are treating the people in the western governorates roughly and severely, arresting the young people arbitrary and storming into the houses without official warrants. These are examples of what are going on.

SL: What is your expectation for the future?
FA: In a word: a dark and uncertain future. It is a fluid situation and nobody can anticipate the directions of the events. It is an open end, and more than one option is expected. The internal war could continue; a compromise and local solution could be reached, such as the federalization of the west of Iraq; the country could be divided or the government partially changed.
I haven't mentioned the whole revolution in Iraq despite the readiness of the subjective conditions, but the reactionary movements and political forces have imposed their influence and perspective in this crisis and have polarized a huge number of people towards their polices.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

"Mass Action Needed Now to Demand; End to U.S. Involvement in Iraq!"

Issued by the Labor Fightback Network. For more information, please call [973-944-8975] or email or write Labor Fightback Network, P.O. Box 187, Flanders, NJ  07836 or visit our website at []. Facebook link: []
"Imagine how much stronger the U.S. antiwar movement would be today if its major formations joined together to issue a Call for united demonstrations on both coasts to demand an end to U.S. intervention in Iraq. Such a Call would not, of course, preclude additional actions being organized independently by participating groups, but would result in an urgently needed national focus that would have the potential of bringing huge masses of people into the streets."

1. It's Primarily About Oil -
Much has been written in past days about the December 2011 withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Iraq. But not much has been said about the U.S.'s  retaining a very sizable presence in that beleaguered country after that date. For starters, there is the largest and most expensive embassy in the world covering 4,700,000 sq. ft. and employing a staff of 15,000. And then there are the 13,500 military and security contractors, including those working for the State Department. Add to that the special ops and CIA personnel and it amounts to a huge U.S. investment of personnel and resources in Iraq.
What was behind the government's resolve to maintain such an extensive oversight of Iraq? In two words, it was primarily oil. After all, Iraq has been the second largest producer of crude oil in OPEC.
It is no wonder that during the height of the U.S. war and occupation of Iraq, a favorite demand of peace activists was "No War for Oil!" And let's not forget that in the earliest stages of the war and occupation of Iraq, widespread looting was ignored by the authorities, with one exception: the Oil Ministry was secured and protected.
On a number of occasions Obama has cited oil as a key factor that had to be considered in connection with Iraq, once referring to the "tyranny of oil."

2. The Latest Escalation -
The June 19 announcement by Obama that the U.S. will now send up to 300 "security forces advisers" to Iraq and that "targeted" air strikes are very much on the table is obviously a major escalation of U.S. involvement in Iraq.
The promise that there will be no U.S. boots on the ground has been shunted aside as the U.S. moves more air and naval weapons of death and destruction to the war zone. And once again Washington is bankrolling military intervention, whereas what is urgently needed is more funding for jobs, infrastructure, education and social programs here at home.
The capture of Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, on June 10, 2014, by forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) and its advancement on a number of fronts is the rationale given for the U.S. escalation.
There is likely to be confusion on the part of some Americans who genuinely believe in peace -- leaving aside the neoconservatives and others who never met a war they didn't like. After all, ISIS's avowed goal is a renewed Sunni Islamic caliphate -- a single theocratic state for the entire Islamic world. They reject any form of a secular state and believe that only religious law -- the Islamic sharia -- is valid.
Their extreme fanaticism and brutality are horrific. They believe that Shia Muslims -- who are the majority in Iraq -- are "infidels" and worthy of death. They accord women a virtually enslaved existence. The ease with which the ISIS took possession of Mosul from the Iraqi central government raises the question of whether the United States should step in to stop the violence and prevent this fanatical and thoroughly reactionary terrorist organization from imposing its rule on any more territory.
But such involvement poses a clear and present danger of a greatly expanded regional war and contravenes the fundamental principle that  -- whatever the problems are in the region -- they must be settled by the people there, not by U.S. intervention.
There is far greater pressure on the Obama administration to intervene in Iraq than there was to intervene in Syria. Syria has very few oil resources; Iraq's are among the largest on earth. Washington's objective is to control Iraqi oil production and distribution, making sure that oil-field supply and construction firms like Halliburton and Schlumberger are able to make super-profits in Iraq and that Iraq not provide oil at preferential pricing to China.
What is going on now is the unraveling of the U.S. Middle East policy as carried out by six previous administrations. Even though U.S. interventionism in the region has been a complete failure on so many levels, the Obama administration has not fundamentally turned away from it. It is seeking through a variety of actions to impose its dominance on Middle Eastern politics. U.S. intervention, even if one believes it is well-intentioned, has not brought about peace and in fact has made life far worse for the civilian populations of Iraq, Syria, and other countries of the region. Kevin Martin, the national executive director of Peace Action, likened it to attempting to fight a fire by pouring gasoline on it. It has to be stopped.
The U.S.'s objectives in the region have absolutely nothing to do with democracy, human rights, women's rights, progressive secularism, or peace. Moreover, U.S. involvement on any level will not be beneficial to the Iraqi people in any way. It has to be opposed unconditionally.

3. Where Do We Go From Here?
In spite of the complex political situation in Iraq, there is  overwhelming opposition among the American people for any new involvement in that country. Even some Republicans who wholeheartedly supported George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq in 2003 are now calling it a mistake which should not be repeated.  The spontaneous and massive public outcry from all across the country against the threatened bombing of Syria, reinforced by committed activists who took to the streets in several cities, proved to be sufficient at that time to deter the Obama administration from ordering air strikes.
We believe that there is an imperative need for committed peace and social justice groups to organize united mass actions to demand that the United States stay completely out of the conflict. That means: no special forces, no ground troops, no military advisers, no air strikes, no "training," no "intelligence gathering," no drones, no weapons and no money to any belligerent forces. Actions in the streets have already begun. Antiwar vigils have taken place in Washington and local demonstrations are planned for the weekend of June 21-22 in many cities.
Peace activists need to reach out to unions, communities of color, students, the feminist and LGBT movements, the environmentalist movement, the faith community, veterans and other groups. Representatives of those constituencies need to meet together and come to agreement on mass actions in the streets to oppose any U.S. involvement in Iraq. There is no alternative to unity and there is no time more important to forge that unity than now.
If you and/or your organization agree with this perspective, please let us hear from you. Imagine how much stronger the U.S. antiwar movement would be today if its major formations joined together to issue a Call for united demonstrations on both coasts to demand an end to U.S. intervention in Iraq. Such a Call would not, of course, preclude additional actions being organized independently by participating groups, but would result in an urgently needed national focus that would have the potential of bringing huge masses of people into the streets.

Monday, June 23, 2014

"Protests at the White House and nationwide demand no war on Iraq; Actions across the country oppose all U.S. intervention"

2014-06-23 []:
Opponents of the U.S. war machine rallied outside the White House June 21, joining national days of action held throughout the week. The demonstration was attended by members of the ANSWER Coalition, Veterans for Peace, Military Families Speak Out, CODEPINK and others.
On the same day, actions were held in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, Eureka, Aubern and Fresno in California; Tallahassee, Fla.; New Haven, Conn.; Boston, Mass.; Minneapolis, Minn.; Pittsburgh, Penn; and Las Vegas, Nev. Altogether, over 20 actions were held across the country in response to the call for the days of action.
Protesters were responding to the increasingly aggressive posture of the U.S. government towards Iraq, especially the threat of a bombing campaign. That Thursday, President Obama announced that up to 300 U.S. military “advisers” would be sent to Iraq.
But the anti-war movement is not fooled by this label. Speaking at the White House rally, ANSWER National Coordinator Brian Becker said, “We recognize that when President Obama says he’s sending military advisers, this is the unmistakable path towards escalation.”
The sickening hypocrisy of the U.S. government, which instigated civil war to divide resistance to the occupation that began in 2003 but is now feigning humanitarian concern, was also a theme of the D.C. action. Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, told the rally, “I was in Iraq in 2002 with former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark … at that time, the Iraqi people didn’t see themselves as divided along sectarian and religious lines, they saw themselves as a people, as a united people. But the U.S. government and the generals looked at Iraq and said, ‘let us sow the seeds of division.’”
Eugene Puryear of the ANSWER Coalition added, “They don’t ask anyone from the anti-war movement to come on the Sunday shows, and that’s because we were right in 2003 and we’re right now, and they don’t want to be exposed.” Many of the speakers and participants at the rally called for war criminals like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, who are now being treated as experts and collecting huge speaking fees, to be held accountable for the atrocities they are responsible for.
The days of action initiated by the ANSWER Coalition and supported by Veterans For Peace, World Can't Wait, CODEPINK and others, showed that the people of the United States do not want a new war, and will fight back against any attempt to escalate U.S. intervention in a conflict that is itself a product of U.S. intervention.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

"Obama announces escalation in Iraq; ANSWER Coalition responds to President Obama’s speech on Iraq"

2014-06-19 []:
What U.S. military "advisers" look like

Sending hundreds of U.S. military "advisers" was precisely the path taken by President Kennedy at the start of the Vietnam War.

The following was written by Brian Becker, National Coordinator of the ANSWER Coalition, in response to President Obama's speech on June 19, 2014.
President Obama’s speech to the American people, announcing his decision to re-engage Iraq militarily, lacked honesty and candor about the responsibility that the U.S. government bears for the shredding of Iraq as a unitary nation.
Now is the time for a massive grassroots opposition to an escalating U.S. war in Iraq. It was the national and international opposition that forced President Obama to back away from a wider war in Syria last September. Now we will do it again. We will be in the streets and the offices of Congress and the White House will be flooded with emails and calls demanding a complete withdrawal from Iraq.
The present civil conflict in Iraq is a result of the U.S. war and occupation, which destroyed the Iraqi government and divided the country along sectarian lines in order to conquer it. This reversed Iraq’s long history of secularism, and the coexistence and intermarrying among its diverse communities. Islamic extremist forces were practically non-existent in Iraq until the Pentagon invaded.
President Obama has decided to send hundreds of troops into battle under the convenient label of ‘military advisors’ which was precisely the path taken by President Kennedy at the start of the Vietnam War. Small detachments lead to larger detachments if the first wave doesn’t succeed and no President wants to terminate the conflict if it is perceived as a military defeat. This is the predictable path to an ever greater escalation and the loss of thousands more lives.
President Obama made an historic error by refusing to hold George W. Bush and Dick Cheney accountable for their criminal war of aggression. Nearly a decade of war took another 1 million Iraqi lives. 5 million were made refugees. Tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers were killed or wounded. The U.S. policymakers—the war criminals—who carried out this human atrocity are still walking free, giving speeches and raking in millions of dollars in book deals.
The worldwide anti-war movement stopped U.S. war on Syria - Now is the time to act to stop a new U.S. war on Iraq!

Monday, June 16, 2014

"Casey Kasem’s life-long activism for justice ignored by corporate media; Radio legend stood up against racism and war"

2014-06-16 []:
Casey Kasem at the head of anti-war march, Jan. 26, 1991, Los Angeles

While accolades pour in from around the world on the sad death of Casey Kasem, one of radio's greats, perhaps the most important part of Kasem's life is being omitted from the obituaries of the big media giants. Missing is his lifetime commitment to fighting racism, U.S. wars and occupation, and for social justice at home for those who are the most denied and oppressed in U.S. society.
Throughout his illustrious career on radio's "American Top Forty," Kasem never walked away from his passion for justice, especially concerning racism in Hollywood against Arab actors and other Arabs in the entertainment industry. He was also a outspoken opponent and activist against U.S. wars of conquest in the Middle East.
During the run-up to U.S. wars in Iraq, Kasem often spoke at press conferences and rallies against the U.S. genocidal wars against Iraq, including many actions called by the ANSWER Coalition.
Born Kemal Amen Kasem , in Detroit, Michigan, his parents were Lebanese Druze immigrants. Through his long career Kasem was an ardent and activist oriented supporter of Arab American rights. In 1996, Kasem was named "Man of the Year" by the American Druze Society.
He fought hard against the anti-Arab racist stereotypes which are depicted endlessly in Hollywood films. He challenged his colleagues in the Hollywood entertainment industry to stand up against anti-Arab racism.
Arab American Institute President James Zogby once referred to Casey Kasem as "The brightest star in our Arab American constellation."
Kasem fought hard against U.S. presence in the Middle East and spoke out for justice for the people of Palestine, appearing often on CNN and the MacNeil/Lehrer Report denouncing U.S. occupation in the Middle East and the rising tide of anti-Arab racism and hostility in the United States.
His passion for justice also broadened out to many local struggles on behalf of workers and especially homeless people. In 1987 Kasem, along with actress Carol Kane, slept on the streets of Los Angeles to draw attention to the plight of the homeless.
In 1988 he was arrested at an anti-nuclear protest with actors Teri Garr, Robert Blake, and anti-war activist Daniel Ellsberg.
While enjoying a brilliant career in radio, movies, and TV, where he was loved and admired by millions, Kasem never gave up his devotion to the cause of justice everywhere.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Welcome Home, Sgt. Bergdahl

"Americans Welcome Sgt. Bergdahl Home"
2014-06-03 by Tom Hayden []:
(Photo: A still from a video released by the Taliban of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, held captive since 2009)

After the negotiated release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, I called an old friend who spent years as a POW in Vietnam's prison camps to ask for his response. Preferring to keep his name out of the papers for the moment, he was following the situation closely. In summary though, what he said was as follows:
First, the Pentagon will debrief Bergdahl for as long as two weeks, eight hours per day, assuming they follow protocols used in Vietnam.
Second, after debriefing, the Pentagon team will take on crisis management, how to shape and control Bergdahl's narrative, whether to ignore criticism about his anti-war statements made in captivity or even to blame Bergdahl. "They did the same kind of thing with us."
Third, "so far, they are not into punishing him."
Fourth, that is because, "Public opinion so far is solidly behind him,” and therefore, "It won't help to play that card." My POW friend thinks most Americans will be supportive of him whatever the facts turn out to be because, "People are sick of the war."
If the political right "tries anything, people will need to speak out" he added.
Already there is grumbling among Republicans, neo-conservatives, and within the armed forces about Bergdahl's statements, and rumors that he went AWOL. It is likely that Fox News will fan the flames.
Before a storm gathers against Bergdahl, some facts are in order.
Bergdahl could have been released in the same prisoner swap nearly three years ago, but the Republican-led opposition scuttled the deal by opposing, "negotiating with terrorists." See the New York Times account of the suspension of secret talks between the US and the Taliban in March 2012, published December 20, 2012 []. Those talks held in Paris included US and French officials, a Taliban delegation and Abdullah Abdullah, then a CIA-supported leader of the Northern Alliance, who currently is poised to become Afghanistan's new president.
According to the December 2012 account, the deal was aborted, "after the Obama administration failed to push through a proposed prisoner swap, which was to be the first of a series of confidence-building measures." That left Bergdahl stranded alone for another three years.
By early 2014 American officials were outraged to learn that Karzai himself was opening secret talks with the Taliban with the US and NATO excluded. Then Karzai released 72 Taliban, "Accused of having American blood on their hands," asserting that evidence of their crimes was lacking. Over strong Pentagon objections, a Karzai commission released 560 other Taliban prisoners in mid-to late 2013. Not only did Karzai wish to curry favor with the Taliban but, "He could punish the United States for what he considered its insincere effort to initiate peace talks," according to the New York Times [].
Bergdahl therefore was a pawn who survived in complete isolation for over three years during political games from Washington to Kabul. Does anyone seriously believe he could have survived captivity if he was in a constant state of rage against his captors? Isn't it possible he developed a certain level of understanding, even empathy, towards those holding him hostage?
The truth may never come out, or be too complicated for many to fathom, but it should not be politicized to score points by Republicans who refuse to agree with Obama on anything. Republicans stalled the diplomatic process that could have brought Bergdahl home in 2013, presumably in much better health [] (scroll down when visiting the link).
To remember is important. In 1967, for example, I became involved in a release of three American POWs from the jungle camps of South Vietnam. I accompanied the three soldiers straight from their captivity, similar to Bergdahl's fate, though they were not alone, on planes from Phnom Penh through Lebanon and Paris to New York's JFK airport. In those three strange days I got to know the men very well. One of them, Ed Johnson, an Army soldier, was ill with a jungle disease and died a few years later. Another was an African-American Green Beret, James Jackson, who operated on the Ho Chi Minh trail until his capture. He retired into a medical practice and never spoke publicly about his feelings, except on one occasion when he came to Sacramento and he defended me against Republican charges that I was a traitor who should be expelled from the legislature. The third POW, Daniel Pitzer, soon became an outspoken crusader against communism, the Vietnamese, and all "traitors". A favorite of the Nixon White House, he even threw out first pitches at major league baseball games.
That strident Pitzer was concealing something he told me on the long trip home. He taught English to his Vietnamese captors, which at the time was a breach of the military code of conduct. His militant anti-communism was related somehow to his fear of being accused of being soft on the Vietcong. I was glad he survived.
I do not know, but I suspect that Vietnam veteran and now Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel helped guide Obama through the currents of spin to arrive at a sound decision in this case. An important precedent has been set, that under certain circumstances the United States should engage in trade-offs with opposing forces. Only an irrational rigidity, for example, is preventing Obama from organizing an exchange of three imprisoned Cubans, part of the Cuban 5, for Alan Gross, a US AID contractor jailed in Havana for having secretly smuggled communications equipment to groups opposed to the Castro government. The American Right insists that Gross be released unconditionally by the Cubans and rants against any thought of a negotiated outcome. If the Right succeeds in damaging Obama for bringing home Bergdahl, it will make arranging the release of Alan Gross all the more difficult.
However, going forward we have lost over three years. The US never should have started the Afghanistan War and never should have avoided the domestic consequences of talking with the Taliban. Now Obama is promising to end this war, see the White House charts that accompanied his speech [], it is vital that the prisoner swap be a springboard for talks with the Taliban about power sharing. Obama might be able to secure a commitment to prevent what he fears most, a new sanctuary in Afghanistan for attacks against the US. The Taliban, who are at least as divided as the US government, should avoid the fatal mistake of triumphalism, which will lead to civil war and a possible American return via airstrikes, settle for a base in its southern and eastern heartland, internationalize Kabul, and invest in development for the next generation.

"Welcome home Bowe Bergdahl! End the war! Rally outside the White House counters right-wing hysteria"
2014-06-10 from "International ANSWER" []:
(Photo: Mike Wang)

A wide range of anti-war activists gathered outside the White House June 10 to fight back against the right-wing hysteria demonizing recently released prisoner of war Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, and to demand an end to the war in Afghanistan and the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison. Sponsors of the rally included the ANSWER Coalition, CODEPINK, March Forward!, Imam Mahdi Bray, Veterans for Peace and Col. Ann Wright. A demonstration also occurred that day in Los Angeles.
Speakers denounced the enormous hypocrisy of the right wing, who endlessly claim that they “support the troops” but engaged in a mad rush to demonize Bergdahl as soon as it was politically expedient. Because Bergdahl was critical of the brutality and senselessness of the war in Afghanistan, and because his return home involved the release of five men held indefinitely in the notorious Guantanamo Bay torture center, he suddenly became a “traitor” rather than a hero.
Eugene Puryear of the ANSWER Coalition opened up the demonstration by announcing that, “We’re here to welcome Bowe Bergdahl home and call for the return of every other U.S. soldier involved in this war that has caused so much suffering.” Imam Mahdi Bray led the crowd in chants of “Welcome home Bowe, close Guantanamo!”
Dr. Margaret Flowers of Popular Resistance drew attention to the relationship between the attacks on the people of Afghanistan and the suffering poor and working people in the United States, saying, “There is also a war going on against the people of this country.”
A large number of media outlets sent reporters to cover the action. While the war mongers have made a lot of noise over the past few days, the people’s voice is beginning to be heard!

"The real crime in the Bergdahl-Taliban prisoner swap; Holding prisoners indefinitely in Gitmo torture center is a crime against humanity"
2014-06-05 statement from March Forward! []:
Hundreds, such as these prisoners at Guantanamo, have been held in the notorious torture center for years without the U.S. government ever finding any crime to charge them with.

The right wing is making a big deal out of the fact that five Taliban officials were released to retrieve captured U.S. Army infantryman Bowe Bergdahl.
They shriek: “How many soldiers did they kill?”
The answer is none, actually.
None of them were picked up in battle. In the 12 years they were held in Guantanamo, they were never charged with any crime.
If there was even the smallest bit of evidence that they were connected to attacks that killed U.S. soldiers, wouldn’t they have been charged by the scandalous detention facility already struggling to justify holding its captives?
The five people released were held hostage and tortured for 12 years. But for the right wing, their release, and not this abuse, is the crime against humanity.
Of the 779 people who have been held at Guantanamo, over 600 have been released without the U.S. government being able to find a way to charge them—after years of digging hard for any excuse, through brutality and humiliation.
Guantanamo is considered an illegal torture center by the United Nations. Amidst worldwide disgust, then-candidate Obama said “we’re going to close Guantanamo. And we’re going to restore habeas corpus.” Congress has fought this at every turn and Obama has refused to use his executive authority to make it happen.
Washington has been playing politics with the lives of hundreds of its hostages and torture victims at Guantanamo. That is the real crime.
Anti-war veterans and service members say: Close Guantanamo now!

"Welcome home Bowe Bergdahl"

Rally in front of the White House against the war in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay prison
Tuesday, June 10, 2014, 4:00 p.m. at the The White House
(Bowe Bergdahl with his mother)

The chest thumping, right-wing, mega-millionaires in Congress have spent the past days beating up on and creating hatred against Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the only American Prisoner of War (POW) in the Afghanistan War.
After five years in captivity, Bergdahl was finally set free last week in an exchange between the U.S. government and the Taliban. He was exchanged for five officials of the Afghan government that was toppled when the U.S. invaded in 2001. Like most other inmates in Guantanamo, these men had been held for a decade without ever having had charges placed against them.
Why has Bergdahl been subjected to so much hatred? One would think that an American POW's release would be a cause of celebration and relief. Why, at the moment of his release, was he instantaneously subjected to a nationwide campaign to brand him a "traitor" and caricature him with unsubstantiated allegations by these right-wing demagogues whose usual pose is to wrap themselves in the flag while expressing their undying love for “our troops?”
The right-wing's disgusting campaign was motivated by two factors:
* Sgt. Bergdahl seems to have written letters home before his capture that expressed a growing disenchantment with the U.S. war effort and with the brutality and racism he saw perpetuated against people in Afghanistan.
* It was President Obama that secured the release of Bergdahl following a long and protracted negotiation with Taliban officials. In the months before he was released, Sen. John “I never met a war I didn't like” McCain demanded that Obama win Bergdahl's release. The moment Bergdahl was freed McCain and the rest of the wolf pack hit the talk shows to further their right-wing agenda by denouncing the treachery of “negotiating” with the “terrorists.”
Join us on Tuesday, June 10 at 4:00 p.m. in front of the White House (1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW) and let your voice be heard. The right-wing militarists and war mongers have been dominating the media. It is time for the people to be heard. Instead of demonizing Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl we will say welcome home!
It is the war in Afghanistan that is a criminal enterprise. The politicians are sending young people in the U.S. armed forces to kill and be killed in a war that they have known cannot be won because the Afghan people will never live under foreign occupation.
The Obama administration has not kept its promise to close the Guantanamo torture facility, which he said he would do when he took office in 2009. Instead of using his executive authority to close a facility that the United Nations has declared a torture center, he has sought to appease his right-wing critics at home. He will never appease them!
The time to act is now. We need to end the occupation of Afghanistan!
Sponsors: ANSWER Coalition, Veterans for Peace, March Forward!, CODEPINK, Imam Mahdi Bray, Col. Ann Wright and others
On the same day (Tuesday, June 10), a demonstration will be held in downtown Los Angeles against the war and the right wing's attacks on Bowe Bergdahl at 4:00 p.m. at the Federal Building (255 East Temple Street).