Adam Howard is the former Assistant Web Editor of The Nation and currently the News Editor of The Grio.
For the second time in two weeks an American city was rocked Sunday by a pro-immigrant demonstration of undeniably historic magnitude. As many as a half-million people, wearing white and waving American flags crammed downtown Dallas. A similar, but smaller, outpouring took place in nearby Forth Worth. Scores of thousands of others also came into the streets in Salt Lake City, Miami, St. Paul, Des Moines, Boise, Salem, Detroit and San Diego (with one report saying the crowd neared 100,000 in the latter city).
The Dallas demonstration –- which mushroomed to ten times the size anticipated by authorities -- rivaled the scope of the so-called "Gran Marcha" in Los Angeles two weeks ago – an event that to many observers marked the birth of a new civil rights movement. The L.A. demo was also the largest in the history of the city -- perhaps in all of the western United States.
And on Monday even more massive pro-immigration demonstrations are scheduled for 140 more American cities in a national day of protest. Once again Los Angeles is predicted to be the epicenter of the day's activities. As many as a quarter million of a people are expected there as well as an equal number in New York and Washington DC-- perhaps a total of two million or more nationwide.
The perhaps fatal collapse Friday of a Senate compromise on sweeping and liberalized immigration reform was, in itself, not totally unpredictable.
What might astound some, however, is what appears to be the ignominious role in the snafu played by none other than the Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid.
Even though a bi-partisan, majority coalition of 63 Senators had rather miraculously agreed on a compromise measure which would have been a significant step forward in much-needed reform, a final vote was scuttled at the last moment -- most likely killing off reform for the foreseeable future.
As his approval ratings plummet, Bush has started attending meetings, town halls and local forums with real people. (Isn't this what presidents are supposed to do? Reading some of the news coverage,you'd think Bush was a man of courage for forsaking handpicked, scripted audiences.)
So there was Bush in Charlotte, North Carolina last night--for one of these newfangled, unscripted forums. That's where 61-year old Charlotte real estate broker Harry Taylor stood up to the President.
It's worth repeating what Taylor had to say: "While I listen to you talk about freedom, I see you assert your right to tap my telephone, to arrest me and hold me without charges, to try to preclude me frombreathing clean air and drinking clean water and eating safe food. If I were a woman, you'd like to restrict my opportunity to make a choice... about whether I can abort a pregnancy... What I wanted to say to you is that--in my lifetime, I have never felt more ashamed of, nor more frightened, by my leadership in Washington, including the presidency. And I would hope from time to time that you have the humility and the grace to be ashamed of youself... I also want to say I really appreciate the courtesy of allowing me to speak... That is part of what this country is about."
Defenders of the war in Iraq are always quick to dismiss any expression of opposition by the American people as so inconsequential that no one in Washington will take notice. That's what they did in March of 2005, when 50 Vermont town meetings voted for anti-war resolutions. And that is what they are now doing in April of 2006, when confronted with the news that the citizens of 24 Wisconsin cities, villages and towns -- including a half dozen communities that voted for President Bush in 2004 -- have voted for Bring the Troops Home Now referendums that call for immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
The problem with the attempt to dismiss the Wisconsin votes -- which is so obviously meant to discourage more communities in more states from using democratic processes to challenge the war -- is that the Bush White House is not on message. Instead of feigning ignorance of the referendums, or simply refusing to comment, White House press secretary Scott McClellan stumbled through a lengthy discussion of the Wisconsin results on the day after the voting.
Of course, McClellan would never let the truth pass over his lips. But the confirmation that opposition to the war has spread even to some of the most Republican sections of the country had evidently unsettled the White House spokesman.
Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter, now an ardent anti-war campaigner, has let loose a blistering broadside against the rest of the peace movement. Calling it near "total collapse," Ritter slams the anti-war movement for being disorganized, chaotic and often "highjacked" by a plethora of progressive causes removed from the war itself.
It's a worthy criticism -- and one not far off the mark. Problem is, Ritter seems prone to make the same mistakes for which he is criticizing others. For him, it's not enough --for example-- that conservative Pennsylvania Democrat Jack Murtha has called for a U.S. troop pullback. Ritter also wants Murtha (and other Democrats who initially supported the war) to now formally recant and retract their earlier positions. That's a great idea in itself. But it shouldn't be the price of admission into the anti-war ranks.
Broadening the anti-war movement by focusing its message seems an imperative for success. Imposing litmus tests, on the other hand, seems self-defeating. I've got the whole story on my personal blog.
Last week, an Iraqi-American translator was arrested and charged with offering over $60,000 in bribes to win a $1 million contract for providing flak jackets and other equipment to Iraqi police officers.
According to the New York Times, it is believed that Faheem Mousa Salam of Livonia, Michigan, was acting on behalf of others and that more arrests will be made. Mr. Salam was employed by the Titan Corporation, a division of the L-3 Government Services Group.
The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, Stuart W. Bowen Jr., was quoted as saying that this kind of fraud is limited to "... just a few individuals who took advantage of a chaotic situation early on."
Immigration reform advocates watching the historic Senate debate this past week say they are surprised by the momentum they're sensing in favor of liberalized and comprehensive reform.
There's been some long-awaited help coming this week from George W. Bush on this issue -- one of the only in recent times where the President is actually on the right side of things (if even vaguely so).
The massive immigrant political mobilization of the last week has reminded the GOP of the cresting clout of Latino voters -- and future voters. It's way too early, however, to declare any definitive victory. It's still a long shot that anytime before the mid-term elections the Senate and House will actually agree on a forward-looking bill. But the ball is certainly being moved foreward.
Yesterday, I reported on the current controversy surrounding Halliburton's poor performance and cover-up on its water treatment contract in Iraq. Now add oil to the mix.
In the Washington Post Wednesday, Griff Witte writes of overcharges and obfuscation by Halliburton subsidiary--you guessed it--Kellog Brown and Root on a $1.2 billion contract to restore oil services in southern Iraq.
The competitive contract awarded in 2004 followed a $2.4 billion no-bid deal in 2003. Prior to settling on the newer contract, the Defense Contract Audit Agency requested that the Army Corps of Engineers speak with its auditors about "significant deficiencies in KBR's ability to estimate its costs"--the DCAA had challenged $200 million in fuel delivery charges on the first contract--but the Corps failed to do so.
As we enter Year 4 in Iraq, it's getting tougher to track the extent of waste, fraud and war profiteering perpetrated every day. This is the first in a series of entries on The Notion that will attempt to do just that--by featuring revelations made by the media, whistleblowers, the inspector general, and other activists as they emerge. To read my previous posts on the need for an Independent War Profiteering Commission, click here and here.
Entry 1: Root's Dirty Water
Dick Cheney's favorite Halliburton subsidiary, Kellogg Brown & Root, is back in the news, and its already infamous reputation is sinking to even lower, Enron-like depths. An internal company memo recently obtained by the Associated Press reveals that it provided American soldiers in Iraq with tainted water from the Euphrates.
As immigrant protests continued to ripple through the country on Monday--22,000 students walking out of classes just in LA County--the Republican-dominated Senate Judiciary Committee voted to approve sweeping and liberalized comprehensive immigration reform.
With three GOP Senators voting with Democrats, the key Senate panel approved the broad outlines of what's become known as the McCain-Kennedy bill.
The measure still faces a fierce and uphill battle on the Senate floor, with full debate scheduled for Tuesday. And approval of the measure pits the Senate directly against a starkly anti-immigrant House.