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Peter Rothberg | The Nation

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Peter Rothberg

Peter Rothberg

Opposing war, racism, sexism, climate change, economic injustice and high-stakes testing.

The World Tribunal on Iraq

On February 15, 2003, one of the greatest mobilizations of popular protest the world has ever seen demonstrated its opposition to the Bush Administration's plans to invade Iraq. More than a year later, much of Iraq lies in ruins, invaded, smashed, and then occupied by a hostile and unwanted invasion force. More than seven hundred US soldiers have been killed along with tens of thousands of Iraqis, some of them, we now know, tortured to death by sadistic soldiers and private contractors.

The political costs are still unseen but will anyone be held accountable for the war crimes committed during the military campaign, or the crimes committed by the occupying forces?

There's no tribunal that will judge the actions of the US and its allies. All official international institutions, including the International Criminal Court, lack jurisdiction and enforcement power. In response, a coalition of civil society groups from around the world, taking their cue from the 1967 Russell Tribunal formed to investigate crimes committed by the US in Vietnam, have organized what they call the World Tribunal on Iraq . The WTI has been endorsed by the Jakarta Peace Consensus and the antiwar assemblies that converged at the recent European Social Forum in Paris and the World Social Forum in Mumbai, India.

Hearings and events have already taken place in London, Monterrey, Brussels, Hiroshima, Paris, Costa Rica, Munich, Mumbai, Barcelona, Istanbul, Copenhagen and Rome. Tomorrow, a panelwill convene in New York City to discuss questions like:

*Could the doctrine of "preventive war" ever be legal under international law?

*Can we record the crimes committed in launching this war of aggression, during the military campaign and ongoing occupation?

*Can an effective grassroots mechanism be established which can initiate the process of providing justice and/or accountability?

New York Session of the World Tribunal on Iraq, Saturday, May 8, 2004, Cooper Union, Great Hall, 7 East 7th Street at 3rd Ave.--Starts at 10:00am.

FREE - donations welcome

The panel will feature Rabab Abdulhadi, Sinan Antoon, Dennis Brutus, Hamid Dabashi, Bhairavi Desai, Eve Ensler, Jenny Green, Lisa Hajjar, Elias Khoury, Robert van Lierop, Motarilavoa Hilda Lini, Kiyoko McCrae and Ibrahim Rames.

The World Tribunal on Iraq is one important effort trying to address the failure of the US to guarantee a minimal standard of human-rights for the inhabitants of the country which we'er currently occupying. Click here for more info on tomorrow's New York Session of the World Tribunal on Iraq and click here to find out how you can assist the Tribunal's efforts no matter where you live.

Stop War Profiteering!

As readers of this space don't need to be told, Vice President Dick Cheney's former company Halliburton has been a prime beneficiary of the invasion of Iraq, raking in some $9 billion in contracts to rebuild Iraq's oil industry and service the US troops.

However, since the occupation began, news reports have regularly documented a pattern of fraud, waste, and corruption by Halliburton--from alleged overcharges of $61 million for fuel and $24.7 million for meals to confirmed kickbacks worth $6.3 million. Meanwhile, Halliburton has failed to rebuild key oil infrastructure, has provided shoddy services to US troops, and has taken jobs away from qualified Iraqi businesses and workers. Shockingly though, Halliburton's role has only increased, to the point where, as the AP reported last Tuesday, the company's executives say that Halliburton is receiving about $1 billion a month for Iraq work this year.

Moreover, federal authorities are currently investigating whether Halliburton broke the law by using a subsidiary to do business in Iran, whether the company overcharged for work done for the Pentagon in the Balkans and whether it was involved in an alleged $180 million bribery scheme in Nigeria. (The company admitted in 2003 that it improperly paid $2.4 million to a Nigerian tax official.)

Join the United for Peace and Justice coalition in Houston on May 19 for a lively protest against war profiteering and crony capitalism outside Halliburton's annual shareholder meeting. Halliburton needs to be held accountable, not made more profitable. Click here for a schedule of the day's events, click here for info on housing and transportation, and click here to help circulate word about the protest to activists and the media.

Quid Pro Quack

Every judge knows that you don't vacation with friends and accept their generosity while their case is pending before you. But that's just what Justice Antonin Scalia did with Dick Cheney, whose energy case is being heard by the Supreme Court this week. Though it's unlikely he'll do so, Justice Scalia still has time to do the right thing and recuse himself from this case. (Technically, he can do so up until the Court renders a decision.)

As legal ethics expert Stephen Gillers wrote recently in The Nation, Scalia's determination to stay on the case, "tells thousands of federal and state judges that it can be OK to vacation with friends who have cases before them and to accept the generosity of those friends while their cases are pending. "

The DC-based group Alliance for Justice, a national association of environmental, civil rights, mental health, women's, children's and consumer advocacy organizations, has created an online animated movie, Quid Pro Quack, which shows the absurdity of Scalia's refusal to recuse himself. Click here to watch the movie. It's fun and informative. And click here to sign the AFJ's petition to urge Scalia to "Choose to Recuse."

Death Squad Diplomat

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee started hearings today on John Negroponte's appointment to the Baghdad embassy, a post that he would assume on June 30, when sovereignty will supposedly be transferred to Iraqi authorities.

Negroponte's reputation as ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985 earned him a reputation for supporting widespread human rights abuses and campaigns of terror. As ambassador he played a key role in coordinating US aid to the Contra death squads in Nicaragua and shoring up CIA-backed death squads in Honduras. (Click here for an audio segment of Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! for more on Negroponte's background.)

As the Council on Hemispheric Affairs noted in a comprehensive release on Negroponte's career, the career diplomat's nomination must be seen as profoundly troubling since the same nagging questions which were present during the summer of 2001, when Negroponte was nominated to be US ambassador to the UN, continue to persist. (Click here to read the full release.)

But though, as David Corn writes in the current issue of The Nation, Negroponte's confirmation hearing will provide senators a chance to probe Bush's plans in Iraq, if Negroponte's record, is not questioned, as seems likely, he will once again be able to escape his haunted past. Don't let your elected reps give Negroponte a free pass. Click here to tell them to vote against Negroponte's appointment. You can also usefully send them the Center for American Progress's ten questions Negroponte should be forced to answer before he's given the job of running Iraq.

DC Rally Draws Historic Crowd

In one of the biggest demonstrations in US history, more than one million protesters crowded the National Mall this afternoon to show support for reproductive rights and opposition to http://www.thenation.com/directory/view.mhtml?t=000706 ">Bush Administration policies on women's health issues (things like making it virtually impossible for women to obtain the morning after pill, also known as emergency contraception, without a prescription).

Some 1,400 US groups endorsed and sent members to the event. And international contingents were strong as women joined the protest from nearly 60 countries, asserting that damage from Bush's policies is spreading far beyond US shores through measures such as the ban on federal money for family-planning groups that promote or perform abortions abroad.

Check out the up-to-the-minute reports below on today's historic show of support for reproductive freedom, click here to sign the Freedom of Choice Act petition, and click here to see how you can lend support to the abortion-rights movement.

Women's Rights Marchers Gather in DC by Elizabeth Wolfe,The Guardian, April 26, 2004

Massive Protest Decries Bush Policies by Deborah Zabarenko,Reuters, April 26, 2004

NPR's Weekend Editionlive from the march. Andrea Seabrook reporting.

Marching for Women's Lives

As the inimitable Molly Ivins wrote in her syndicated column today, this Sunday's March for Women's Lives "is not just about choice on abortion but literally about life or death for women all over the globe."

More than thirty-one years after Roe v. Wade, the number of US abortion providers has fallen to its lowest level in three decades, a trend many physicians ascribe to a hostile political climate, the surge of hospital mergers and a lack of enthusiasm for teaching the procedure at most medical schools.

Furthermore, the promise of Roe has been severely compromised on the ground by the more than 335 new state laws restricting a woman's right to choose, which have been passed in the last eight years. As a result, eighty-seven percent of US counties currently have no safe abortion provider and twenty-four states have mandatory delays and state-prepared anti-choice propaganda.

It's hard to believe, as the Nation editors write in the mag's lead editorial in next week's issue, that during the last presidential election the conventional view held that both Bush and Gore were essentially posturing on abortion to fire up their respective bases. Roe v. Wade was untouchable, countless pundits assured us: Republican strategists would never really go after abortion. They feared awakening the sleeping pro-choice electoral giant.

Well the sleeping giant is waking up this weekend. This Sunday, April 25, some 1,300 progressive and feminist organizations will spearhead what's expected to be a massive March for Women's Lives in Washington, DC, drawing outraged women, men and children by the busload and carload from every corner of the country.

Click here for info on transportation, housing, volunteering and here for ideas on ways you can help promote and publicize the march in the next few days. Another great way to help is to make a donation to help defray costs. This march should not be missed.

Voting to Help President Bush

At last night's press conference, President Bush was asked if he could name his biggest mistake in office. At first he said, "I'm sure something will pop into my head here." But then he couldn't name a single miscue. As he concluded: "I don't want to sound like I have made no mistakes. I'm confident I have. I just haven't--you just put me under the spot here, and maybe I'm not as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one."

A few Bush errors did pop into my head, as I'm sure they did yours. And the folks at the Center for American Progress, sensing a good opportunity to help the anti-Bush cause while having some fun, have unveiled a new online poll. They were able to think of five big Bush mistakes and are asking the public to vote on which one they consider the most egregious. Click here to vote today.

An Out-of-Control Occupation

As Anthony Shadid detailed in the Washington Post today, the US Marine siege of Fallujah has produced a powerful backlash in Baghdad and the rest of Iraq. Hospitals report as many as 600 Iraqi civilians have been killed by US troops so far, while media accounts this morning suggest an escalation of violence with US F-15 jet fighters firing cannons at unidentified targets in the city. And the http://www.thenation.com doc.mhtml?i=20040426&s=jamail">siege of Fallujah is only the most blatant example of an Iraqi policy in almost complete chaos.

The fierce fighting and lack of a coherent exit plan are also helping galvanize a new community of antiwar activists: military families. At 12:00 noon on Wednesday, April 14, at least fifteen people from among this community, as well as several Vietnam Vets, will participate in a press conference in Washington, DC, organized by United for Peace and Justice.

Speakers will explain why US troops should be withdrawn from Iraq and will call on people nationwide to contact their Congressional representatives to implore them to take action to end the occupation. (Tell them it might also be a winning electoral issue in November.) This week while Congress is still in recess and most members are home is a good time to make your voice heard. Click here to get in touch your elected reps.

UFP recommends trying to schedule an appointment with your representatives or their staffers in the next few days--either on behalf of a group or organization or as a concerned citizen. If that fails, flood them with calls and faxes and consider organizing a vigil in front of their offices to demand that they make time to speak with their constituents on matters of life and death.

Following Wednesday's press conference, the delegation will walk to the White House to deliver the message that it's time to end the war, end the occupation and bring the troops home. One flower for each of the US dead and thousands of petals for the nameless Iraqis who have been killed will be left at the steps of the White House. Hundreds of letters from military families around the country, all calling for an end to the senseless deaths, will also be left for the President.

Tonight also presents another good way to keep the pressure on the White House. This evening, for just the third time during his presidency, George W. Bush will hold a live press conference. Let him know what you think about what he says. Call the White House comment line at 202-456-1111 or the White House switchboard at 202-456-1414. And call your local talk-radio show and tell them what you think too. (Click here for contact info for media in your area.) They might not want to hear us but it can't hurt to call.

The Burden of Conscience

Since the US invaded Iraq last year, hundreds of American soldiers have broken the law and abandoned their units on the battlefield. And, as Dan Frosch writes in Alternet, the GI Rights Hotline, a coalition of advocacy groups that offer legal advice to American troops, has received thousands of calls from active soldiers inquiring about conscientious objector status since the war began.

Tonight at 8:00pm, 60 Minutes II will air a segment on Camilo Mejia, a 28-year-old Florida National Guard Staff Sergeant who refused to return to Iraq in October, after being home on furlough. Mejia has taken a public stand of conscience against what he calls an illegal and immoral war, and has filed an application for conscientious objector status.

Despite this application, Mejia has been charged by the Army with desertion and is currently being held at Ft. Stewart in Georgia, where he is awaiting trial by a Special Court Martial, which will likely result in a one year prison sentence and a Bad Conduct Discharge. (For more about Mejia's decision, click here to read Christian Parenti's recent Nation Online article on his case.)

Mejia's mother, Maritza Castillo, is asking concerned activists to write two letters: one to Mejia himself expressing your support for his stand and another to the Commanding General asking that the Army accept Mejia's conscientious objection application, which would result in Mejia's release.

Mejia's Address:Ssg. Mejia CamiloA Company, USAG MED-HOLD, 865Hase RoadFt. Stewart, GA 31315.

The Commanding General's address:Major General William G. Webster, Jr.Commanding General, Fort Stewart42 Wayne PlaceFt Stewart, GA 31314.

Please take the opportunity to help this brave soldier and his courageous mother. And call the GI Rights Hotline at 1-800-394-9544 or click here for info on conscientious objector status.

One Year Later--Not Feeling Safer

Local media is reporting that hundreds of thousands of antiwar protesters poured into streets around the globe on Saturday's one-year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq to demand the withdrawal of US-led troops.

From Sydney to Tokyo, Madrid, London, New York and San Francisco, protesters condemned US Iraqi policy and the Bush Administration's doctrine of pre-emption. Journalists estimated that at least a million people streamed through Rome, in the biggest single protest. In London, two activists evaded security to climb the historic Big Ben clock tower at the Houses of Parliament, unfurling a banner reading "Time for Truth," as approximately 25,000 demonstrators streamed through central London, many carrying "Wanted" posters bearing the faces of Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, his main war ally. In Germany, several thousand people took part in demonstrations in about 70 cities and towns across the country. Some 3,000 people turned out in Sydney, chanting "end the occupation, troops out" and carrying an effigy of Australian Prime Minister John Howard, a staunch war supporter. About 10,000 protesters marched in Athens, Greece, and an estimated 120,000 took part in peace protests across Japan.

Read Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel's report from Moscow's antiwar march; Samuel Lowenberg's dispatch from Madrid's rally and Maria Margaronis's Letter from London.You can also check the United for Peace website for updates on continuing antiwar activism in the US, including this Wednesday's "National Iraq Call-in Day."

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