Holding our soldiers accountable

The US Army is holding Specialist Bradley Manning incommunicado in Kuwait on charges of leaking to WikiLeaks video of Apache helicopter pilots gunning down two Reuters cameramen and a number of Iraqis in a Baghdad neighborhood. The video is devastating in what it reveals about cold-blooded hi-technology warfare in a place like Baghdad. See it at: http://www.collateralmurder.com/

WikiLeaks has arranged for three pro-bono lawyers to assist Manning in his case. However, Manning must request they be allowed to see him. Since the Army will not inform Manning of their existence, he cannot ask for them to see him. Joseph Heller would love it, a perfect Catch 22.

Racism in the Courts: Six Tries, Multiple Errors

After spending more than ten years in jail without a formal sentence, Curtis Flowers now can point to another unenviable distinction – he’s the first person in U.S. history subjected to six murder trials for the same crime.

Two of the five previous trials of this Mississippi man charged with the 1996 murder of four people in the rural town of Winona ended in jury deadlocks. State courts voided Flowers’ three convictions, each time citing outrageous misconduct by prosecutors.

One instance of prosecutorial error in the tortured Flowers trial saga involved biased jury selection procedure so egregious that Mississippi’s Supreme Court tagged it the worst case of “racial discrimination we have ever seen…” – an extraordinary declaration considering that state’s history of over-the-top racism.

It's the war, stupid

Following the tidal wave of media buzz over General Stanley McChrystal in Rolling Stone, you quickly notice the story succumbing to the gravity of our media-circus culture, to the point it has become a story about celebrity and score keeping.

Would Obama fire McChrystal? How will the scandal tarnish the various individuals mentioned: US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, Special Representative to Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke National Security Advisor James Jones? Who will come out on top of the heap and who will be banished into oblivion?

The real, existential questions about the war in Afghanistan that should be discussed in our highest public forums are somehow always lost in the excitement of watching careers on the high wire.

 From left, General Petraeus, Admiral Mike Mullen, Robert Gates, Joe Biden, President Obama and James JonesTeam Obama: From left, General Petraeus, Admiral Mike Mullen, Robert Gates, Joe Biden, President Obama and James Jones

All modern scandals, some renowned person has said, can be reduced to someone blurting out the truth. That describes this Olympian dust-up perfectly. But what might have been a fantastic opportunity to dig deeper into the truths revealed has apparently been lost.

The Dead Hand of Ronald Reagan Rises in the Gulf

As the BP well in the Gulf of Mexico continues to spew out ever more toxic oil and methane into the sea, and as floating toxic sludge, by the millions of gallons, starts destroying the wetlands across the American Southeast, the dead hand of President Ronald Reagan is at work, making sure nothing is done to prevent yet another such disaster from occurring.

The name of that dead hand is Martin Leach-Cross Feldman, a federal judge in Louisiana, a part of the notoriously right-wing Fifth Circuit.

Barky Python’s Plagiarized Dead Pelican Society

CUSTOMER: I wish to register a complaint.

CLERK: Sorry, mate, it’s time for lunch.

CUSTOMER: Never mind about that, my lad. I wish to complain about this pelican that I purchased not half an hour ago from this very Oval Office.

CLERK: What’s wrong with it?

CUSTOMER: I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it, my lad. It’s dead. That’s what’s wrong with it.

The Pentagon's Afghan Minerals Hype

Yahoo News points out that more recently, McClatchy Newspapers reported that this last year, Agence France Presse has written about it and Afghan President Hamid Karzai himself has boasted of the nation’s wealth . Afghanistan’s mineral reserves were mapped by the Soviets during their occupation of the country, and more recently by other mining experts. It’s possible that the team of Pentagon officials and American geologists credited with the “discovery” by the Times may have added some detail to existing knowledge on the subject, but it’s hardly the revelation their reports–and the article–suggest.

Truth through a soda straw

The truth about American politics is this: disguised by the theatrics of squabbling Democrats and Republicans, Washington governs according to limits prescribed by a fixed and narrow consensus. The two main parties collaborate in preserving that consensus. Doing so requires declaring out-of-bounds anything even remotely resembling a fundamental critique of how power gets exercised or wealth distributed.
-Andrew Bacevich

Barack Obama has two serious leak problems.

One is a real leak — of oil from the bowels of the Earth into the Gulf of Mexico and onto the shores of the Gulf States. The other is a metaphoric leak — of information from the vast reservoir of secrecy our military and its wars have become.

Dishonesty, the notion of “too big to fail” and Bacevich’s consensus are at the core of both leak problems.

Eyewitness to the Israeli Assault on the Mavi Marmara

Kevin Neish of Victoria, British Columbia, didn’t know he was a celebrity until he was about to board a flight from Istanbul to Ottawa.  “This Arab woman wearing a beautiful outfit suddenly ran up to me crying, ‘It’s you! From Arab TV! You’re famous!’” he recalls with a laugh. “I didn’t know what she was talking about, but she told me, ‘I saw you flipping through the Israeli commando’s book! It’s being aired over and over!’”

A soft-spoken teacher and former civilian engineer with the Canadian Department of Defense, Neish realized then that a video taken by an Arab TV cameraman in the midst of the Israeli assault on the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza of him flipping through a booklet had been transmitted before the Israelis blocked all electronic signals from the flotilla. The booklet had pictures and profiles of all the passengers, and he’d found it in the backpack of an Israeli Defense Force commando.

Neish, 53, was on the second deck of the flotilla’s lead ship, the Turkish Mavi Marmara, with a good view of the stern, when the IDF, in the early morning darkness of May 31, began its assault with percussion grenades, tear gas and a hail of bullets. He then moved to the fourth deck in an enclosed stairwell, from which he watched and took photographs as casualties were carried down past him to a makeshift medical station. Several IDF commandos, captured by the passengers and crew, were also brought past him.

Israeli Raid Coverage: American Media Fail Again

An American art student loses an eye when struck in the face by a tear gas canister fired by Israeli Defense Force (IDF) personnel breaking up, in the occupied West Bank, a demonstration which itself is a protest against the deadly commando raid on the Free Gaza flotilla.

No, you didn’t miss U.S. news media coverage of this IDF attack on 21-year-old Emily Henchowicz, a student at Cooper Union in New York City who was standing with a group of foreigners during that demonstration near a checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem.

You didn’t miss it because the mainstream media in the U.S. ignored it.