"Ain't Gonna Study War No More"

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Right-To-Life Party, Christian, Anti-War, Pro-Life, Bible Fundamentalist, Egalitarian, Libertarian Left

Friday, March 25, 2005

Overlooked in the Shadows

The Terri Schiavo case is hard to write about, hard to think about. Those video images are hard to look at. I see that face, maybe smiling, maybe not, and I am reminded of a young woman I knew as a child, lying on a couch, brain-damaged, apparently unresponsive, and deeply beloved -- freakishly, perhaps, but genuinely so -- living proof of one family's no-matter-what commitment. I watch nourishment flowing into a slim tube that runs through a neat, round, surgically created orifice in Terri Schiavo's abdomen and I'm almost envious. What effortless intake! Because of a congenital neuromuscular disease, I am having trouble swallowing, and it's a constant struggle to get by mouth the calories my skinny body needs. For whatever reason, I'm still trying, but I know a tube is in my future. So, possibly, is speechlessness. That's a scary thought. If I couldn't speak for myself, would I want to die? If I become uncommunicative, a passive object of other people's care, should I hope my brain goes soft and leaves me in peace?

My emotional response is powerful, but at bottom it's not important. It's no more important than anyone else's, not what matters. The things that ought to matter have become obscured in our communal clash of gut reactions. Here are 10 of them:

• Ms. Schiavo is not terminally ill. She has lived in her current condition for 15 years. This is not about end-of-life decision making. The question is whether she should be killed by denying her food and fluids.

• Ms. Schiavo is not dependent on life support. Her lungs, kidneys, heart and digestive systems work fine. Just as she uses a wheelchair for mobility, she uses a tube for eating and drinking. Feeding Ms. Schiavo is not difficult, painful or in any way heroic. That Ms. Schiavo eats through a tube should have nothing to do with whether she should live or die.

• This is not a case about a patient's right to refuse treatment. I don't see eating and drinking as "treatment," but even if they are, everyone agrees that Ms. Schiavo is at present incapable of articulating a decision to refuse treatment. The question is who should make the decision for her and whether that substitute decision maker should be authorized to kill her.

• There is a dispute as to Ms. Schiavo's awareness and consciousness. But if we assume that those who would authorize her death are correct, she is completely unaware of her situation and therefore incapable of suffering physically or emotionally. Her death thus can't be justified as relieving her suffering.

• There is a genuine dispute as to what Ms. Schiavo believed and expressed about life with severe disability before she herself became incapacitated; certainly, she never stated her preferences in an advance directive such as a living will. If we assume that she is aware and conscious, it is possible that, like most people who have lived with a severe disability for as long as she has, she has abandoned her preconceived fears of the life she is now living. We have no idea whether she wishes to be bound by things she might have said when she was living a very different life. If we assume she is unaware and unconscious, we can't justify her death as her preference. She has no preference.

• Ms. Schiavo, like all people, incapacitated or not, has a federal constitutional right not to be deprived of her life without due process of law.

• In addition to the rights all people enjoy, Ms. Schiavo has a statutory right under the Americans With Disabilities Act not to be treated differently because of her disability. Obviously, Florida law would not allow a husband to kill a non-disabled wife by denying her nourishment. It is Ms. Schiavo's disability that makes her killing different in the eyes of the Florida courts. Because the state is overtly drawing lines based on disability, it has the burden under the ADA of justifying those lines.

• In other contexts, federal courts are available to make sure state courts respect federally protected rights. Although review will very often be a futile, last-ditch effort -- as with most habeas petitions from death row -- federalism requires that the federal government, not the states, have the last word. When the issue is the scope of a guardian's authority, it is necessary to allow other people, in this case other family members, standing to file a legal challenge.

• The whole society has a stake in making sure state courts are not tainted by prejudices, myths and unfounded fears -- like the unthinking horror in mainstream society that transforms feeding tubes into fetish objects, emblematic of broader, deeper fears of disability that sometimes slide from fear to disgust and from disgust to hatred. While we should not assume that disability prejudice tainted the Florida courts, we cannot reasonably assume that it did not.

• Despite the unseemly Palm Sunday pontificating in Congress, the legislation enabling Ms. Schiavo's parents to sue did not reflect a taking of sides in the so-called culture wars. It did not dictate that Ms. Schiavo be fed. It simply created a procedure whereby the federal courts could decide whether her federally protected rights have been violated.

In the Senate, a key supporter of a federal remedy was Iowa's Tom Harkin, a progressive Democrat and longtime friend of labor and civil rights, including disability rights. Harkin told reporters, "There are a lot of people in the shadows, all over this country, who are incapacitated because of a disability, and many times there is no one to speak for them, and it is hard to determine what their wishes really are or were. So I think there ought to be a broader type of a proceeding that would apply to people in similar circumstances who are incapacitated."

I hope against hope that I will never be one of those people in the shadows, that I will always, one way or another, be able to make my wishes known. I hope that I will not outlive my usefulness or my capacity (at least occasionally) to amuse the people around me. But if it happens otherwise, I hope whoever is appointed to speak for me will be subject to legal constraints. Even if my guardian thinks I'd be better off dead -- even if I think so myself -- I hope to live and die in a world that recognizes that killing, even of people with the most severe disabilities, is a matter of more than private concern.

Clearly, Congress's Palm Sunday legislation was not the broader type of proceeding Harkin and I want. It does not define when and how federal court review will be available to all of those in the shadows. To create a general system of review, applicable whenever life-and-death decisions intersect with disability rights, will require a reasoned, informed debate unlike what we've had until now. It will take time. But in the Schiavo case, time is running out.

Harriet McBryde Johnson
Friday, March 25, 2005; Page A19

The writer is a disability rights lawyer in Charleston, S.C. Her memoir in stories, "Too Late to Die Young: Nearly True Tales From a Life," will be released next month. This article is reprinted from Slate magazine.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

Iraq’s Parliament: New Farce

The war was a murderous crime, and that those who are responsible for it, and for the destruction of the Iraqi civil society should face war crimes trials like the leaders of Nazi Germany.

Despite calls to demonstrate kind of independence, the so-called Iraq’s ‘national assembly’ met inside the fortress of the “Green zone”. Western media hailed the first meeting as another “historic” moment in Iraq’s road to ‘democracy’. In Iraq, the story is of a widespread dismay and anger that the elections have not produced any change on the ground or even a new “government”. The same expatriate quislings, just more divided on sectarian line than before the elections, are gathered to discuss their new positions. They met in the shadow of US forces to announce that their symbiotic relation with the Occupation will continue, and that the US forces will stay in Iraq to protect them and terrorise the Iraqi people. It was anything, but a democratic parliament. It was a US theatrical show with Iraqi puppets playing as actors.

The US is slowly achieving its original aim of dividing Iraqis in order to justify prolonged Occupation of Iraq and siphoning its resources. The New York Times reported on March 17, 2005 that interviews of Iraqis “indicated in particular a striking sense of disillusionment among [Iraqi] Shiites . . . [and] suggested a hardening of the sectarian divisions that were visible in the election”. From the beginning the US played the sectarian card to destroy the unity of the Iraqi people. The Kurds, who have been used by foreign powers time and again, are the tools for this deliberate policy.

With new veto power granted to the Kurds under the US-crafted and unconstitutional Transitional Administrative Law (TAL), the law laid down by former US Proconsul Paul Bremer, Iraq has been divided into one small Iraq in the north and a bigger Iraq to the south. The TAL gave the Kurds, who make less than 12 percent of the Iraqi population, a 27 percent of the seats in the new ‘national assembly’. The US-crafted power allows the Kurds to derail any democratic solution, let alone an end to the Occupation in Iraq. So, the Kurds veto in Iraq is the US card. It can be accurately compare with the US veto card at the UN. Further, the TAL is also forms the blue print for any new Iraqi constitutions. In other words, Iraq self-determination is the hostage of the US. The Iraqi people have no say in the affairs of their country. This is the reason for the ongoing wrangling and haggling over the forming of the new fictitious “government”.

The Kurds, led by their opportunistic and self-serving warlords, are aiming at ethnic cleansing the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and incorporated it into their mythological country of “Kurdistan”. The Kurds have never been a majority in Kirkuk. They remain a small minority with US-armed militia, the Peshmerga. According to the 1957 Iraqi census, the majority of Kirkuk population were Iraqi Turkoman and Iraqi Arabs (Christians and Muslims). Kurds number in Kirkuk has decline since 1977, especially during the 13-years (1991-2003) of the genocidal sanctions against Iraq when many Kurds moved to the North and North-eastern regions of Iraq that was effectively less embargoed than the rest of the country. It is important remembering that the Kurds, despite their small number in Iraq, have enjoyed better treatment than in Iran and in Turkey, where their numbers are much larger than in Iraq. In Turkey, more than 14 million Kurds live in despair, poverty and military repression, and until recently speaking Kurdish in the public was illegal in Turkey. Compare this with Iraq where schools, hospitals and well-known universities built by former Iraqi governments to serve all Iraqis in the North. It is easier for Western mainstream media and Western governments to look the other way and ignore realities. Western mainstream media have no problem selling democracy with illegitimate elections than providing the public with honest and independent information.

Furthermore, evidence from Iraqi sources obtained by Scott Ritter, former UNSCOM weapons inspector, suggests that the Bush administration and its Allawi’s gang hampered with the elections results and lowered the Shiites votes from ‘56 percent of the vote to 48 percent’, through a ‘secret vote count’ and ‘reengineering the post-election political landscape in Iraq dramatically’ to fit with the US-designed kind of democracy for Iraq, AlterNet.

The elections were ‘the farce of the century’. The US-based Carter Centre, which monitored elections around the world, did not participate in the Iraq’s elections because Iraq’s elections do not met elections’ criteria, such as free and safe environment, and the ability of candidates to move freely. All independent voices in Iraq, regardless of ethnicity, have boycotted the elections. As I have pointed out earlier, the elections have divided Iraqis and reinforced sectarianism.

The elections were ‘demonstration’ elections aimed at American and Western citizens at home. In other words, it was a PR exercise to promote new form of colonialism and illegal armed conquest. The US-crafted elections were designed to legitimise the Occupation of Iraq and promote US influence around the globe through ongoing military aggressions. ‘Democracy under Occupation’ is the new motto of the White House.

It isn’t ‘democracy’, ‘freedom’ or human rights that the US is promoting; the US is promoting its own corporate interests. The most brutal and dictatorial regimes in the world, including the Middle East, are the closest allies of the US. A fact the US supports wholeheartedly. The brutal and dictatorial regime in Egypt is the second largest US aid recipient after Israel. The corrupt dictators of the Gulf States led by Saudi Arabia are the US closest allies for over half-century. Further, the US encourages and supports the abuses of human rights in these countries by the outsourcing of torture. The policy, which called ‘extraordinary rendition’, is the practice by which innocent prisoners and detainees in US custody are sent for interrogation in foreign countries that practice torture, such as Egypt Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. Arab leaders should be ashamed for associating the Arab World with such an appalling practice that should be the trademark of the US alone.

The US did not invade Iraq for the sake of ‘democracy’, ‘freedom’ or to safeguard human rights, these are the pretexts for domestic consumptions and war. It should be remembered that the original pretext for the war was that Iraq possessed large arsenal of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), which was proved to be a lie. The Bush’s Doctrine of ‘pre-emptive’ illegal wars of aggression designed to impose US hegemony on defenceless people using all kinds pretexts to justify its aim. Since the US invasion and Occupation of Iraq, the Iraqi people are the most abused and unfree people on the planet today. The destruction of the city of Fallujah and the slaughter of thousands of Iraqi citizens by US napalm and chemical weapons amount to war crimes and in direct contravention of the Geneva Conventions.

In the US, returned soldiers are telling a horrific picture of what is like for Iraqis to live under Occupation. US soldier Camilo Mejia who refused to return to Iraq after taking leave in October 2003, said recently; “I thought of the suffering of a people whose country was in ruins and who were further humiliated by the raids, patrols and curfews of an occupying army… And I realized that none of the reasons we were told about why we were in Iraq turned out to be true... I realized that I was part of a war that I believed was immoral and criminal, a war of aggression, [and] a war of imperial domination. I realized that acting upon my principles became incompatible with my role in the military, and I decided that I could not return to Iraq”. [1]

After his return from Iraq, ex-marine Staff Sergeant Jimmy Massey sums up the war in a recent interview; “[What we are doing in Iraq] sickened me so that I had actually brought it up to my lieutenant, and I told him, I said, ‘You know, sir, we're not going to have to worry about Iraq - you know, we're basically committing genocide over here, mass extermination of thousands of Iraqis’”. [2]

Self-censored media shields the government from any wrongdoing and keeps the public entertained and in place. As professor William Cook of the University of La Verne in southern California noted that; “None of the Iraqi 100,000 dead have a voice to cheer Bush's Doctrine; none of their family members have been asked about its benefits; no one concerned about the ensuing years' invisible companion, depleted uranium, has a voice; none of the maimed - the blind, the limbless, the sick and dying - have a voice; no one has been asked about America's 14 military bases being a permanent part of the Iraqi landscape; no one has been asked about America determining that Iraqi resources should be sold to the most favoured private bidder, primarily non-Iraqi; and none of the [innocent, men women and children] prisoners subjugated to [abuse and] torture at Abu Ghraib [and other expanding US prisons in Iraq] has been asked about America's virtues and its democratic ways”.[3]

The war was a murderous crime, and that those who are responsible for it, and for the destruction of the Iraqi civil society should face war crimes trials like the leaders of Nazi Germany.

A farce parliament produced by illegitimate elections in the shadow of war of aggression and occupation does not make a nation democratic, free and sovereign. It makes a colonial dictatorship. The US-led foreign forces have no business in Iraq. Iraq’s liberation and self-determination from foreign invaders are the unquestionable legitimate rights of the Iraqi people.

Ghali Hassan lives in Perth, Western Australia.

Buck Up, The World Hates Us More Than Ever

As far as I'm concerned, Bush deserves to be impeached for lying to his employers--us--about Iraq's WMDs. He should face prosecution at a war crimes tribunal for the murder of the 100,000-plus Iraqis he ordered killed by U.S. troops. He deserves life in prison for ordering the torture, and allowing the murder under torture, of countless innocent Afghans and Iraqis. Nothing, not even if the Iraq war sparked the transformation of the entire Muslim world into peaceful and prosperous Athenian-style democracies, could retroactively justify such murderous perfidy.

Why the Left Was Right After All By Ted Rall

Liberals have their faults, but no one can accuse them of being pigheaded. Two years after left-of-Bush Americans marched against the invasion of Iraq and a year after the Administration admitted it had lied about Saddam's non-existent weapons of mass destruction and ties to Al Qaeda, the sprouting of a few protodemocratic weeds in the microscopically-cracked cement of Arab dictatorship has prompted them to wonder whether the neoconservatives maybe did the right thing after all by going into Iraq.

"[Bush] may have had it right," NPR's Daniel Schorr writes in the Christian Science Monitor. Even Harry Reid, the Democrats' fiery-as-these-things-go leader in the Senate, is swooning over the image of flag-waving Lebanese demanding a Syrian withdrawal: "Any breakthrough we get there, whether it is in Lebanon or Egypt, is a step in the right direction and I support the president in that regard."

As far as I'm concerned, Bush deserves to be impeached for lying to his employers--us--about Iraq's WMDs. He should face prosecution at a war crimes tribunal for the murder of the 100,000-plus Iraqis he ordered killed by U.S. troops. He deserves life in prison for ordering the torture, and allowing the murder under torture, of countless innocent Afghans and Iraqis. Nothing, not even if the Iraq war sparked the transformation of the entire Muslim world into peaceful and prosperous Athenian-style democracies, could retroactively justify such murderous perfidy. I'm not convinced a Riyadh spring is about to bloom. It will take a lot more than male-only Saudi municipal elections held in half the country, in which six of the seven winners were illegally promoted by the kingdom's extremist Wahabbi religious establishment.

Take courage, wobbly self-doubters! Even taking recent events into account, your "no blood for oil" signs will come in handy during the America-hating years ahead.

Never mind the dead, the lies or the cash, say the connies. As Britain's John Maples, originally a Bush supporter of the Iraq war, wrote: "The real reason for the war, at least in the U.S., was to create a reasonably democratic, free market Iraq to act as both a beacon and a rebuke to other countries in the region." The Project for a New American Century, the neocon think tank that started Cheney, Rumsfeld & Co. along the charred road to American Empire, stated in 1997 that U.S foreign policy leaders should strive "to shape a new century favorable to American principles and interests [around the world]." Iraq was the first big test of their approach.

It may be premature to judge Bush's frat pack by their own standards but it's also fair. They've already declared victory. Ross Terrill, whose editor at The Weekly Standard signed the 1997 PNAC statement of purpose, writes: "Success in Iraq, Bush's victory on November 2, Arafat's demise, and the ongoing appeal of economic and political freedom to ordinary folk, all triggered political changes across the globe that lessen the need for massive U.S. military intervention again soon."

Bush's current foreign policy report card is a mixed bag: a B in Phys Ed and a string of Ds and Fs in more important, heavily weighted subjects.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has eased somewhat, largely thanks to an event that had nothing to do with Bush, Arafat's death and replacement with Mahmoud Abbas. But even the Palestinian Authority's own polls show that fewer than half of Palestinians accept recent elections as legitimate, while 84 percent of the population say they live without safety or security in their daily lives. Basic issues, such as Israeli colonies on Arab land, remain unresolved. Peace with Israel? Not in the near future.

Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarek, 76, has finally agreed to allow candidates to run against him for the presidency, but his most formidable challenger, Ayman Nour, was rotting in prison until January. He's now under virtual house arrest, which makes campaigning a tad inconvenient. Even the deployment of government goons against pro-Nour demonstrators hasn't reduced the flow of U.S. foreign aid (Egypt comes in second after Israel) or Egyptian anti-Americanism. "[Egyptian-American] relations are going through a seriously bad patch," a diplomat tells the UK Telegraph.

Libya has agreed to suspend its nuclear program and Syria is being pressured to pull its troops out of Lebanon, but neither move--both in strategic backwaters--significantly affects the economic or security prospects of American interests.

On to the big subjects:

Iran (news - web sites) has long sought improved relations with the U.S. It is a rare opportunity to form a friendship with an oil-rich, politically influential regional player. North Korea, on the other hand, poses our biggest challenge: a nuclear capable state, led by a paranoid and isolated autocrat who has threatened to incinerate the West Coast. Bush's charm offensive has been so badly botched that he has been reduced to promising that he has no immediate plans to invade Iran. "I hear all these rumors about military attacks, and it's just not the truth," he says. But the U.S. is better poised to invade Iran than North Korea (and oil adds to the motivation). Bush has also failed to reassure North Korea. "We have taken a serious measure by increasing nuclear arms in preparation for any invasions by enemies," the North Korean regime said March 22. So long, Seattle.

Even the stirrings of electioneering in Iraq and Afghanistan have left the Muslim world cold. Both contests, held amid pervasive fraud, violence and corruption in active war zones where millions are too afraid to venture outdoors, are interpreted as ersatz democracy imposed upon puppet regimes created by a hostile occupation force. And the stooges are disorganized. Iraq's fractious parties haven't been able to form a government; Afghanistan's elections have been delayed until the fall owing to the continuing war with the Taliban. A BBC poll taken in Turkey, a staunch American ally and the model secular state in the Islamic world, finds that 82 percent of Turks consider the United States under George W. Bush to be the greatest threat to world peace.

Is this a world "favorable to American principles and interests"? Clapping your hands is fun, but it doesn't change jack.

Copyright: Ted Rall - http://www.rall.com/