Nov 4, 2006
With excitement and barely suppressed glee, the media announced the death sentence returned against Iraqi strongman, Saddam Hussein, for crimes against humanity during the 1982 Dujail massacre.
In the face of the deadly horror that is Iraq, Hussein has become little more than a bad, but distant memory.
Indeed, in both print and audio interviews I've read and heard in the last few weeks, Iraqis looked to life under the Hussein regime as the good old days. That is a measure, not of how 'good' the old days were, but of how anguished is the present.
While Shi'as groaned under the repression of the secret police, and the Kurds lived in terror of the central government, the day-to-day life of Iraqis was one that was among the most envied of the Arab world. Its populace was among the most educated, certainly one of the highest among women in that region.
With the very serious exception of the omnipresent threat of government security forces, Iraqis lived lives of relative safety and security.
Today, Iraq is bedlam; the police and army are little more than ethnic death squads.
The U.S.-backed puppet government in Baghdad is a 'government' in name only. Real power is in the militias and regional religious leaders, like Moqtada al-Sadr, a man who is both!
In light of Saddam's death sentence, you'll probably hear some pundits claim it's a 'turning point', or a 'benchmark', of the new Iraqi democracy. In truth, it's neither.
The forces unleashed by the invasion and occupation have become bigger than Saddam.
The irony is that Saddam Hussein, according to recently published reports, never believed that the U.S. would actually take Baghdad; not because he thought his Republican Guard was so fierce, but because he thought that Americans couldn't be so stupid.
Peter Galbraith in an Aug. 2006 article in the *New York Review of Books* criticized the military knowledge of both Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Saddam Hussein, as leaders who routinely ignored advice from their generals.
In the article, "Mindless in Iraq," Galbraith noted:
"Men who had put their lives on the line in combat were mostly unwilling to put their careers on the line to speak out against a plan based on the numbers pulled out of the air by a cranky sixty-nine-year old [i.e., Rumsfeld].
"Fortunately for the US troops who had to invade Iraq, they were initially up against an adversary who was also convinced of his own military genius. Saddam Hussein knew it made no strategic sense for the US to invade Iraq and therefore he assumed it wouldn't happen. He had maintained ambiguity about whether he had WMDs not because he had something to hide but to intimidate the two enemies about whom he really was worried, the Iranians and Iraq's Shiite majority.
"Even before the invasion began ... Saddam could not quite believe the United States intended to go all the way to Baghdad .. Saddam could not imagine that the United States would see an advantage in replacing him with a pro-Iranian, Shiite-dominated regime." [Fr.: Galbraith, P., "Mindless in Iraq," NYROB (Aug. 10, 2006), p. 29.]
And so, Saddam will soon have a date with the hangman; but events and forces at work in Iraq will barely ripple from his passage. His death warrant, signed and sealed in Washington, D.C., will bring it no closer to US regional objectives.
Hasn't Iraq had enough death?
The hell of today is far worse than the hell of yesterday.
Copyright 2006 Mumia Abu-Jamal
Oct 18, 2006
If the minions of the neocon right are to be believed, the struggle in Iraq, (and by extension, the Middle East) is essentially a war against what they call "extremism."
Even the verbally challenged President George W. Bush has argued, quite strenuously, against "Islamic extremists."
It seems like many in the right are trying out new terms every week, to stoke the fires of fear about new and foreboding threats to the besieged American republic: "extremists"; "Islamic extremists"; "Islamofascists"; "dead-enders", et al.
For politicians words are weapons, which are used to sell images, such like Madison Ave. sells soap. Every so often, even the best product must be made "new" or "improved!"
And why shouldn't they? Hasn't it worked before?
We now sneer at the phrase 'weapons of mass destruction', but several years ago it rang in the head like a klaxon.
Is it radical or extremist to fight against foreigners who invade your country, and try to impose strangers who function as puppets for these foreigners?
Why is the administration never seen as "extremist" for invading a foreign country based on false pretenses? Why isn't it viewed as "extreme" for its mad plan to 'remake the face of the Middle East?'
Why isn't its response for the desperate acts of 19 men, (9/11), of invading a nation that had nothing to do with that act, seen as "extreme?"
That it isn't is largely because of the obedient services of the corporate media, which sought obscene ratings by playing the fear card, and waving the flag.
They did so because their paychecks are signed by big business, and this administration has been good for big business.
They served their corporate masters, but betrayed their publics.
Yet this is hardly a new thing. Scholar and writer, Michael Parenti, in the 2004 book Super Patriotism (San Francisco: City Lights Books) looks beyond the present manic Bush Regime, to view a long history of US extremism all around the world:
"US LEADERS HAVE LONG PROFESSED A DEDICATION TO DEMOCRACY, yet over the last half century they have devoted themselves to overthrowing democratic governments in Guatemala, Guyana, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Syria, Indonesia (under Sukarno), Greece (twice), Argentina (twice), Haiti (twice), Bolivia, Jamaica, Yugoslavia, and other countries. These countries were all guilty of pursuing policies that occasionally favored the poorer elements and infringed upon the more affluent. In most instances, the US-sponsored coups were accompanied by widespread killings of democratic activists.
"US leaders have supported covert actions, sanctions, or proxy mercenary wars against revolutionary governments in Cuba, Angola, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Iraq (with the CIA ushering in Saddam Hussein's reign of repression), Portugal, South Yemen, Nicaragua, Cambodia, East Timor, Western Sahara, and elsewhere.
"US interventions and destabilization campaigns have been directed against other populist nationalistic governments, including Egypt, Lebanon, Peru, Iran, Syria, Zaire, Venezuela, the Fiji Islands, and Afghanistan (before the Soviets ever went into the country).
"And since World War II, direct US military invasions or aerial attacks or both have been perpetrated against Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, North Korea, Yugoslavia, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, Libya, Somalia, and Iraq (twice). There is no 'rogue state,' 'axis of evil,' or communist country that has a comparable record of such criminal aggression against other nations." (pp. 133-34]
In light of this kind of history, who are the "extremists?"
In light of this history, who are the "radicals?"
This isn't a 'war against extremism' -- it is a war waged by extremists.
It is a war waged by ideologues drunk on power, and willing to break a nation to prove their theories of the so-called 'free market.'
Iraq is essentially a broken state, awaiting its final crack.
Like hungry wolves, these dudes are looking for the next morsel to munch on.
Column Written 10/15/06. Copyright '06 Mumia Abu-Jamal
Oct 18, 2006
The numbers recently announced from a John Hopkins University study could not be more stunning: since the March 2003 start of the Iraq War, some 600,000 Iraqi civilians have died.
The number, drawn from a random sampling of Iraqis, drew almost immediate condemnation from the military-news media establishment.
Even George Rex III, sniffed at a recent press conference, "That study is flawed." This from the guy who, when asked several months ago, how many Iraqi civilians died, blithely replied, "I dunno -- around 30,000."
The John Hopkins study, published in a recent edition of The Lancet, the journal of the British Medical Association, did not claim that 600,000 Iraqis were slain by so-called ''coalition forces." The number reflected deaths from all causes, including illnesses, and accidents.
But what Dr. Gilbert Burnham did say could hardly be called reassuring. Burnham, the study's lead author, and professor of international health at John Hopkins, said that the coalition directly caused the deaths of 31% of Iraqi civilians. Now, I ain't no math wiz, but according to my trusty calculator, that means the so-called 'coalition' is responsible for the deaths of a stunning 186,000 Iraqis!
What the study tells us is that war brings both direct and indirect causes of death, for the destruction of resources and infrastructure leads, inexorably, to serious health problems that can lead to death.
As I thought of those numbers -- 186,000 -- 600,000 -- I thought of the talking heads from the White House and the think tanks, echoing "Iraq is better off," "Iraq is much better ..."
The study, a joint undertaking of the Baltimore-based John Hopkins University and the Baghdad-based School of Medicine at Al Mustansiriya University, estimated that the country has suffered some 600 deaths a day since the U.S. invasion.
600 deaths -- a day.
Do Iraqis think that things are better now than they were under Saddam? Why not listen to the voices of some Iraqis, instead of paid shills for the administration?
The writer Anthony Arnove, in his recent book Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal (New York: The New Press, 2006) made the following observations:
"Three years into an occupation that its defenders boasted would rebuild Iraq, many Iraqis say conditions were better under sanctions and dictatorship. In much of the country, there is less electricity than before the invasion, with predictable consequences, including 'patients who die in emergency rooms when equipment stops running.' Even many Iraqis who had supported the U.S. invasion, in the hope that it would bring some improvement to their lives, now denounce the occupation. 'We loved the Americans when they came. I believed them when they said they came to help us,' said one Iraqi, Hossain Ibrahim, a former student. 'But now I hate them, they are worse then Saddam.'" [p. 14]
A mad war, driven by mad men, with their shiny eyes on oil, and the dream of 'remaking the Middle East', have dreamt a disaster, where over 1/2 a million people are now and forever gone.
There is something fundamentally insane about this.
There is the sub rosa, and quiet assurance that the lives of Arabs don't really count for much.
This is what you get for a billion bucks a week!
This is what occupation looks like.
Column Written 10/12/06. Copyright 2006 Mumia Abu-Jamal
Oct 16, 2006
I greet you all, those gathered here in support of the work and liberty of Attorney Lynne Stewart, on the eve of her sentencing in federal court.
It is my pleasure to join y'all, if only in this limited way.
I also want to be clear that the sentiments expressed here are my own, and are not those of Lynne. I speak only to support her, and wish her a very favorable outcome in the days ahead.
Lynne Stewart is, simply speaking, a legend in the realm of law, for her defense of people engaged in struggles against the powerful. That said, I think it's safe to say that although she has defended Black nationalists, Lynne Stewart is not a Black nationalist. She has defended Puerto Rican nationalists, though I bet she isn't a Puerto Rican nationalist. And though she has defended Omar Abdel-Rahman (known as the blind Sheikh), who was convicted of involvement in the first terrorist strike at the World Trade Center, we can all agree she's no terrorist.
It is only in the maddening age, in the shadows of 9/11, that a prosecution like this could even be contemplated, and won! And that is a testament more to fear, than to reason.
Let's be honest -- She was convicted of essentially breaking a prison rule!
You know, if a prisoner violates a prison rule, he or she may get 30 or 60 days in the hole. Or, perhaps, a reprimand.
In the United States of America, Lynne Stewart faces 30 years!
That should make you wonder, not about Lynne Stewart, but about the country you're living in. About the nature of the thing we all call the 'law'.
Lynne Stewart, a 66-year old woman, is facing a life sentence for breaking a prison rule!
Of course, being the feds, prison rules have fancy titles, like the Special Administrative Measures (or SAMs), and yes, lawyers had to sign it to see their clients, but that's what it is, a prison rule.
Lynne's only 'crime' (if it can be called that), is thinking that the old rules sill applied after 9/11.
We -- all of us -- live in a world where Congress recently debated torture, and agreed to let George W. Bush decide! Where secret prisons now sit, administered by the CIA, in the former Soviet bloc countries! Where habeas corpus -- remember that so-called 'Great Writ?' -- will be denied to those who are tortured by U.S. military, government employees, (or private contractors) -- on King George's say so!
Lynne, like any thinking person, probably read the rules, saw that they were profoundly unconstitutional, and presumed that any judge who swore an oath to the Constitution, would say so too.
Maybe before 9/11. Not now.
This is our world. This is the madness that passes for sober thought in today's America.
But, the people -- each one of you -- aren't powerless. By being here tonight, you want to join your voice with Lynne's; to say, to show, that this woman isn't alone.
That is a good and powerful thing!
Yet, I must say one other thing (again, my opinion -- not Lynne's). Egypt is a terrorist state. It uses brutal and monstrous torture against its political opponents. Does that mean that one endorses terrorism against that, or any state? Of course not. But it means we cannot ignore state terrorism. Whether in Egypt -- or here in the U.S. of A.
Secret prisons. Torture chambers in Guantanamo, Cuba. Prisoners disappeared in Bagram, in Diego Garcia, and in places -- so-called 'black sites' with names unknown, where who-knows-what goes on.
It's time for people to join hands, join forces, and join movements, to change this sad state of affairs. Lynne Stewart's work, in support of human rights for all, and a zealous defense for all, is a damned good starting point!!
Speech Written 10/7/06] Copyright 2006 Mumia Abu-Jamal