Munich American Peace Committee (MAPC)
Radio Lora, 10. Dezember 2007
Democracy Now! durchbricht die Mauer des Schweigens
Boulder, Colorado, September 2006
Amy Goodman ist die mehrfach ausgezeichnete Moderatorin des unabhängigen Fernseh- und Radiosenders Democracy Now!, der in Nordamerika stündlich über 500 Stationen Nachrichtensendungen ausstrahlt. Democracy Now! berichtet, das, was von den kommerziellen Massenmedien nicht berichtet wird. Amy Goodmans Bücher "The Exception to the Rulers" und "Static" wurden Bestseller.
Es ist wunderbar, mit Ihnen gemeinsam den Tag der unabhängigen Medien zu feiern. Ich komme gerade aus Nantucket, dem historischen Ort an dem Frederick Douglas eine seiner ersten Reden gegen die Sklaverei hielt. Ihm, dem Sklavenjunge aus Maryland war die Flucht von Mount Misery gelungen, wo aufmüpfige Sklaven brutal gefügig gemacht wurden. Heute ist Mount Misery das Feriendomizil von Ex-Verteidigungsminister Donald Rumsfeld. Sein Busenfreund Dick Cheney wohnt gleich nebenan.
Den Abend davor, in Provincetown, hatte ich Melida und Carlos Arredondo getroffen, die neben einem Pickup mit einem Sarg standen. Ihre Geschichte ist schnell erzählt: Als an seinem 41. Geburtstag Marines auftauchten, um ihm mitzuteilen, dass sein Sohn Alex im Irak ums Leben gekommen ist, drehte Carlos durch und versuchte sich zu verbrennen. Die Brandwunden sind fast verheilt, aber erst ein Jahr später, als Cindy Sheehan sich auf den Weg nach Crawford machte, begann auch Carlos Seele allmählich zu heilen.
Im August 2005, während ihrer Rede vor den Veterans for Peace in Dallas, hatte Cindy Sheehan spontan beschlossen, sich nach Crawford aufzumachen und den Präsidenten auf seiner Sommerresidenz zu fragen für welche ehrenvolle Sache ihr Sohn gestorben sei. Statt sie zu empfangen, machte George W. Bush Ausflüge auf seinem Mountainbike.
Cindy Sheehan und Celeste Zappala waren bereits im Januar 2005 bei der Amtseinführung des Präsidenten in Washington. Sie hatten gerade die Irak-Hinterbliebenenorganisation "Gold Star Families for Peace" gegründet und wollten Verteidigungsminister Donald Rumsfeld sprechen. Doch bereits am Parkplatz des Pentagons wurden die trauernden Mütter von schwer bewaffneten Sicherheitskräften abgewiesen. Und so tauchten sie wenige Monate später in Crawford auf. Nicht nur Democracy Now! sondern Hunderte, Tausende schlossen sich ihnen an! Viele von ihnen haben Kinder im Krieg verloren. So wie Nadia McCaffrey, deren Sohn nach dem 11. September zur National Guard ging, um sein Land vor Anschlägen und bei Naturkatastrophen zu schützen. Doch man schickte ihn in den Irak. Und er ging, um seine Freunde und seine Einheit zu schützen.
Gouverneur George Pataki aus meinem Heimatstaat New York brachte sich aus Bagdad ein Stück der Statue von Saddam Hussein mit, der Statue, die wir unzählige Male haben stürzen sehen. Für die meisten Amerikaner ist das das Bild, das sie mit der Invasion des Iraks verbinden. Der Rest der Welt verbindet mit diesem Ereignis allerdings das Bild eines irakischen Gefangenen, der in eine Kapuze gehüllt, mit ausgebreiteten Armen auf einer Kiste steht und an dessen Fingern Elektrokabel befestigt sind. Das ist das Bild, das sich Welt von Amerika macht. Doch nicht nur das, Folter, Erschießungen, illegale Verhaftungen und Entführungen in Folterstaaten kommen hinzu.
Gerade hat ein kanadisches Gericht Maher Arar rehabilitiert und von jeglicher Schuld freigesprochen. Der kanadische Staatsbürger syrischer Abstammung war im Transitbereich des Kennedy Airports festgenommen und später nach Syrien abgeschoben worden. Der Computerexperte, der als 17jähriger mit seiner Familie aus Syrien geflohen war, flehte die US Behörden an, ihn nicht dorthin zu deportieren. Umsonst. Ein Jahr lang wurde er in Syrien in einer winzigen Zelle festgehalten und brutal gefoltert. Als man ihn - ohne jede weitere Erklärung - wieder nach Kanada zurückschickte, war er ein gebrochener Mann. So macht sich Präsident Bush zum Komplizen Syriens, das er doch als Einfallstor des Terrorismus bezeichnete. Sollte Gouverneur Pataki, wie geplant, sein Saddam-Souvenir im neuen World Trade Center einbetonieren lassen, dann wäre dies das erste und bisher einzige Beweisstück für eine Verbindung zwischen dem 11. September und dem Irak!
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Präsident Bush ist zwar der mächtigste Mann der Welt, aber wir sind noch mächtiger! Unsere Zukunft liegt in unseren Händen.
Nehmen wir uns ein Beispiel an den Müttern der gefallenen Soldaten, die nach Crawford gingen: Als Patrick McCaffreys Sarg am Sacramento International Airport ankommt, wird er bereits von der Presse erwartet. Seine Mutter hatte sich Präsident Bushs Anordnung widersetzt, dass die in Flaggen gehüllten Särge und Leichensäcke weder fotografiert noch gefilmt werden dürfen. Sie war es, die die Journalisten eingeladen hatte. Wie sie, ging auch Patricia Roberts nach Crawford, die Gründerin eines Fonds, mit dessen Hilfe sich afroamerikanische Jugendliche auch ohne den Umweg über den Irak eine gute Schulbildung leisten können. Oder Becky Lourey, die Senatorin aus Minnesota. Sie hatte schon lange vor dem Einmarsch in den Irak protestiert: Zuerst gegen den Krieg, dann gegen die Aufträge, die man Haliburton zugeschanzt hatte. Und dann sind da noch Carlos und Melida, die - mal mit einem kleinen, mal mit einem großen Sarg - fast schon durch das ganze Land gezogen sind. Sie haben Dokumente bei sich, die beweisen, wie aggressiv die Nationalgarde nun auch um ihren jüngeren Sohn wirbt und ihn mit einer 20 000 Dollar-Prämie zu ködern sucht. Die Werbebriefe sind an die "lieben Amerikaner" gerichtet, aber Vater Carlos, aus Costa Rica, verweigerte man auch nach dem Tod seines Sohnes im Irak die Staatsangehörigkeit. Die Anwerber betonen, dass man in Zeiten von Hurrikan Katrina seinem Land dienen müsse und das, nachdem sie gerade eine Stadt in den Fluten haben versinken lassen. Obwohl der Präsident gewarnt worden war, dass es einen schrecklichen Hurrikan geben könnte, fuhr er nach Kalifornien, um sich auf der Gitarre klimpernd fotografieren zu lassen. Auch Vizepräsident Cheney unterbrach seinen Angelurlaub nicht als in New Orleans die Dämme brachen. Während die Menschen ertranken, kaufte in New York Außenministerin Condoleeza Rice seelenruhig weiter Schuhe ein und spielte mit Monica Seles Tennis. Ja, so sind sie, unsere Öllobbyisten! 1 500 Menschen mussten in New Orleans sterben, weil die Nationalgarde, anstatt diese Weltkulturmetropole und ihre Bewohner zu retten, im Irak kämpfte. Doch je weniger unsere Regierung daran dachte, nach New Orleans zu eilen, um so mehr Medienvertreter reisten an und selbst regierungsfreundliche Journalisten berichteten erstmals auch aus der Perspektive der Opfer. Kein Regierungssprecher konnte sie nun mehr daran hindern, im Wasser treibende Leichen zu filmen und mit verzweifelten Überlebenden zu sprechen, die hilflos zusehen mussten, wie ihre Angehörigen von den Wassermassen fortgerissen wurden. Diese Nachrichten rüttelten die Menschen auf. Und würden nur eine Woche lang solche ungeschönten Nachrichten auch aus dem Irak oder aus dem Libanon gesendet werden, Aufnahmen von herumliegenden toten Babys, von Frauen, denen Streubomben die Beine abgerissen haben und von toten und sterbenden Soldaten, dann würde den mitfühlenden Amerikanern schlagartig bewußt, dass im 21. Jahrhundert Konflikte nicht durch Kriege gelöst werden können.
Wußten Sie eigentlich, dass man als irakischer Architekt und Greencard Besitzer auf dem John F. Kennedy Flughafen festgehalten und wie ein Schwerverbrecher zu seinem Flugzeug eskortiert werden kann, wenn man zufällig ein T-Shirt trägt, auf dem in englisch und arabisch "Wir schweigen nicht!" aufgedruckt ist? Nachdem Democracy Now! darüber berichtet hatte, bestiegen immer mehr Hörerinnen in solchen T-Shirts Flugzeuge bis sich auch andere Sender dieses Skandals annehmen mussten.
"Wir schweigen nicht" war das Motto der "Weißen Rose" deren Mitglieder ihren Widerstand gegen die Natiionalsozialisten mit dem Leben bezahlen mussten. Mit ihren Flugblätter wollten sie verhindern, dass jemand behaupten konnte, er habe von den Verbrechen der Nazis nichts gewußt. Das war auch das Anliegen von Pastor Martin Niemöller "Als sie die Kommunisten, die Sozialdemokraten, die Gewerkschaftler, die Juden und Katholiken holten, sagte ich nichts, denn ich war ja kein Sozialist, kein Gewerkschafter, kein Jude und kein Katholik. Als sie mich holten, gab es keinen mehr, der protestieren konnte"
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Beim Sender MSNBC wollte man mir kürzlich klar machen, dass es doch in diesen gefährlichen Zeiten wichtig wäre, sich alle Fremden genauer anzusehen, ganz besonders die Muslime. Bei der Suche nach Komplizen des Bombenlegers von Oklahoma City, Timothy McVeigh, kam in unserem Rechtsstaat kein Mensch auf die Idee, dass sich ab sofort alle Christen mit blonden Haaren und blauen Augen bei der Polizei melden müssten. Aber sind wir überhaupt noch ein Rechtsstaat? Nach dem 11. September haben wir Tausende Menschen willkürlich eingesperrt oder abgeschoben. Für einige mag Amerika noch die beste Demokratie der Welt sein, für andere jedoch ein höchst gefährlicher Ort. Es liegt an den Medien, diesen Widerspruch aufzulösen. Das ist nicht immer leicht. Als1970 die erste unabhängige Radiostation Pacifica auch in Texas auf Sendung ging, jagte sie der Ku Klux Klan in die Luft. Denn sobald Menschen wie Du und ich zu den Menschen sprechen, sind Vorurteile nicht mehr haltbar und das palästinensische Kind und die israelische Großmutter sind uns plötzlich ganz nah. Darin besteht die Macht der unabhängigen Medien.
Lassen sie mich noch einmal auf den 11. September zurückkommen. Democracy Now! war ganz in der Nähe des World Trade Centers. Da sich aber unser Sender in fensterlosen Kellerräumen befand, sahen wir nicht, was vor unserer Haustüre vor sich ging und berichteten über den 11.9.1973, als Salvador Allende in Chile, im Bombenhagel der von Nixon und Kissinger unterstützten Pinochettruppen starb. Am 11.9.76 wurde der chilenische Diplomat Orlando Letelier mitten in Washington erschossen, am 11. 9. 1990 der guatemaltesische Wissenschaftler Myran Mack. Am 11.9.77 prügelten US nahe Sicherheitskräften des südafrikanischen Apartheidregimes Steve Biko, den Vater der schwarzen Befreiungsbewegung, tot. Als am 11.9.71 die Insassen des Gefängnisses von Attica in Staat New York gegen die Haftbedingungen protestierten, rief Gouverneur Rockefeller die staatliche Polizei, die 39 Männer - Häftlinge und Wärter erschoss. Den Familien der Opfer hatte man lange erzählt, dass ihre Angehörigen von Gefangenen erschossen worden seien . Wenn Sie immer noch meinen, dass der Terror erst am 11. September 2001in Amerika angekommen ist, dann fragen Sie doch Afroamerikaner nach der Sklaverei oder amerikanische Ureinwohner nach dem Schicksal ihrer Vorfahren.
Während wir 2001 von Ground Zero berichteten, beobachteten wir, wie sich die offiziellen Meldungen immer mehr von der Wahrheit entfernten. Wir hörten keinen Schrei nach Vergeltung, sondern sahen Blumen und Kerzen für die Opfer. Um einen Krieg in Afghanistan zu verhindern, riefen die Angehörigen die Bewegung"Not in Our Name" ins Leben, aber sie wurden von "Terrorexperten" wie Oliver North und Henry Kissinger übertönt. Und die beiden sind ja wahrlich Experten des Terrors, die in Argentinien, in Kambodscha, in Indonesien und Timor ihre blutige Spur hinterlassen haben.
Selbstverständlich müssen Bin Laden und seine Komplizen vor Gericht gestellt und bestraft werden. Aber ebenso müsste auch Henry Kissinger vor ein Kriegsgericht kommen. Um das zu verhindern, ist die Bush Regierung gerade dabei, entsprechende Gesetze zu ändern. Damit dieses Land ein sicheres Land ist, brauchen wir weltweit einheitliche Gesetze und die USA müssen anerkennen, dass der Internationale Gerichtshof auch für US Staatsbürger zuständig ist. Und wir, die Bürger des mächtigsten Staates mit der stärksten Militärmacht der Welt, müssen jeden Tag aufs Neue entscheiden, ob wir Schwert oder Schutzschild sein wollen.
Breaking the Sound Barrier: Democracy Now!Amy Goodman is the award-winning host of Democracy Now!, the daily syndicated radio and TV program. Her reporting on East Timor and Nigeria has received top awards. Howard Zinn says, “Amy Goodman has carried the great muckraking tradition of Upton Sinclair, George Seldes, and I.F. Stone into the electronic age, creating a powerful counter to the mainstream media.” Her book “The Exception to the Rulers” was a bestseller. Her new book is “Static.”
Boulder, Colorado 26 September 2006
It is so wonderful to be here with you celebrating KGNU tonight, celebrating independent media. We've begun this 80- city tour. I began a few weeks ago on Labor Day. It was Friday night, Labor Day weekend, and we started in Provincetown, Massachusetts. There we were celebrating WOMR, Outermost Radio. On Saturday we went to Nantucket. Nantucket is an historic place. It's where Frederick Douglass gave one of his first addresses against slavery. He trembled when he spoke, his body shook. He was speaking from his own experience. He had been enslaved as a child and a teenager. He was born on the eastern shore of Maryland. He had been handed over to Edward Covey, who was known as the slave breaker. Slave owners would give their troublesome slaves to Covey. Covey's property is known as Mount Misery. He almost broke Frederick Douglass, but Douglass broke away. And he went north and changed the world. Mount Misery today, on the eastern shore of Maryland, is owned by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. It is his vacation home. He bought it in 2003 to be near his close friend, who is just about a quarter of a mile down the road, Vice President Dick Cheney.
The night before we were in Nantucket, we were in Provincetown, and I was speaking at the local high school. So we drove up, it was getting dark. Just as I was going up the stairs, I saw this pickup truck next to the stairs, and in the truck there was a coffin. This couple was standing next to the pickup truck. Their names were Melida and Carlos Arredondo.
As I walked up the steps, they told me their story very quickly. Carlos said that in the summer of 2004 they had moved down to Florida. It was August 25, 2004. It was Carlos's fortysixth birthday. He was home with his mother. Melida was out. A marine van pulled up. He thought maybe it was Alex, his son, surprising him from Iraq. But instead the marines got out and informed Carlos that his son was dead. He died in the ancient Iraqi city of Najaf, 20 years old and 20 days. Carlos lost his mind. He went into a frenzy. He begged the marines to leave. They didn't. He asked them again. They didn't.
He raced into the garage and he got some cans of gas, and a blowtorch. He asked them to leave again, and they didn't. He went after the van and he started to try to destroy it. He was pouring gasoline inside the van. His mother came out. He had gotten gasoline on himself, and his mother was trying to pull him out of the van. That triggered the torch that blew up the van and blew Carlos out. He was burning on the lawn, at which point Melida, his wife pulled up, where she saw her husband burning. And that's how she learned their stepson, Alex, was dead.
Then Brian called, Alex's younger brother, who is 17. He was in Maine on summer vacation, calling to wish his dad a happy birthday. He heard this commotion and someone yelled something about the media. He turned on the television, and there he saw his father burning on the front lawn. That's how he learned his brother, whom he loved and emulated and wanted to be like, was dead. No judgment, just one story in a time of war. So Carlos had to heal. He was burned on over a quarter of his body. But the physical part was easy compared to the psychic healing he had to do. It wasn't until a year later, August 2005, when Cindy Sheehan went to Crawford, that Carlos found his voice.
Cindy Sheehan, August 5, 2005. She goes to Dallas for the Veterans for Peace convention. In the midst of her speech she says she can't enjoy a summer vacation because she lost her son, Casey, in Sadr City in Baghdad on April 4, 2004, “4/04/04,” she says. And so she said she'd head to Crawford, because she wanted to ask the president a question. She just wanted an hour of his time to ask, “For what noble cause did my son die?” She said since she was in Texas anyway, she would make the journey. She didn't know really where Crawford was, but how far could it be? So she set out in a little caravan the next morning with some veterans, and they made their way to Crawford. She took up residence in a ditch outside the presidential estate. We won't call it a ranch, because it isn't. She just stayed there, and she kept on asking this question, “For what noble cause did my son die?”
The White House Press Corps, that follows the president everywhere, is not known for its independence. But even this embedded corps, in the heat of the Texas summer, 110-degree heat day after day, not enjoying the access of evil they're used to—that's trading truth for access—because the president is on one of the longest presidential vacations in history, and being down the road from this relentless, persistent woman, took up her call. And they asked the president, “Why won't you meet with this grieving mother?”
And the president responded. That shows the power of the press, when they ask a question, when they persist, when they follow up. That's why independent media is so important. President Bush did respond to them. He said, “I have to get on with my life, too.” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that that day that he went mountain-bike riding for 2 hours, he fished, he napped, he took in a Little League luncheon, and I think they said he did some reading. That was his day, and it didn't include Cindy, as other days didn't. But Cindy wouldn't give up. The press said to her, “You're so eloquent, you're so articulate. Why haven't you spoken out before?” She said, “I have. You just haven't been listening.” If you listen to KGNU or watch Free Speech TV, if you go online and look for alternative information, you knew about Cindy Sheehan before.
Democracy Now! was in Washington, D.C., for the inauguration of President Bush in January of 2005. This is just months before. Cindy Sheehan was there. She and Celeste Zappala, who lost her son, Sherwood Baker, the first Pennsylvania national guardsman to die since World War II, founded Gold Star Families for Peace. They had asked if they 2 could meet with Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense. He never got back to them. But they decided they would make a small pilgrimage to the Pentagon. This was on the eve of the inauguration. They made their way to the Pentagon parking lot, where they were met by an envoy of the secretary, perhaps to say “The secretary is not available but we'll take a message to him,” or perhaps, my goodness, invited into the Pentagon for some hot cider or some comfort, these mourning mothers? No, they were met by the black-clad Pentagon security in the parking lot, and they were turned back at gunpoint. Beware of mothers who have nothing left to lose.
So a few months later Cindy headed to Crawford, which will forever be known as Cindy's Crawford. She became a magnet for so many. Hundreds of people came, thousands. Democracy Now! went down and we broadcast right outside that ditch at Camp Casey and talked to many different people. Many women had gone there who had lost their children, who had engaged in their own defiant acts before.
Like Nadia McCaffrey. She lived outside Sacramento. Her son was Patrick McCaffrey. He joined the National Guard after 9/11 because he felt he had the perfect wife, two kids, and he wanted to give back to his country. He wanted to protect his country in a time of attack or in a time of national catastrophe.
So Patrick joined up. Then he was called to go to Iraq. He just didn't understand. What was the connection between 9/11 and Iraq? He sat with his mother for hours. She didn't want him to go. But in the end he decided he wanted to go to protect his buddies and his unit.
I come from New York, the state of Governor George Pataki. He went to Iraq to visit, he came back, and he said that he wants to take a piece of the statue of Saddam Hussein—remember the one that went down in Baghdad in Ferdos Square? We know because we watched it thousands of times on all of the networks. They repeated it over and over and over and over. Probably, if you asked Americans, what is the iconic image of the invasion, they would choose that one. What if you asked people in other parts of the world? They would probably choose the picture of an Iraqi prisoner standing on a box with a hood over his head with his arms out, a Christ-like figure with electrodes dangling from his fingertips. That is the image of the U.S. around the world. It doesn't represent the best of America. How is it that that has come to represent us? Not only that, not only the torture and the killings, the illegal detentions and that extraordinary term “extraordinary rendition.” That's White House for kidnapping. Or we know it from Latin America in the 1980s, disappearing people.
Maher Arar. The big news this week. The Canadian judicial commission completely vindicated Maher Arar. He's the Canadian citizen who was sent to Syria by the U.S. It's puzzling. He was picked up at Kennedy airport when he was coming back from a family vacation. He's a computer geek who was working for some math company in Massachusetts, lived in Canada and had to head home early for work. He was taken out of Kennedy—he was just in transit there—and put into a Brooklyn jail, held for two weeks, and then he was sent to Syria. He had been born there, but he left when he was 17, fled with his family. He said to the U.S. authorities as they sent him back on the plane, “I’ll be tortured.” He cried all the way to Syria. And when he got there, sure enough, they put him in a cell the size of a grave and he was brutalized and tortured, held for almost a year. Then, as inexplicably as he was taken, he was released after almost a year, a broken man, and sent back to Canada. Extraordinary rendition. So this judicial commission last week completely exonerates Maher Arar and slams the U.S. government. They said the Canadian government told the U.S. government when they still had him here that he was not connected to Al Qaeda, that they didn't have the evidence. And this past week at the United Nations General Assembly President Bush gives this address that calls Syria the crossroads for terrorism, which means the U.S. walks hand in hand with Syria into this crossroads. This is what is coming to represent the U.S.
Yes, the president is the most powerful person on earth. But there is a force more powerful. It's all of you. You get to decide if these practices continue.
Back to Governor Pataki, who said he wants to take a piece of Saddam Hussein's statue and embed it in the foundation of a new World Trade Center. If he does that, it will be the first proven link between 9/11 and Iraq.
Anyway, Patrick goes to Iraq. He writes home and asks his family to send him deflated soccer balls and candy for the Iraqi kids. And he's killed. When his casket is sent back to his family in California, his mother does something defiant. She invites the press to Sacramento International Airport. Why would that be defiant? Because President Bush has invoked this executive order that says you can't film, videotape, and photograph the flag-draped coffins or body bags of soldiers coming home. So Nadia McCaffrey says, “Please snap away, film, videotape. My son did not go to Iraq in darkness. I don't want him to come home in darkness.” That's how she chose to memorialize him. And Nadia made her way to Crawford.
Then there was Patricia Roberts from Georgia. Her son, Jamal Addison, the first national guardsman to die from Georgia since World War II. She sets up a fund so that African American kids don't have to detour through Iraq to get a college education. She goes to Crawford.
Then there is Becky Lourey. She's a state senator from Minnesota. I had read about her two Memorial Day weekends ago, two years ago. I was driving through Minneapolis headed up to Ashland, Wisconsin, to give a commencement address at Northland College and picked up the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
And there was this article with a headline that said “Death in the Family.” It was about State Senator Becky Lourey. She had introduced an antiwar resolution before the invasion. She had confronted Donald Rumsfeld at a national conference for state legislators over the no-bid Halliburton contracts that she said did no good for the soldiers in Iraq. But that's not why this article was written. It was written because that Memorial Day weekend of 2005 her son, Matt Lourey, was killed in Iraq. And she made her way to Crawford. We talked to State Senator Becky Lourey, and she said, “With our children dying, who will be our future leaders?” I think these women, Nadia and Cindy, Patricia and Becky, are the future leaders of this country.
Back to Carlos and Melida Arredondo, who lost their son Alex, Carlos gaining his voice after Cindy went to Crawford. What he chose to do was drag a coffin around the country. He's dragged it over Capitol Hill, spoken with many congressmen. He's gone to Waco and Crawford. He came up to Provincetown. It was Labor Day weekend, the last big bash before people go back to school and back to work. But there he was with his coffin. Sometimes he's got a miniature one, sometimes he's got a 3 full-size one. And people stop. He said, “The war doesn't go on vacation, so neither will I.”
They showed me a lot of documents. They carry around these loose-leaf notebooks. Among the documents were the letter. See, the National Guard is aggressively recruiting Brian, their younger son. And it said, “Dear American.” That's interesting in itself. Carlos, the father, is not an American citizen. He wants to be. He's tried year after year, giving the greatest national sacrifice you can give, more than your own life, your child's. He comes from Costa Rica, that doesn't have an army. But somehow his being the father of a slain soldier has not merited his own gaining citizenship.
The letter starts off by saying that “You can serve your country in times like Katrina.” That is very interesting, given that last year we witnessed the drowning of an American city. How could this happen in the 21st century? It is not as if President Bush wasn't briefed. He was briefed in advance by videoconference. And they told him this could be the whopper, the big one. You can't be absolutely positive, but they said this didn't look good. This was the kind of hurricane that they feared. So what did President Bush do on this extended vacation? He left Crawford. No, not to go to New Orleans or perhaps back to Washington or to Florida to be in charge of the operations to deal with Katrina. He went to California. And there he did allow photographers to take his picture, riffing on the guitar of the country music star Mark Wills, whose signature song is “Wish You Were Here.” It could have been the theme song of the people of New Orleans. And then he flew back across the country to Crawford.
But it wasn't only President Bush that didn't respond. There was Vice President Dick Cheney. He was in Wyoming fishing. Monday the hurricane, Tuesday the levees break, Wednesday—it's amazing. I told this story last night, when we were in Salt Lake City, and a young man came up to me and said, “I was in the sushi restaurant, I worked there, in Wyoming, where we shared a wall with the Secret Service. And Air Force 2, Cheney's plane, didn't leave.” He said, “Oh, sure, his daughter came in for sushi orders and stuff, but he didn't leave.” To his shock. This guy, who worked in the sushi restaurant, watching himself—he was in Jackson, Wyoming—what was going on in New Orleans.
And then there was Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state. She came to my city, New York. She was doing some high-end shoe shopping at Ferragamo. A customer said to her, “What are you doing shopping when people are dying in New Orleans?” And they took her out. The customer, that is. And Condoleezza Rice went to Broadway and took in Spamalot, she played tennis with Monica Seles.
Then there was Andrew Card, the chief of staff at the time. He's the former GM lobbyist. That's right, what we see in Washington is the ascendancy of the oiligarch: President Bush, a failed oilman; Vice President Dick Cheney, former head of the largest oil services corporation in the world, Halliburton; Condoleezza Rice, who served on the board of Chevron for more than a decade, had an oil tanker named after her, “The Condoleezza Rice”; Andrew Card, the GM lobbyist. Is it any surprise that oil is determining foreign policy, from Iraq to Venezuela? You know the joke of the little boy who says to his father, “What's our oil doing under their sand?”
So this was the response. I don't know if you call it reckless neglect, criminal neglect. I hope it's not because New Orleans is an African American city. It's the cultural capital of this country, perhaps of the world. So this letter says, “Sign up to help in times like Katrina.” More than 1500 people died in New Orleans. They could have been saved, but the National Guard was in Iraq.
The letter goes on to say that it's offering a $20,000 bonus if you sign up now. And it says, “What can you do with $20,000? You could buy a new car. You could pay off your credit card bills. You could use it for your family. The $20,000 you earn is yours.” And then it says, “The decision you make today will affect the way the rest of your life turns out,” which is precisely why Carlos and Melida Arredondo are begging their son not to go to Iraq.
But back to New Orleans. The media did the right thing in that case. They raced to New Orleans. A side effect of the Bush administration not responding, not sending in the troops was that there were no troops to embed with. And we saw something highly unusual: we saw, perhaps for one of the first times, the corporate media reporting from the victims' perspective. It astounded, galvanized, electrified, horrified this country. We would see bodies floating by our TV screens. The Bush administration leaped into action there. They tried to say, You can't film the bodies. And the editor of the Times Picayune said, You've got to be kidding.
Then I remember seeing a young woman reporter. She was interviewing a man who had just come up out of the water with his boy. He had been in his attic, he said, and he was holding onto his wife’s hand. As her slipped out of his, his wife said to him, “Please take care of the children.” And then he turned around and waded off into the water in shock with his boy. The young reporter started to cry. That is ground-zero reporting, that is unembedded reporting, that is reporting from the victims' perspective.
The effect on this country, whether you were a conservative Republican or Democrat or independent or progressive, it didn't matter. People were horrified. Humanity responding to humanity. Could you imagine if for just one week we saw those same images on the ground in Iraq: babies dead on the ground, women with their legs broken off from cluster bombs in Iraq or Lebanon, soldiers dead and dying. For just one week. Americans are a compassionate people. They would say, “No, war is not the answer to conflict in the 21st century.”
I want to tell you a T-shirt story. It happened a few weeks ago. If you're regular listeners to Democracy Now!, or if you watch it, you know the story of Raed Jarrar, the Iraqi blogger. He's an architect. He's done this blog for a long time analyzing what's going on in Iraq called Raedinthemiddle.blogspot.com. He has a green card here. He lives in San Francisco, just moved to Washington. A few weeks ago he was flying from Kennedy airport to San Francisco. He was getting on his JetBlue flight, he thought, until he was surrounded by four transportation officials, two TSA, two JetBlue people. They said to him he would not be able to go onto the plane with the T-shirt he was wearing. You know how when you wake up in the morning, you throw something on, and you don't remember what you are wearing? He looked down, what T-shirt am I wearing today? He didn't see a stain or anything, and he said, “What's wrong with my Tshirt?” They said, “It's what it says on it.” It said “We Will Not Be Silent.” And they said, “It's threatening.” He said, “What is threatening about that?” They said, “It's not the English. It's the Arabic script above it.” He said, “Oh, that just means “We Will 4 Not Be Silent.” And they said, “We don't have a translator here, so we can't be sure.” They said, “Wearing a T-shirt with Arabic script onto an American plane today is like walking into a bank with a T-shirt that says ‘I Am a Robber.’” He said, “Has Arabic become a terrorist language?” He tried to argue. He said it's his constitutional right, he's a taxpayer in this country.
But is this what he wanted to go down on, get deported for? All the work he had done, and this is what they were raising a fuss about? And he needed to get home. The JetBlue official went off to get him a T-shirt. I don't know if it said “New York” or “I Love New York” or something. They said he had to put it on, and he did. He covered up his T-shirt. They escorted him onto the plane. He had gotten a seat at the front of the plane. He reserved it early. But they escorted him to the back of the bus—the plane. I confuse them sometimes. Then they brought the other passengers on the plane. And that's how he flew for the rest of his trip.
So we did the story. Raed told it. The next day some women came into our office, and they were all wearing this Tshirt, “We Will Not Be Silent.” They were in a rush. I asked where they were going. They said they were heading to the airport. I said, “Where are you going?” They said, “It doesn't matter. We're getting on planes.”
It doesn't matter whether you agree with others, but what matters is we stand together so it makes it harder to target any individual. I was in Baraboo, Wisconsin, last week at the Fighting Bob Fest. (Celebrates the tradition of the great progressive politician Robert “Fighting Bob” LaFollette). There was a girl high school student who came up to me wearing the sweatshirt of her class. And it had their motto on it, “Great Minds Don't Think Alike.” I thought that was terrific. You don't have to agree with each other, but we do have to stand together.
You know the saying from World War II from Pastor Martin Niemoller, who said, “First they came for the socialists. I wasn't a socialist so I didn't speak out. Then they came for the trade unionists. I wasn't a trade unionist, so I didn't speak out.
Then they came for the Jews and the Catholics. I was neither, so I didn't speak out. And then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out.” These women flew around, and then I interviewed one of them, Laurie Arbeiter. She had given Raed the T-shirt originally. Laurie was on, and she talked about how they started giving out these T-shirts on the third anniversary of the invasion. It is amazing when you think about it. The U.S. has been involved in Iraq longer than the U.S. was involved with World War II. So she came on, and they were selling and giving out these T-shirts. But then, right after we had Raed on, the story went big. The networks all picked it up, ABC, NBC. And here is Raed saying, “All the things I've done and all the things I've tried to expose in Iraq, and this is what I get known for.” You never know what is the tipping point. You can lay the foundation. It's often something so small when you've done so many other things. But that's why it's so important to just lay the foundation. So it goes big. They didn't credit Democracy Now!, that we did break the story. But that's okay, because our motto is, “Steal This Story, Please.” We engage in trickle-up journalism.
So now these women, these artists against the war, are doing a very brisk business in T-shirts. They are selling thousands of them. I think you e-mail [email protected] And they're translating them into every which language—into Arabic, into Farsi, into French, Into Spanish, into Hebrew. Now they say they're going to translate them into the original German.
Where does “We Will Not Be Silent” come from? The White Rose collective in World War II, led by, among others, Hans and Sophie Scholl. They were brother and sister. They were German Christians, they weren't Jewish, but they felt that what they could do in the face of the atrocity, in the face of the Holocaust was they could simply get word out so the Germans would not be able to say, “We didn't know.” So they started handing out pamphlets. There was a small group of them, students and professors. They handed out a series of six of these pamphlets. The fourth series said at the bottom, “We will not be silent.” Hans and Sophie and their colleagues were captured by the Nazis. They were tried, they were found guilty, and they were executed, they were beheaded. But that philosophy, that motto continues to this day. It should be the Hippocratic Oath of the media, “We will not be silent.” We will not allow others to be silenced. That's our job as journalists, is to go to where the silence is.
There are other T-shirt stories of people who joined together. There is a story in upstate New York in Albany at a mall there. A dad and his son went to the mall to do the patriotic thing, to go shopping, and they bought T-shirts there. The father got a very radical T-shirt. It said “Peace on Earth.” The son got one that was more specific. It said “No War With Iraq” and “Let the Inspections Work.” Then they did the next best patriotic thing: they went to the food court to get something to eat. A security guard came up to them and said that if they didn't take off their T shirts, they would be arrested, there was no protesting allowed in the mall. And before the dad, Stephen Downs, could swallow, he was in handcuffs. Here this retired attorney with the state Commission on Judicial Misconduct was being charged. Three days later, 150 people wearing similar T-shirts descended on the mall. The security locked themselves in their offices. And the charges against Attorney Downs were dropped. People standing together. It makes a huge difference when you do.
After the Raed story went big, I was invited on MSNBC. The host said, “In these very perilous times, isn't racial profiling necessary?” But I said exactly the opposite. It's very dangerous.
It makes us more insecure, because if we engage in racial profiling—of course, the most targeted today in this country today are Muslims, people of South Asian descent, Arab Americans—we will miss the next Timothy McVeigh. Remember when he blew up the Oklahoma City building. It was pretty clear he did it with others, but there was no one in this country who suggested that all white, blond-haired, blue-eyed Christian men should be rounded up. That's because we believe in law and order.
That's why I think these lines between conservatives and liberals are breaking down right now. What does law and order in this country mean? It means if you think someone is guilty, you gather the evidence, they're charged, they're tried, and if found guilty, they are punished. But instead we are now living in an outlaw nation that detains thousands of people after 9/11 without charge, without knowing the evidence against them. Many are deported. We don't know their names. America is the greatest democracy on earth for some, but for others it's a very dangerous place.
We need a media that bridges the worlds. That's the power of the media. I come from Pacifica Radio, founded almost 60 5 years ago by a World War II conscientious objector who, when he came out of the concentration camps, said, “There has got to be a media outlet that's not run by corporations that profit from war but run by journalists and artists.” That's how Pacifica was born—KPFA, the first station, in 1949; KPFK in 1959 in Los Angeles; WBAI, my station, in New York, 1960; and in 1977, WPFW in Washington; 1970, KPFT in Houston.
When that station went on the air in 1970 in Texas, its transmitter was blown up. It's the only radio station in the country to experience this. It was blown up by the Ku Klux Klan. They strapped dynamite to the base of the transmitter, and then when they got back on their feet, they blew it up again. I don't know if it was the Grand Dragon or the Exalted Cyclops, but he said it was his proudest act. I think that's because he understood how dangerous Pacifica is, how dangerous KGNU is, how dangerous community media is. Because it simply allows people to speak for themselves. And when you hear someone speaking for themselves, it breaks down the bigotry that fuels the stereotypes and the caricatures that feed these hate groups. You hear a Palestinian child, an Israeli grandmother, a Venezuelan uncle or a Lebanese nephew, and you say, “Oh, my God, she sound like my bubba,” “Oh, my God, that guy sounds like my little boy.” That's the power of media, building community.
We only know a few people in the world. The way we come to understand the world is through the media. The way the rest of the world comes to understand us, unfortunately, is through a corporate lens, which is why we have to build independent media ever larger and link with people at the grassroots level around the globe. It's part of our project of Democracy Now!, now broadcasting on over 500 radio and television stations and the two satellite networks on low-power FM stations as well, in Spanish in stations across South America and in Europe, broadcasting in Australia and on community radio stations across Canada.
On October 24 I'm going to be launching a column that is syndicated by King Features called “Breaking the Sound Barrier.” That's the name of the tour that we're on as well. That's very much reaching into the mainstream media. Daily newspapers can take it. And that will depend on whether you ask your local newspaper to run the column. But it is reaching out. And it's the same reason that we do this book, Static: Government Liars, Media Cheerleaders and the People who Fight Back. It's very important to reach out to people also who don't know about this universe of independent media, that really does ultimately give great hope.
I want to end by talking about September 11, because we've just passed the fifth anniversary. Yes, that horror five years ago. On September 11, 2001, we were broadcasting Democracy Now! at the time the second plane hit the second tower of the World Trade Center. We were just blocks from ground zero, the closest national broadcast to the World Trade Center. Today we broadcast every morning at 8:00 Eastern Standard Time and stations take us whenever they want through the day, but at the time we were broadcasting at 9:00 and we were in the garret of the firehouse. There were no windows; we couldn't see outside. Now we're in the base of the firehouse on the first floor, and we're building a whole community media center to do this daily grass-roots, global, unembedded news hour. Then, we had just started our show at 9 o'clock. The first plane had hit. We didn't know what happened.
We had started the show and were doing a special that day on the connection between terror and September 11, 1973, the day Salvador Allende died in the palace in Chile, the day the Pinochet forces rose to power, the U.S.-backed Pinochet forces, the Nixon-backed Pinochet forces, the Kissinger-backed Pinochet forces, the ITT-backed Pinochet forces. They reigned for 17 years, killing thousands of people.
Just this week was the thirtieth anniversary, 1976, of the killing of the Chilean diplomat, Orlando Letelier. We had his son Francisco on and the American researcher who was with him in the car, Ronni Moffitt. They were killed not in Chile but by Pinochet's thugs on the streets of Washington, D.C., on Embassy Row.
September 11 is not the first time that terror is connected to that day. September 11, 1990, Guatemalan anthropologist Myrna Mack died at the hands of Guatemalan security forces, U.S.-backed Guatemalan security forces. September 11, 1977, Steve Biko in South Africa, father of the black consciousness movement, dies at the hands of apartheid forces. He's actually being beaten to death in the back of a van on September 11 by U.S.-backed apartheid forces. He died in the early morning hours of September 12.
September 12, I just learned a few days ago when I was in Minneapolis, is Leonard Peltier's birthday, the native American leader who has been imprisoned for decades. I met Mike Kuzma that day in Minneapolis a few days ago. He had just been in federal court. He's Pelletier's attorney. They've been arguing for 90,000 pages of documents to be released. When Pelletier was on trial, they thought they had all the documents, at 1800 pages. Now they were going for 90,000 pages. That's only one set of documents in one FBI office in Minneapolis. They've been denied on the grounds of national security. This is 30 years later.
September 11, 1971, Attica, the uprising in upstate New York, prisoners protesting prison conditions. Two days later, then New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller calls out the New York state troopers and they open fire, killing 39 men, prisoners and guards. Just this past week the guards' families are getting some kind of compensation. They were lied to in 1971. They were told that the prisoners killed their loved ones. There was a suppressed coroner's report that showed that every last guard that was killed was killed by the bullets of the troopers in what was known as the “turkey shoot.” Thirty-nine prisoners and guards killed, 88 critically wounded, hundreds of others injured.
September 11 is not the first time that terror came to U.S. soil. Ask any African American about slavery. Ask any native American about what's happened in this country.
But it was a horrific moment—3,000 people incinerated in an instant. We will never know actually how many people died on that day, because those who go uncounted in life go uncounted in death. They were the undocumented workers who worked at the World Trade Center. We should know their names, we should know their stories, because that's what dignifies a life.
We were broadcasting, and then we didn't stop. We were in the evacuation zone. They were clearing out everyone. But we knew it was critical to keep the broadcast going because what was being reflected in the rest of the media did not represent what we were experiencing near ground zero in New York. It was not a blood-curdling cry for revenge. There was this little sticker that I saw some places that said “Our Grief Is Not a Cry for War.” And I think that very much reflected 6 thousands of people going into the parks with flowers and candles. That was the sentiment in New York at that time. As the war machine geared up, we felt it was critical to broadcast the voices of those who were in the most pain, who had a lot to say.
Like Rita Lasar, who lost her brother, Abe Zelmanowitz, on the 27th floor of the World Trade Center. He had worked for Blue Cross/Blue Shield. He was working next to his best friend, Ed, who was a paraplegic. Abe's brother was screaming at him on the cellphone to get out now, and Abe said, “As soon as the emergency workers come up to help me bring Ed down, we'll go out together.” They died with so many others. A couple days later, Presidents Bush gave his National Cathedral address, where he invoked the name of Abe Zelmanowitz and he called him a national hero. And Rita, Abe's sister, said, even as she knew the worst pain of her life, “Not in my name, not in my brother's name,” if a woman in Afghanistan were to lose her brother.
Phyllis and Orlando Rodriguez, who lost their son Greg on the hundredth floor of the World Trade Center. He worked for Cantor Fitzgerald. They lost 700 of 1,000 workers. Phyllis and Orlando wrote a letter to President Bush. It didn't get published; it swirled around the Internet. It said the same thing. They said it would not lessen their pain to know that a mother and father in Afghanistan would soon lose their son. They said, “Not in our name, not in our son's name.” And this nationwide movement grew up, Not In Our Name. Sometimes you saw them on television describing their loved ones. But when they moved from description to prescription, they cut away, and the media went to the terrorism experts, the Oliver Norths and the Henry Kissingers.
Maybe the media got it right. The experts in terrorism. It takes one to know one. I don't say that lightly. You look at Kissinger's role in Chile, his support for Pinochet, you look at his role in Argentina, his support for the generals in the Dirty War that led to tens of thousands of Argentines being killed, you look at his role in Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos, millions of people killed and wounded, you look at his role in Indonesia's invasion of Timor. He went to Jakarta with President Ford the day before Indonesia invaded Timor, December 7, 1975. He gave the green light for the invasion. Ninety percent of the weapons used were from the U.S. What ensued, the Indonesian occupation of Timor for a quarter of a century, led to one of the great genocides of the 20th century.
Yes, I think Osama bin Laden and his accomplices should be tried, and if found guilty, punished. But I also think that Henry Kissinger should be tried for war crimes. That is precisely why the Bush administration quietly, and not so quietly now, is trying to change the 1996 War Crimes Act. We're not talking Geneva Conventions right now—yes, we know the administration violated them over and over again—we're talking about U.S. law. They want to change 1996 War Crimes Act because they're concerned that they could be found guilty under U.S. law. CIA officers are now taking out insurance if they go to other countries. We need to have a uniform standard of justice. That's what will make this country safer. It's not okay to say that these laws, that the International Criminal Court is fine for all of them out there but not okay for us. We have to make a decision in this country.
After 9/11, in those days, and I'll end with this, the image of all of the color Xeroxes that went up all over New York, the Xeroxes of photographs of loved ones lost. A picture of a woman holding her child, and it would say, “If you've seen my wife, last seen in Tower 1, please call her husband,” and a phone number. Or a picture of a young man, saying, “If you've seen my son, please call his father,” and a phone number. How similar those pictures were to those carried by the mothers of the disappeared in Argentina walking the Plaza de Mayo holding those placards that said, “Have you seen my grandson?” “Have you seen my granddaughter?”
September 11 united us around the world with people against terror. Terror is the killing of innocent civilians, whether by individuals or by states. The standard is the same. We come from the most powerful country on earth. We have the most powerful military on earth. But we have a decision to make every day about what we want our country to represent to the rest of the world. Whether we're journalists or scientists, doctors or nurses, whether we’re students or artists or storekeepers, whether we're truck drivers, whether we're at the beginning of our careers or we're retired, whether we're employed or unemployed, we have a decision to make every day—whether we want to represent the sword or the shield. Democracy Now!
Other AR Amy Goodman programs –
Independent Media in a Time of War
Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal (with Anthony Arnove/Howard Zinn)
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