Skip to main content

Tidbits - June 13, 2013

Reader Comments - Dirty Wars and Jeremy Scahill,; Alice Walker's open letter to Alicia Keys; Syrian proxy war; False economic recovery; NSA spying; It's the Corporations; We Steal Secrets; Baseball and drugs; Spain and the International Brigades - today; Berlin demonstrations against Obama visit; Announcement - Milton Rogovin DVD now available on sale

Investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill is pulled into an unexpected journey as he chases down the hidden truth behind America's expanding covert wars. Now an award winning film
Last week marked the start of the historic trial of whistleblower Bradley Manning, who exposed the extent of Iraqi civilian casualties as well as problematic US diplomatic relationships worldwide.  Within days, the reality of corporate and government surveillance of US citizens was exposed by former CIA employee and NSA contractor Edward Snowden.  There could not have been a better day than Friday to release the film Dirty Wars, and you need to see it.
September 11, 2001 changed more than just air travel. Within days of those powerful events, congress essentially wrote the President a blank check by passing the Authorization for Use of Military Force. The language contained within this resolution set the stage for the so-called "War on Terror." We now know that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that many of us were manipulated into fighting an unjust, pre-emptive war of aggression.  What Manning, Snowden, and Scahill confirm is that manipulation, lies, and covert operations are much more pervasive than we may have understood previously. All of these operations have something in common: They're being performed in your name, and you are paying for them.
US wars and occupations are not limited to Afghanistan as some might believe.  With the increased use of drone technology, our military is capable of conducting warfare without ever having boots on the ground or pilots in the sky. The civilian casualties are high and US citizens have been targeted. In Dirty Wars, Scahill exposes the realities of US military intervention in Yemen, Somalia, and beyond for what it really is - a covert war conducted outside the range of the press without effective congressional oversight or public debate. And, based on unprecedented access, Scahill tells the chilling story of an American citizen marked for assassination by his own government.
The film, directed by Rick Rowley, has won the Cinematography Award for U.S. Documentary at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and the Grand Jury Prize at the Boston Independent Film Festival. Variety calls it "jaw-dropping ... [with] the power to pry open government lockboxes." The Sundance jury said it is "one of the most stunning looking documentaries [we've] ever seen."
Find out why Manning and Snowden's revelations are so important.  See what's really going on in our name and with our tax dollars.  Find a screening of Dirty Wars near you.
In Solidarity,
Maggie Martin and Matt Howard
Director of Organizing and Director of Communications
Iraq Veterans Against the War
Watch the Trailer:
Mr. Hexter implies that the sole or main purpose of Alice Walker's and Roger Waters' appeal to Alicia Keys to boycott Israel is delegitimization of Israel, and, moreover, that this is the purpose of many who support and call for performers and others to boycott Israel.  His accusation is odd in light of the fact that Mr. Hexter himself agrees that Israel is "making life miserable for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza," and is also in favor of removing settlements from the WB.
Boycotts are accepted non-violent means of pressuring.  Israel's governments indeed need to be pressured to change their ways.  They unfortunately prefer expansion and ethnic cleansing to finding a just solution to the conflict.  Proof of this is, for instance, their treatment of the Arab League plan.  When in 2002 the Arab League offered Israel full recognition and normalization with all members of the League on the condition that Israel return to the 1949 armistice line (also known as the 1967 line, and the "green" line) Israel's leaders ignored the offer.  When it was again proffered in 2007, it was again ignored.  Such also was the case when recently it was offered a third time, even though it was amended to include agreement to some exchanges of land.
At the very least one would have thought that Israel's leaders would have seen fit to discuss the plan with members of the League and Palestinian leaders.  But instead there was total silence. Unfortunately such has been Israel's attitude and conduct from the beginning (see for instance "Israeli Rejectionism" by Zalman Amit and Daphna Levit).
Israel's leaders instead of pushing for a solution to the conflict have continued with expansion, ethnic cleansing, and occupation.  Without bds (boycott/divestment/and sanctions) it is unlikely that Israel's leaders will ever change course.  Hopefully governments will begin to pressure Israel, too.  But until that happens, I, a Jewish Israeli, am very grateful for the performers and others who support bds.
Dorothy Naor
Ofer Neiman
Both of us are members of Boycott From Within (Israelis who support the Palestinian BDS call), and both of use are editors of the Occupation Magazine (
This is by far the best analysis I've seen so far on the situation in Syria.  The one thing lacking is Bill Fletcher's failure to note the Fascist and Nazi roots of the Baath Party and the Assad dictatorship--though that would not change his conclusions about the present situation.
Stan Nadel
Fletcher's analysis is mainly good but with one crucial flaw. I believe it's very naive to think that Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey turned the rising against the Baath regime into a civil war without the active instigation and connivance of the U.S. Our government is just as anxious as Saudis to isolate and discredit Iran. They saw an opportunity to repeat their triumph (LOL) in Libya. If U.S. had held back on turning the revolt into a guerrilla war, a Syrian spring might have been possible. But they never cared about Syria; it's all about Iran.
David Worley
Dare I say of the "Don't Be Fooled by the False Economic Recovery" article that unless you have regulations to limit massive speculation that falsely inflates prices and only benefits the speculators, the economic problems with not change. Also unless you have a higher minimum wage and higher wages being paid, most people will not be able to consume very much, and will therefore not stimulate the economy. Economic inequality is so massive that it is adversely affecting the economy, not to mention American society.
Laurel MacDowell
Portside, I usually support you in your rage on most matters.  However, on this one I don't agree.  For decades now, the citizenry, vis-a-vis the churches and other small institutions have acquiesced with the government's surveillance, I say, program.  Practically every church in every state allows the "phone towers" installation within their steeples, at a rich rewarding price of course!  The outcry by just a few churches and police departments did not deter or cause moderation in the acceptance of this intrusiveness on the local levels.  So, how about your redeeming this issue!? 
Frank Crump
I hate to tell you, but the US Government, regardless of the 4th amendment, did indeed during the Cold War and McCarthy period open up people's mail.
Phyllis Mandel
Your article points out one of the defects of the governmental structure set forth in The Constitution (probably rooted in the slave states desire to protect their "peculiar institution"). A properly functioning nation should limit the power of states and localities to regulate and revenues should be a national prerogative.
Ed Geffner, YLS '75
I'm conflicted about seeing this film because of the biased bogus title. I have never heard of a single credible accusation that Wikileaks ever stole even one bit of information. As far as I know, Wikileaks has received all of the published information from whistleblowers who are not part of Wikileaks. If they must use the verb "steal" then the closest they could say as a title might be "We Publish Stolen Secrets." Since they can't even get the title correct then I see no reason to watch the film.
Gregory Wonderwheel 
I couldn't agree with Dave Zirin less.  The widespread use of PEDs is at the heart of the "crisis" in professional baseball, not to mention basketball and other sports, as is the ubiquitous "Greed is good" ethos that grants so many mere ball handlers ridiculous sums of money while educated people with real ability and knowledge to contribute to humanity can't find jobs, period.  It is once again the widespread acceptance of capitalist marketing promotion of "fun" that everyone's bought into, including, it seems, the left, that is at the heart of this "crisis."  But the day We, the People, stop demanding "fun, entertainment" and instead return to values of acknowledging honest achievement and contribution, something mere ball-handling does not provide, will be the day the roots of the "crisis" can be overcome. And yes, there is a need for "criminalization," but criminalization used in tandem with public health and honest drug education measures, because there will always be someone stupid enough to imbibe dangerous substances no matter what, be these substances PEDs or heroin.  Time to finally end that hoary 1960s leftover of "Better living through street-drug chemistry." 
George Fish
Ethan Young
Showing the US the borders to its policies.
When President Obama visits Berlin next week, we will demonstrate our opposition to his government's policies. We will march to the US embassy, and form a human chain encircling the embassy (symbolically tracing the borders of US power, at least here in Berlin). The following is the appeal calling for the demonstration, which will take place on the eve of his visit.
YES WE CAN: Show Obama the Red Card Show US Policy its Borders
For many, Barack Obama's election had inspired hope of positive changes in US foreign and domestic policies: a roll-back of aggressive US imperial aggressions and arms policies, sustainable peace initiatives for the Middle East, initiatives for global disarmament, shutting down Guantánamo, steps toward ending racism in the US penal system and domestic social justice.
Six years later, his administration has fulfilled none of these hopes - on the contrary. Murderous drone attacks have dramatically increased, the so-called "war on terror" has been intensified and, behind its smokescreen, even more democratic rights are dismantled, government expenditures on arms and warfare have skyrocketed, while poverty, desperation, and social decay is spreading in the USA.
An alliance of Peace, Civil Rights, Solidarity Movements, and Free Mumia Initiatives is calling for "red-carding" US government policies.
Demonstration and Human Chain in Berlin, June 17, 2013
Begin: 17 o'clock at the Bertolt-Brecht-Platz
End: Pariser Platz in front of the US Embassy
Stop the "War on Terror" - Ban Combat Drones
Global military dominance has remained the declared objective of US policy, even under President Obama. US combat drones are murdering and spreading terror in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Under Commander-in-Chief Obama, US troops and secret service agents are active in dozens of countries of the Middle East and Africa, as well as in other regions of the world. The sovereignty of weaker nations, as well as international law and human rights are constantly violated. People are tormented in torture prisons. Guantánamo is but one example of this US government policy.
We call for an end to US drone and special commando liquidation policies; a ban on combat drones; Guantánamo's immediate closure; compensation for the victims and their families.
Expansion of wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, military aggression and threats, interference in the domestic affairs of other nations and even subversion - no end is in sight. 750 foreign US military bases constitute the centers of operations and interventions for current and future wars.
We call for "Bringing all troops home;" Shut all US bases abroad.
The USA is the world champion in armament. With an arms budget of $682 billion, the Obama administration has the USA accounting for nearly 40 percent of the entire world's arms expenditures. The USA and Russia account for 95 percent of the world's approx. 19,000 nuclear weapons. Though both countries are reducing the quantity of their nuclear warheads, the USA is modernizing its nuclear arsenal and installing missile defense shields.
We call for a world without nuclear weapons and missile defense shields. The US nuclear weapons based in Büchel, Germany must be removed.
Defend Democracy and Civil Rights - Dismantle the Racist Penal System!
Democratic and human rights are under constant threat in the USA. Surveillance technology is used to intensify repressive controls and destroy democracy. The security state is being expanded. The militarization of the police and domestic deployment of the military are increasing. The US accounts for twenty-five percent of all the prisoners on the planet (while representing merely five percent of the world's population.) Private prison companies are making lucrative profits from these prisoners. The USA is one of the few industrialized nations still applying the death penalty. Since 1977 more than 1300 death sentences have been carried out.
We are calling for safeguarding democratic and human rights; putting an end to the racist and political penal system as well as the death penalty; Freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal, the Cuban 5 and all other US political prisoners!
Bradley Manning, a 25-year old US soldier, exposed war crimes, torture, corruption and secret service intrigues of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to the public. Those responsible for these crimes are handled with impunity, while Bradley Manning is persecuted. For more than three years, he has been in pre-trial confinement, suffering at times under inhumane prison conditions. He is charged among other things, with espionage and aiding the enemy.
We call for Freedom for Bradley Manning. Those who are responsible for, who committed, and covered up the war crimes belong in prison, not Bradley Manning. Bradley Manning deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for his courage...
George Pumphrey
The Rich Have Their Own Photographers
dir. by Ezra Bookstein
60 min.
A deeply inspirational film about the life and artwork of America's premiere social documentary photographer.
In 1957, The Buffalo News declared Milton Rogovin "The Top Red in Buffalo" and his life was turned upside-down. Effectively, his political voice was silenced as society shunned him and his friends disappeared. In reality, he was an optometrist promoting workers' rights in the local unions and helping to register Black voters. But refusing to be intimidated or be silenced, he found a new political voice- a camera.
Through his prints, Rogovin was able to depict the extreme inequalities that exist and convey that message through beautiful works of art.
Though his entire collection is housed by both the Library of Congress and the Center for Creative Photography, his prints are his protests - and his only concern was the fight for social justice. 
On sale for $15 now thru August 31st