Justice American Style: The Obama War on Dissent
The International Court of Justice in 1996 unanimously interpreted the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as, “There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.”
Transform Now Plowshares
Yet the Obama administration’s Justice Department threw the book at three peace demonstrators who took part in a peaceful demonstration to abolish our nuclear arsenal at the nation’s Y-12 nuclear bomb making facility in Tennessee. Their non-violent action was entirely in the spirit of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that, as a signed and ratified treaty, is deemed the “supreme law of the land” by none other than the U.S. Constitution. They were convicted of sabotage and could be each sentenced in July to 30 years in jail.
It took hours for the private security company guarding the compound to discover and arrest them. That’s right our weapons grade uranium is guarded by private not military security. Private security contractor WSI Oak Ridge, a subsidiary of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.-based G4S Government Solutions Inc., formerly known as Wackenhut, took hours to detect that an 82-year-old nun, Sister Megan Rice, and two American vets, one Vietnam, Michael Walli, 64, and, one Cold War, Greg Boertje-Obed, 56, had entered the facility in an act of peaceful civil disobedience. They are members of the group Transform Now Plowshares that lives the words of the Bible: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares. They shall learn war no more.”
We can all sleep better knowing that WSI Oak Ridge has been fired and replaced not by our military, but by private contractor B&W Y12, the same managing contractor at the plant that should have been overseeing WSI Oak Ridge’s performance in the first place. In addition to making uranium parts for every U.S. nuclear warhead, the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, TN, dismantles old weapons and is the nation’s primary storehouse for highly enriched bomb-grade uranium
The activists used bolt cutters to cut the chain link fences and enter three progressively higher security areas, until they were outside the building storing highly enriched uranium for nuclear bombs. They had expected to be arrested immediately upon cutting the first fence to enter the facility and were more than a little surprised as they were able to venture farther and farther into the inner sanctum of U.S. nuclear insanity. They had to pace themselves as they climbed a hill because of Sister Megan’s chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Their intention was not sabotage, but a peaceful, non-violent act of civil disobedience to bring attention to humanity’s duty to abolish nuclear weapons.
Originally they were charged with the misdemeanor of trespass that carried a year in jail. That was until President Obama’s Justice Department took over and charged and convicted the peaceful activists of sabotage.
Obama’s forward look
This is what the Obama administration of Hope and Change has chosen to prosecute? No prosecutions for the likes of ex-President George W. Bush and VP Cheney who lied us into wars costing thousands of U.S. lives and probably more than 1 million Iraqis and Afghans, to say nothing of the more than $3 trillion in estimated cost for the Iraq War alone.
When questioned upon taking office about seeking justice for the American people by investigating and prosecuting Bush and his administration Obama said, “I also have a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.” But if we look forward not backward, we may as well do away with our entire legal and prison system. Not that they both don’t need a drastic overhaul, but no one is advocating a complete abdication of any form of crime and punishment. Except Obama and as his Justice Department pursues selective prosecutions, the rich and powerful look forward while the rest of us march backward to prison.
The forward looking Obama continued to ignore real criminality when he refused to prosecute a single Wall Street bankster for defrauding the American public of trillions of dollars. But have no fear fans of Law and Order, the president does believe in prosecuting whistleblowers like Bradley Manning. Well, we can all rest safer now knowing that those that risk their lives and careers to expose government crime, will be prosecuted as a reward. The New York Times reported that in just Obama’s first 26 months in office, he had already prosecuted more whistleblowers than all previous U.S. presidents.
Bradley Manning an American hero
Private Bradley Manning, an intelligence analyst in Iraq, became aware of numerous war crimes in his normal course of analyzing intelligence reports and other data. He released this information to WikiLeaks, which then made it available to The New York Times and other large international newspapers. According to his testimony, the classified information he released was time sensitive for at most 48 to 72 hours, after that time span the information had already gone out through other channels or the military units had moved their positions. The information he released was months or years old, in other words no one was put in harm’s way as a result of his actions.
The classified information Manning leaked and WikiLeaks distributed to newspapers:
- Showed U.S. participation in torture and murder in Afghanistan and Iraq.
- Exposed the dirty dealings of the Bush and Obama administrations with dictators across North Africa and the Mideast and was thus a catalyst for the “Arab Spring” uprisings.
- Showed that the Obama administration knew of the impending coup against Honduras’s democratically elected government in 2009, yet did nothing to stop it, let alone the wave of violence initiated by the coup regime once it took over.
- Demonstrated that both the Obama and Bush administrations have favored U.S. global domination over the human rights of poor people across the globe.
Manning testified calmly earlier this year when pleading guilty to 10 counts of misusing classified information:
“I believe that if the general public . . . had access to the information . . . this could spark a domestic debate as to the role of the military and foreign policy in general . . .
“I felt I accomplished something that would allow me to have a clear conscience . . .
“This was the type of information . . . that should become public.”
Perish the thought that we as a society would ever have an open discussion and debate about the U.S. foreign policy of empire.
He did not receive a plea deal to do this and faces a possible 20 years in prison for so doing. Of course he had already been proclaimed guilty by Commander In Chief Obama years earlier, when he said of Manning, “He broke the law.” thus negating any chance for a fair military trial. How could any military officer acting as judge or jury then proceed to give Manning a fair trial after the Commander In Chief has already pronounced him guilty, knowing that all future promotions come from above and that ultimately means the Commander In Chief?
Manning has already been imprisoned for three years and his trial began June 3 for the more serious charges of “aiding the enemy”. For this he faces possible life imprisonment and it matters little to the court that government officials have already stated that no one has been hurt as the result of the information that Manning gave to WikiLeaks. It also matters little to the court that in addition to not aiding the enemy (since no one was hurt), Manning released the information with no intention to aid the enemy.
We are told that the government attorneys will use testimony that Osama bin Laden’s captured computer was said to have classified information released by Manning to WikiLeaks on it. This is allegedly proof that he was aiding the enemy. Of course bin Laden’s computer might have articles that I have written on it and this also could be said to aid the enemy, perhaps by putting him to sleep.
In Manning’s case the law must be followed and he needs to made an example of so that no others in the future will not be tempted to inform the public of what actually goes down in U.S. wars of empire. Wall Street banksters and administration war criminals get a “get out of jail free card” from the pathetic Obama, while the entire weight of the U.S. Department of Justice focuses on peace activists and whistleblowers. U.S.A. is number 1!
But Manning has not been wiling away the last three years in some country club low security facility to which the occasional hapless white collar criminal or corrupt politician gets sentenced. For months and months he was kept in what amounted to solitary confinement and was forced to sleep blanketless in the nude or occasionally in his underwear and then forced to stand nude, at attention, daily for inspection by his jailers. Bear in mind that the physically slight Manning is gay and that this took place before Obama oh so graciously allowed our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to come out of the closet and still be available as cannon fodder for imperial U.S wars.
Obama’s appropriate treatment
Obama said, “I have actually asked the Pentagon whether or not the procedures that have been taken in terms of his confinement are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards. They assure me that they are.”
UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez of Bradley Manning’s treatment after completing a 14 month investigation of it:
“The special rapporteur concludes that imposing seriously punitive conditions of detention on someone who has not been found guilty of any crime is a violation of his right to physical and psychological integrity as well as of his presumption of innocence.”
Mendez, who runs the UN office that investigates incidents of alleged torture around the world, later told the Guardian: “I conclude that the 11 months under conditions of solitary confinement (regardless of the name given to his regime by the prison authorities) constitutes at a minimum cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of article 16 of the convention against torture. If the effects in regards to pain and suffering inflicted on Manning were more severe, they could constitute torture.”
Manning has been twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. He certainly has a more legitimate claim to it than the president who prosecutes him.
The NATO 3/5
Brian Church was 20, Jared Chase 24 and Brent Betterly 24 last spring when they drove from Florida to Chicago to take part in the anti-NATO/G8 protest when both organizations were scheduled to meet in Chicago in May of 2012. As the commitment of the peace and social justice community in Chicago to massively protest the NATO war mongers and the capitalist G8 leeches on society became apparent to President Obama, he moved the G8 meeting to the presidential personal retreat at Camp David, Maryland. Undeterred by this move or the passing of Chicago City Council ordinances vastly curtailing the public’s right to First Amendment protest by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his city council, organizers continued to plan for the huge protest.
This from my own “Personal Observations from the Chicago March Against the NATO/G8 War & Poverty Agenda” written last May:
At 1AM Thursday morning, three days before the march on the 20th, police raided the apartment home of Occupy Chicago activists in the Bridgeport Neighborhood of Chicago. They detained 9 activists originally and ended up charging three young men with terrorism charges for allegedly planning terrorist attacks against Obama’s campaign headquarters, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s house and police stations. The three charged are Brian Church, 20, of Florida, Brent Betterly of Florida and Jared Chase of New Hampshire. Police have said that they also found 4 completed Molotov cocktails. Attorneys for the NATO 3 have said the confiscated items were home beer making equipment. Police said that two undercover informants had witnessed the planning of the attacks. Two other Chicago residents, Sebastian Senakiewicz, 24, and Mark Neiweem, 28, were charged with separate terrorism charges days later for allegedly planning to make or use Molotov cocktails.
The NATO 3 were the same three individuals who had released a YouTube video of Chicago police stopping their car and threatening them by saying “You guys know all about ’68.” “What did they say back in ’68?” “Billy club to the f***king skull . . .”OK, now we’ll beat your white ass.” Then later more from the police “Wait for the protest day. Save it all. Save it up for that.” One of the stopped young men replies “We’ll see you at NATO.” Police reply “Can’t wait. We’ll come look for you, each and every one of you.”
Preemptive police raids and trumped up charges are exactly what happened in the Twin Cities before the Republican National Convention in 2008. Terrorism charges were filed against 8 young men and women (RNC who were planning to protest the convention. Two years later, the terrorism charges were dropped and eventually three were completely exonerated and the other five accepted plea deals down to a misdemeanor. For two years though, eight young men and women had arrayed against them all the power of the state with bogus charges of terrorism.
“Will the Chicago Police Department be using agents provocateur, police dressed up as Black Block anarchists, like we’ve seen in other large demonstrations across the country?” a question to Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy in the lead up to the NATO summit. His incredible response, “What?” “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Either the Superintendent of Police in the nation’s third largest city is a complete ignoramus with regard to a commonly used tactic by law enforcement at all levels since the COINTELPRO program of the Vietnam era or he is just a flat out liar. It was this same tactic of agents provocateur that led to the arrest of the NATO 3.
Yet the same Superintendent McCarthy has been lionized by the press as some sort of a hero at the NATO summit protests.
Do I have any idea of the guilt or innocence of the NATO 3, now the NATO 5? No, I have no direct knowledge. What I do know is that bringing the entire weight of the City, State and U.S. government against these 5 individuals is a very serious matter. The power is there to make their lives living hell and do everything possible to pressure them individually to testify against their companions in return for a lighter sentence or dropped charges. Whether or not such testimony is an honest representation of the facts has historically been of little concern to the state. These types of prosecution do not seek justice. They are just power run amok.”
Eventually the last two NATO demonstrators arrested made deals with the state: “Sebastian “Sabi” Senakiewicz pleaded guilty to one felony count of falsely making a terrorist threat on Tuesday. Cook County Judge Nicholas Ford sentenced him to four years in prison, and recommended he serve his sentence in a boot camp, according to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office. Senakiewicz also will be deported after completing his sentence.”—CBS News
Twenty-eight-year-old Chicago activist Mark Neiweem pleaded guilty after 329 days in jail to probation violation charge from a previous conviction and to solicitation and attempted possession of an explosive or incendiary device. He was given three years in the plea deal.
“The politically motivated prosecution and abuse Mark suffered in Cook County Jail point to a degree of coordinated state repression and coercion which was physically and psychologically unbearable,” said Rachel Unterman of the NATO 5 Defense Committee. “Ultimately, Mark decided to end his ordeal and be transferred out of Cook County Jail by taking a non-cooperating plea deal.”
The NATO 3′s trial is scheduled to begin Sept 16, 2013. They will have been imprisoned for about 485 days at that point. Originally the state asked for $5 million bail and the judge graciously reduced it to $1.5 million each. None of the defendants were able to afford bail and so they sit in Cook County jail awaiting trial. They have spent a year in jail and refused to testify against each other in return for a lighter sentence. There is no statement I can make that does justice to the courage, resolve and solidarity they have displayed.
None of the NATO protestors were dangerous criminals. They were simply youth who may or may not have made a boastful statement around undercover government agents provocateur. We are not any safer as a society as a result of their incarceration. They are political prisoners and they are imprisoned to quash not their dissent, but to prevent yours in the future.
Occupy Wall Street burst onto the American scene when activists went to Wall Street on Sept 17, 2011, to protest the inequality of the American economic system and the undemocratic nature of the American political system and stayed as a permanent occupation until brutally attacked by the police and finally forced to leave the permanent encampment at Liberty Park (Zucotti Park). Activist David DeGraw of AmpedStatus.org, one of the primary organizers behind the original occupation describes it:
“First of all, the #OWS 99% Movement is a genuine leaderless decentralized grassroots movement. In my opinion, it is built upon the hard work of hundreds of thousands of people who have taken it upon themselves to fight back against their own financial oppression and in defense of their family and country. As someone who has spent countless hours, days, weeks at Liberty Park, it is evident that people here come from all different walks of life and have all different political viewpoints. The uniting factor is that most of the people here realize that America has been taken over and is currently occupied by global financial interests. They have seized control of our government, economy and tax system, and have rigged our political process against hardworking Americans. People at Liberty Park, the 99%ers, are here to defend the United States against a global financial oligarchy. They are not here because they are the puppets of anyone. They are fighting back against economic tyranny PERIOD.”
“By October 9 Occupy protests had taken place or were ongoing in over 95 cities across 82 countries and over 600 communities in the United States.”—Wikipedia
Self-styled as a leaderless movement, Occupy is really a movement of leaders. “We are a DECENTRALIZED non-violent movement. If you are looking to contact one of our leaders, go to the nearest mirror and peer deeply into it. It may take some time, but, eventually, one of our leaders will appear with answers to all of your questions.”—Anonymous
The Democrat Party attempted to co-opt the movement through MoveOn.org and various Democratic politicians visiting the Occupations across the country. This didn’t work for the simple fact that Democratic politicians did not want what the Occupy movement wanted: a more equitable economic system and a democratic political system. Because the Occupy movement was becoming so successful at bringing many on the far left and many on the far right together on basic issues, at some point it became necessary to brutally attack every permanent Occupy site in the U.S.
Naomi Wolf describes who was behind the coordinated attacks. “It was more sophisticated than we had imagined: new documents show that the violent crackdown on Occupy last fall—so mystifying at the time—was not just coordinated at the level of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and local police. The crackdown, which involved, as you may recall, violent arrests, group disruption, canister missiles to the skulls of protesters, people held in handcuffs so tight they were injured, people held in bondage till they were forced to wet or soil themselves–was coordinated with the big banks themselves.” (emphasis mine)
Partnership for Civil Justice Fund
“FBI documents just obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) pursuant to the PCJF’s Freedom of Information Act demands reveal that from its inception, the FBI treated the Occupy movement as a potential criminal and terrorist threat even though the agency acknowledges in documents that organizers explicitly called for peaceful protest and did ‘not condone the use of violence’ at occupy protests.
The PCJF has obtained heavily redacted documents showing that FBI offices and agents around the country were in high gear conducting surveillance against the movement even as early as August 2011, a month prior to the establishment of the OWS encampment in Zuccotti Park and other Occupy actions around the country.”—Partnership for Civil Justice Fund
“This production, which we believe is just the tip of the iceberg, is a window into the nationwide scope of the FBI’s surveillance, monitoring, and reporting on peaceful protestors organizing with the Occupy movement. These documents show that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are treating protests against the corporate and banking structure of America as potential criminal and terrorist activity. These documents also show these federal agencies functioning as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall Street and Corporate America.”—Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund
“The documents are heavily redacted, and it is clear from the production that the FBI is withholding far more material. We are filing an appeal challenging this response and demanding full disclosure to the public of the records of this operation,”—Heather Benno, staff attorney with the PCJF
Obama’s assistant secretary of defense, Michael Sheehan, testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that the War on Terror would continue for at least the next 10 or 20 years. The U.S. spends in excess of $1 trillion per year on militarism, empire and war. Endless war is simply a byproduct of the capitalist imperative for ever increasing profits. The military/industrial/congressional complex is far too powerful and has no intention of ever changing this system. So actually the War on Terror will end only when we junk our capitalist market system and not before. Ten or 20 years, 100 or 200 years, war will not end under capitalism.
Beyond the scope
This article has merely detailed a few of the lowlights of President Obama’s War on Dissent. It in no way is a complete list, space does not permit that here. First and foremost, it does not delve into why the U.S. has more prisoners than any other country or why poor people and people of color have significantly less justice than wealthy Caucasians. It also only scratches the surface of activists and activist groups that have been targeted by the government.
Some may think that I am being too hard on President Obama. That everything he does is in reaction to reactionary Republicans and that this is the reason that he is unable to pursue a more progressive agenda. Let’s look at just a few of the facts:
- He told us when running for president that he would concentrate more on Afghanistan that that was where we should be fighting and he escalated the Afghan war upon taking office.
- He abandoned his minister Jeremiah Wright when videos of Rev Wright revealed the reverend condemning America’s slave holding past and history of genocide against Native Americans by saying, “God damn America!” If Obama was a man of character, he would have used this opportunity to support Rev. Wright by teaching the American people about our past and present crimes.
- He kept Bush Secretary of State Robert Gates and did not appoint a single so-called progressive to a top level appointment.
- White House environmental advisor Van Jones was the closest he could come to a so-called progressive and Obama ditched him as soon as a controversy arose about his past ties to mildly progressive groups. He had committed no crime and his president should have stood by him and again used the moment to educate the public about supporting an individual’s right to dissent.
- He kept all the old Bush Justice Department prosecutors. The normal thing for a new president is to accept their resignations and appoint qualified prosecutors from your own political party. Bush had fired several prosecutors for not pursuing nonexistent election fraud against Democrats. If Obama wanted to keep Bush appointees, he should have hired back those prosecutors fired. These were the keepers, not the ones Bush didn’t fire.
- His signature Obamacare healthcare bill was nothing more than the past Republican Romney bill from Massachusetts. It codifies into law the monopoly control of the private insurance industry over U.S. healthcare. It was written by the private insurance industry and advocates for a single-payer system were never allowed into the public congressional discussions. They were in fact arrested when attempting to testify at congressional hearings.
- He graciously accepted organized labor’s support during the campaigns and then has done nothing to even bring up the “card check” legislation that workers were counting on to revitalize the labor movement.
Enough, one could add to the above list until the cows come home and we would still not run out of material. We were told to vote for Obama because he was the lesser of two evils. In reality he is the more effective evil* at implementing a right-wing agenda, because he has confused those who supported him to continue supporting him, while he ignores the issues that matter most to them. (*Note: This author does not believe in evil and uses the term only because it has become the accepted term to use when describing our lack of choice at the polls.)
While I have not held back in critiquing President Obama, please do not interpret that to mean that I support any other politicians from our two monopoly political parties. We can democratize our political system only by changing our economic system from the winner-take-all capitalist system to a more democratic socialist system. Democracy and capitalism cannot peacefully co-exist.
Y-12 Nuclear Activists
Chomsky: Obama must be taken before ICC for the war on terror
Bradley Manning an American Hero
Bradley Manning’s Statement Taking Responsibility for Releasing Documents to WikiLeaks
Police intimidating NATO/Occupy protestors in Chicago
(This video has been changed. The audio is still there, but the video has been blurred out)
Nick Egnatz is a Vietnam veteran. He has been actively protesting our government’s crimes of empire in both person and print for some years now and was named “Citizen of the Year” for Northwest Indiana in 2006 for his peace activism by the National Association of Social Workers. Contact Nick OccupyNick@yahoo.com.