War: September 2004 Archives

Today's NYTimes has a front page article reporting that Kerry says Bush isn't telling the truth about Iraq. Only a close reading of the story (now buried inside the online edition) would reveal that the real news, more important even than what the contender says about it, is that a report from the administration's own National Intelligence Council told Bush way back in July that the outlook for Iraq was gloomy at best, and that at worst it was likely to be an absolute disaster, with the balance clearly weighing closer to the latter.

The paper did report the intelligence assessment in yesterday's edition, but even if the editors think that incontrovertible proof that Bush is lying about the defining event of his presidency is just yesterday's news, one could at least expect some editorial or OP-ED comment. Once again the U.S. commercial media, including here one of its most respected outlets, demonstrates that it can only cover politics, and especially campaigns for political office, as a competitive sport. Any mention of actual issues has apparently become unAmerican.

Ahhh. The Underground Railroad has the dope on the wonderful little video I posted one month ago. This is from the director, Matt Lenski:

We're both native New Yorkers - I was born in Manhattan and lived on Eldridge and Houston when I was little - and of course we were all outraged that Republicans were coming here to use the 911 incident and twist it in their favor. They're coming to our home town and we felt like we did when we were sixteen years old and some bully was steppin to you on your block, talking shit. These Republicans are the ultimate punks. I'm a director and Sam Marks is a writer and a playwright so we said let's come up with something.

[thanks to bloggy]

Nuha al-Radi, detail of a work in a 2002 exhibition in Amman

Writing in "Baghdad Diaries," about the first gulf war and its aftermath, the Iraqi artist and writer, Nuha al-Radi lamented:

The birds have taken the worst beating of all. They have sensitive souls, which cannot take all this hideous noise and vibration. All the caged lovebirds have died from the shock of the blasts, while birds in the wild fly upside down and do crazy somersaults. Hundreds, if not thousands, have died in the orchard. Lonely survivors fly about in a distracted fashion.
Ms. Radi died last week in Beirut. The birds, Iraq and the entire world will miss the wry wit of this great soul.

She seems to have belonged to no one party or culture, but rather to all humanity. The NYTimes obituary describes her as "not overtly political." Certainly no friend of Saddam Hussein's regime, at the same time she saw no great virtue in the destruction wrought by his nemesis:

She was somewhat less than enchanted with Iraq's latest overseers for failing to provide basic security and services, however, describing the new tenants of the presidential compound in an interview with The Times last year in her typically caustically droll manner:

"America is in its ivory tower palace," she said, "We are used to having coups and revolutions. But usually people who stage them take over the country

[image from 4 Walls]

What's wrong with these statements, both of which were reported yesterday by Newsday (in an obscure article devoted to another subject altogether)?

When a caller to his weekly radio show criticized the unusually wide arrest net cast by police, [the Mayor of New York] said: "You can't arrest 1,800 people without having somebody in the middle who shouldn't have been arrested. That's what the courts are there to find out afterward."
In addition, if we look at another quote in the same article, we see that Michael Bloomberg just managed to make himself more look ridiculous when he tried to qualify an earlier assertion of the sort we're more accustomed to hearing from Ari Fleisher or John Ashcroft:
Meanwhile, a visibly exhausted Bloomberg backed away from his remarks Thursday equating anarchists' harassment of delegates with the al-Qaida terrorists.

"Obviously it's not the same level, not the same level of - you probably shouldn't compare the two," he said at a news conference. "But the anarchists are trying to keep you from expressing yourself."

All italics are mine.


It was pretty quiet this afternoon around Marine & Aviation Pier 57, where nearly 2000 people were arrested and detained this week while they were exercising freedoms they imagined might be protected by the American legal system, or, in some cases, just because they happened to be near the police at the wrong moment. The only activity visible today was that of workmen collecting the countless port-a-sans which had been set up inside each of the filthy metal holding pens inside. We didn't get too close.

The nation which is being told that everything went smoothly in New York this week can't be shown enough evidence to the contrary. Another friend and indefatigable activist colleague of ours had a lot to say about on Gotham Gazette yesterday.

I knew they were taking their time and dragging this out as long as possible. I still believed we were being processed and my cellmates were being released. Every 20-40 minutes four names were called on my floor and people were led out. My name is called. I will be out soon. I am led up a flight of stairs into a different cell. A few guys who were first led out are sitting there. They didn’t move along in the system at all. The police seemed to be playing a shell game. Keep us calm and cooperative by making it seem as we are being released when we really weren’t. We call the Lawyers Guild and learn there is only one judge on the bench now and few if any are being released. The word is that we are going to be held until the convention is over Thursday night.
Jon is safe at home now, but like the multitudes who witnessed the assaults by Republican guards on New York streets this week, whether they were zip-cuffed or not, I'm certain he remains an enemy of the fascism which is succeeding in making victims - and activists - of us all.

Sandy Katz, a former ACT UP comrade who served as aide to Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messenger, has sent his friends this account of his own experience with our new domestic order. On Tuesday afternoon he accidently became caught up in the enormous police action which saw 1200 people arrested for the offense of being on the streets of New York. In his own description, written after he was released 23 hours later, never having been arraigned and never having seen a judge or a lawyer, he says he ended up being handed a desk appearance ticket; he has to be back in court in three and a half weeks, "i am charged with disorderly conduct for consorting with an unauthorized gathering of people."

it’s over now. i hate being locked up. i didn’t choose to be arrested, as i have done several times in my life. back in the day the new york police routinely warned peaceful demonstrators to move before placing them under arrest. that was back before dissent was a threat to national security, when it was understood as the freedom to disagree.
Click on the link below this line for the entire story.

Welcome citizens! (wire and flesh, inside the holding pen on Pier 57)

I'm sure we haven't heard the end of the story of Guantanamo-on-the-Hudson, but in the meantime here's a small footnote to the account of what thousands experienced there this week.

The September newsletter from our wonderful New York State General Assembly representative, Dick Gottfried, arrived in our mailbox yesterday. One of the smaller stories is headlined, "What Future for Pier 57?" Until this week "Pier 57" was the name of the large Hudson River dock the NYPD had recently fitted-out to serve as a detention center for its political prisoners.

Gottfried's Community Update must certainly have gone to the press before the mass arrests of this week and probably even before his staff or the general public knew the details of the police department's plans for political protest, yet the short text which appears under the headline manages to send shivers down my spine (I'll explain below):

Pier 57, at West 15th Street, which was most recently a bus depot, is in the process of getting redeveloped as part of the Hudson River Park
But the NYPD has now tasted blood, and it seems to have other plans for the waterfront real estate, according to an article in the New York Post excerpted in the New York Press and appearing here via Bloggy:
The most disturbing bit of information concerning the West Side holding pen, however, was buried in the Post's account. Just a brief mention:

"Cops fear some protesters might hang around after the convention to disrupt other events, like the U.S. Open, so the pen will remain open indefinitely."

The U.S. Open? Other events? Like what, the 3rd Ave. Street Fair? The grand opening celebration at a new Payless Shoe Source in Queens?

In other words, a year-round internment camp is now part of the ongoing West Side development project. Does the Olympic Committee know about this?

The shivers follow my thoughts, stimulated by reading historical accounts and seeing the physical evidence of countless memorial plaques, of improvised holding pens and interrogation rooms created by long-gone 20th-century authoritarian regimes.

If the old Marine & Aviation Pier 57 ever does become part of a park, I want to see an historical marker displayed prominently on the site. I only hope it won't have to describe greater horrors than those already visited on our city this week.

[images from indymedia, by anonymous]

I haven't seen a more sensible and economical description of what is ultimately the only way we will be able to successfully oppose and minimize terrorism than that contained in these few paragraphs by sciminc which appeared yesterday as a comment on a Daily Kos post. The item was actually about ACT UP's appearance yesterday on the Convention floor, and pparently some people were upset that the AIDS activists invaded the Republicans' party. Sciminc has a different take and he establishes it with great common sense, but his larger argument is about how we should deal with terrorism, and the italics which appear below [they're mine here] represent his specific prescription. Again, it's just common sense, but that's a quality not seen much these days.

The Act-Up [sic] protest was very small and not intentionally violent. Most reporters will probably treat it as a colorful addition to the big convention story, or maybe as the lead item in a roundup about the various protests of the day.

If the protests stay at about the same reasonable level that they've been at so far, then, of course wingnuts will froth at the mouth, but everyone else will shrug and say, "Eh, kids."

* If protesters came up with some dignified way to get into the conventional hall and protest the war, or maybe just to honor the war dead, that might be a little bit more effective.

* I think that Kerry's supporters who aren't connected with Kerry's campaign might be able to get some mileage out of this by pointing out that, in the long run, the secrets to fighting terrorism are diplomacy, education and efforts to create goodwill in the world.

There is really intense security around Madison Square Garden, yet these protesters got in. It seems as if Al Qaeda terrorists who got onto the convention cleanup crews probably would have just as easy of time getting in, and they might have done something a lot more violent than just chanting anti-Bush slogans.

Moral: it's important to have the best security that you can afford, but you never can afford enough security to handle all possible contingencies. You can't even imagine all possible contingencies. So, you damn well had better create enough goodwill in the world that decent people around the world who notice suspicious activity will report it to the police.

Good people who sympathize with the conspirators will keep their mouths shut.

protesters raise hands and shout cheers as police bus believed to be carrying arrested protesters leaves a temporary detention center yesterday, heading for another holding tank downtown

They've suspended habeas corpus, so this must be war.

I'm not just talking about the familiar smokescreen created by the "class war!" accusations Republicans lay on Democrats when they try to point out that the GOP is already fast at work at the singleminded task of piling up more and more power and plunder for themselves at the expense of the poor and the middle class. This is more like full civil war, brought to us by an immensely greedy protofascist hierarchy manipulating the stupidity of the pawns they so easily frighten, and demonizing those with the intelligence and the courage to resist. (actually, we're going to need more of both those things, especially to avoid serious violence; we're barely holding on right now)

War will always invite the suspension of liberty, and in the U.S. the assault usually begins with the elimination of the protections of habeas corpus.

This week in New York peaceful protesters, their legal observers, outside reporters, photographers, along with food delivery people, tourists and innocent bystanders were caught up by the web (we call it "freedom fencing," and it's bright orange) laid by an increasingly autocratic regime's 50,000-strong augmented force of uniformed guards.

Many of the brave or merely unluckly people who were trapped, and immediately and effectively branded "enemies of the state," languished, some of them still languishing, within filthy chain-link cages that were topped with razor wire, the "cells" improvised inside an abandoned bus garage on a Hudson River pier. (with hyperbole which may be counterproductive, many have been referring to it as "Guantanamo-on-the-Hudson") Even their names go unreported to anyone outside, and while they are held they are without access to legal cousel, family, friends, even essential medications.

What's it like inside? In fact, what's it like in Manhattan this week? Here's one of the best accounts I've read, by theoria posted on Daily Kos. I would add: If you haven't gone through it yourself or at least been a witness to what's going on here this week, you'll find it hard to believe what you'll read, but it should make your skin crawl nevertheless.

Apparently some or all of these detainees may now have been moved to the prison known during two centuries as "The Tombs," a notorious criminal detention center located Downtown, closer to the courts. Not surprisingly, it's almost impossible to get information anywhere. Did I say it's like war? Some 1800 people have been arrested since last weekend and Newsday reports that from 500 to 700 remain in custody at this time, but the facts are hard to pin down.

Their mothers and families have been gathering at the downtown site, 100 Centre Street. We're very lucky we still have independent judges not appointed for their subserviance to authoritarianism who can still make it hard for self-appointed guardians of [their own idea of] political and moral decency to throw away the keys altogether.

Many of those swept up by the police in the last week were taken in actions even the NYPD describes as "pre-emptive arrest," (sound vaguely familiar?) a plan they hoped would ensure a protest-free environment for our Republican Mayor's guests.

The liberties being defended by the protesters are now being further destroyed by the office of the Manhattan District Attorney's outrageous violation of guidelines which require that no one be held beyond 24 hours before they are arraigned for a serious crime and that the rest must be released with desk appearance tickets. In fact there is every indication at this time that the police will not be releasing many of the people they have rounded up until the Convention is over and its celebrants have been spirited away to wherever it is they came from. Pre-emptive arrest followed by pre-emptive detainment.

Habeas corpus has been suspended indefinitely, and once again it's in the name of security. Too many Americans have absolutely no problem with that. Any moment I expect to hear it officially justified in the name of the War on Terrorism.

But this city has received absolutely no credible warnings about terrorist plans that we have been told about, although it has had at least a year and a half worth of public announements that ordinary people were planning to come to New York for peaceful protest directed against, among other things, the monstrous and moronic policy that makes violence our only defense against violence. The terrorists stayed at home; we got busted, and our liberties were confiscated as well. If the police are massed in Herald Square, Harlem, Chelsea, the East Village and elsewhere this week, it's not to tangle with Al Queda. The enemy is obviously us.

What cowardice has let it go this far?

Democracy Now! put this excerpt of its radio report on its site this morning:

Hundreds of people yesterday protested the conditions under which those arrested are being held before going to court saying the site was contaminated with oil and asbestos. Pier 57 is a three-story, block-long pier that has been converted to a holding pen.

Yesterday morning we received a call from one of the protesters being held at Pier 57 who had smuggled a phone inside. Detainees passed the phone to each other and described the conditions of the holding facility. Democracy Now! producer Mike Burke took the call and spoke with the detained protesters.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has denied the city was operating what some called "Guantanamo-on-the-Hudson." And defended the use of the of the pier garage saying "It's not supposed to be Club Med."

Last night, a judge ordered protesters who had been held for 24-hours released with desk appearance tickets if they were not charged with serious crimes. Before midnight, some protesters started emerging from 100 Centre St. around the block from our firehouse studio. Some 200 supporters greeted them with cheers and offered food and medical treatment. Despite the judge's orders, a large number of protesters remain imprisoned.

for NUMBERS TO CALL, to help the prisoners, see this link

Barry just added a comment below, directing us to a short account from 100 Centre Street accompanied by some awesome pictures, again via Daily Kos. Don't miss it.

outside 100 Central Booking this afternoon

[image at the top is from Yahoo! News, AP photo of Bebete Matthews; second image from theoria, via Daily Kos]

union members on the barricades this afternoon

Thousands of labor union members overwhelmed the "Free Speech Zone" below Madison Square Garden this afternoon, crowding into pens running down to 23rd Street. It was clear they wanted nothing to do with George W. Bush or the Republican Party, even if he and it were the occasion of an extraordinary rally called for the middle of a work week only days before Labor Day itself.

I walked over to see and hear (feel) what it was like. I can share a few images here in this small gallery. They weren't captured easily however, since in the midst of that great crowd I almost lost it. My eyes repeatedly watered with an emotion I can't quite account for, unless it has something to do with the long, painful history of labor and its movement, a history always rejected by much of America and now almost completely lost even to many of its fortunate heirs. Bush is restoring our memory.

just another evening in Chelsea this week

The media has generally been reporting that, except for the immediate blocks abutting Madison Square Garden, the heavy security blanket covering New York in the last week or two rests lightly on the city's neighborhoods. If asked, residents of Chelsea would describe it otherwise. The words, "martial law" come to mind.

I know it may seem that I'm preoccupied with the police presence in my neighborhood this week, I'd like to think that the current state of Chelsea actually represents New York City as a whole (as is pretty much the case usually) more than most people want to admit, but especially as a really frightening foretaste of what may well be in store permanently for our polity, including that of the entire nation.

For the visuals, see this gallery of half a dozen images taken within the last 24 hours.

This page is an archive of entries in the War category from September 2004.

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