War: August 2005 Archives






I cry for New Orleans.

And I don't want to see another photo with a caption screaming about folks "looting," when they are in the midst of an unprecedented disaster where there is no food, no water and no help. Only people with real resources could have afforded to leave before the hurricane hit: For the many who stayed, everything they ever had was in their homes. They could expect no protection, and almost certainly no insurance compensation.

[UPDATE: I've just learned that in fact many people who were mobile and who wanted to leave just couldn't, as there was no public transportation. Our blindered media doesn't point out that since this is America if you didn't have a car you didn't get out. The Greyhound station was closed before the hurricane hit, and of course there are no trains. Similarly, there's also no media discussion of how the sick and the aged were expected to leave.]

Also, I hesitate to dignify their status by even mentioning the network, but this morning FOX "NEWS" includes a discussion asking seriously whether this city and these stricken people should get any disaster funds from the federal government. I guess they should all have known better and chosen to live in a less vulnerable area, say . . . Florida(?), where there's always government disaster relief available. Not heard explicitly, but perhaps implied here, and certainly to be found along the long, rough road ahead, is the voice of racism - and even that of the hellish "Christian" Right: Colored folk don't deserve the help, and for its sins this entire great, irreplaceable city itself should go the way of Sodom and Gomorrah.

We must save these people and this city, and of course we must do what we can to reduce the impact of the next storm. Just for starters, we should have the National Guard and skilled Army and Navy engineers here now, when and where they could make a difference.

The enemy is here, not in Iraq.

[images, in descending order (all via YAHOO! Photo) by Chris Graythen for Getty Images, Rick Wilking for Reuters, James Nielsen for AFP, Bill Haber for AP Photos, and Rick Wilking for Reuters]

playing for peace

In a project begun with the dream of his late friend Edward Said, Daniel Barenboim finally made it to Ramallah with his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra last night. Members of the orchestra, founded in 1998, come from Israel, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan.

The sound of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony drowned out the staccato of bullets on Sunday in the conflict-ridden Middle East as world-famous conductor Daniel Barenboim dazzled his Ramallah audience with both music and words.

Playing under the theme "Freedom for Palestine," Barenboim and his new West-Eastern Diwan [sic] orchestra were able to break all barriers and help an audience fatigued by strife to enjoy two hours of pure music from Beethoven and Mozart.

. . . .

The 1,200-seat auditorium of the Ramallah Cultural Center was packed with a Palestinian, international and even Israeli audience an hour before the baton was scheduled to drop. As the seats filled, hundreds others milled in the hallways and the aisles hoping to get a seat or just to be allowed to stay in standing room and listen to Barenboim and the orchestra.

The same audience stood for 15 minutes, enthusiastically clapping and yelling "bravo" after Barenboim concluded the performance, giving Palestinians in Ramallah a chance to forget the checkpoints, the occupation, the wall and everything that has made their lives void of spirit, as one member of the audience remarked after the concert.

Outside the auditorium, the reality for West Bank residents had not yet changed after the concert, as Barenboim hoping to achieve with his music and orchestra.

A few audience members had to leave early to get home before some checkpoints at entrances to Ramallah closed. Others who waited until the end and headed home after the concert had to stop in long lines of cars waiting at checkpoints to be able to reach their homes. Barenboim realized this reality, and this is why he brought his new orchestra to Ramallah.

"What I want to say to you," Barenboim told the audience after the orchestra finished playing, "I have already said in the music.

But it wasn't easy getting there.

[image from European Pressphoto via Taipei Times]




It's finally beginning to look like we might be able to move on. These are images of the silent vigil held on 8th Avenue near 17th Street in Chelsea this evening, an echo of similar observances held all over the country at the same time. People gathered everywhere in their own communities in support of Cindy Sheehan's own powerful vigil on the side of a road near Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas.

We cannot be marginalized this time.

British newspapers front pages, August 17, 2005 carry pictures of the body of Jean Charles...

Jean Charles de Menezes
walked at a normal pace into the subway station on July 22, used his card to pass through the turnstile, and was sitting inside the car in his light, short denim jacket when he was shot several times in the side of the head by plainclothes police officers in front of horrified passengers. These events were captured on closed circuit television cameras. Yesterday it was reported in London that an official police investigation had determined the facts I describe above. They directly contradict earlier police accounts of de Menezes's death. [see the Guardian site for more coverage]

But of course this could never happen here in the U.S., so the report, about the lies and incompetence of government antiterrorism agencies given extraordinary powers, a report which dominates the news across Britain and the rest of Europe today, appears on page three in our NYTimes this morning. In fact, the only thing that would likely never happen here is a report of official lies and incompetence. Our regime would never allow it. For security, don't you know.

Vince [see the comment on my previous post] and many other readers already know that I have no illusions about either the comprehensiveness or the liberalism of the NYTimes, in spite of the frequency with which I cite my local rag on this blog, but I think I should make myself more clear on this point right now.

While I get most of my international news on line, I still like sitting at the table during my extended mid-day breakfast, listening to the birds and leafing through the Times's huge stash of hard-copy serendipity. It is my local paper, it is bigger than the others (thank the gods there still are others, especially Newsday), its extensive features do manage to entertain readers who might think they've seen everything, and sometimes it's just so much fun to see the more obvious evidences of its biases and its agendae, and to broadcast them to a world which is persuaded it's actually a Lefty newspaper.

[image and caption are from Agence France-Presse]

exactly 60 years later: the kiss watched 'round the world, its original models, and some contemporary enthusiasts

Although there is at least one same-sex couple in the group* kissing in the image above, they didn't make it into the NYTimes photo caption today, and there's nothing queer in the story which accompanies it. Does that suggest that we're no longer remarkable, or still just unmentionable?

Well, at least we have our fabulous advertising ghetto.

click on the photo when you open the link

[image by Mario Tama from Getty Images via the NYTimes]


[North 4th Street, Williamsburg, on Sunday]

the signs on Fifth Avenue read "Witness To Israeli War Crimes," and that seems to have stuck in more than one important craw

Steve Quester and his remaining four co-defendents in the trial of the M26 arrestees were sentenced in New York Criminal Court this morning. It's been more than two years since their involvement in a non-violent demonstration where they joined with others in blocking Fifth Avenue, protesting the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and the invasion of Iraq.

The four are free today. Well, sort of free.

They were arrested on March 26, 2003 and later that year all 16 were convicted in Manhattan Criminal Court of disorderly conduct and obstructing governmental administration [interfering with vehicle traffic]. Twelve of the activists were sentenced to community service, a common punishment for a demonstration of this sort, and two of those twelve were given fines in addition to the sentence of community service. The Manhattan District Attorney unsealed prior dismissed and sealed arrest records as a basis for subjecting the four remaining protestors to up to one year in jail, but on July 6 the New York Court of Appeals ordered the protestors' prior dismissed cases to be resealed.

Steve Quester reports that the four were sentenced this morning to 10 days each of community service. He himself was also sentenced to pay a $500 fine in addition to his service. There was no jail sentence, despite the District Attorney's best efforts.

Each of the four was also sentenced to a year of conditional discharge. If any of them is arrested before August 1, 2006, she or he will go to jail on the M26 conviction. As Steve writes, this is still "a scary prospect, considering that in New York City one can get hauled in by the police for walking down the sidewalk or riding one's bicycle."

Steve continues, in an email sent this evening:

Our pre-sentencing statements will be going up on
www.m26.org soon, and I've copied mine, below. My
interview on www.actuporalhistory.org will go back up
when the webmasters return from vacation. Kate's is

Judge Stolz commented on my ACT UP Oral History
Project interview, from which he concluded that I'm a
"narcissistic, self-absorbed exhibitionist". For the
record, I'm immensely proud of my years in ACT UP, and
am filled with admiration for people, like my
co-defendants Staci and Kate, who remain active in the

Stolz also commented strongly and negatively on my
argument that the district attorney was motivated by
political animus towards our solidarity with
Palestinian people rather than the pursuit of justice.
I think the facts of the case speak for themselves.

Occupation is a crime, from Iraq to Palestine.
ACT UP, fight back, fight AIDS.

Steve Quester

I've copied Steve's entire pre-sentencing statement below, because it answers the question posed in this post's headline better than anything I could come up with - and because both his activism in New York and the directness of his statement are very much a piece with his volunteer work in the Middle East and his reports from Israel and Palestine published on this blog in the past.

The Manhattan District Attorney has turned from the
illegal—unsealing dismissed cases—to the merely
unethical—quoting an oral history project—in his
ongoing attempt to have us jailed. As a Rutgers
sociologist wrote this past Friday when she heard of
the D.A.'s new sentencing letter: "Any social
scientist who has done oral history would be
astonished by this invasive abuse of oral history by
the courts. When we do research on human subjects, we
are generally obliged, by the rules of U.S. Office of
Human Research Protection, to specify that none of our
respondents would be harmed by the research."

So what's going on here? Assistant District
Attorneys Glasser and Sullivan would have us believe
that Kate Barnhart and I are harmful to society, and
that only a jail sentence will get the message across
that we have to respect the law. But on March 22,
2004, Messrs. Glasser and Sullivan asked Judge Stolz
to jail all sixteen of us, even though most had no
record of any kind. This after a trial that never
should have happened; all sixteen of us offered for
months before the trial to plead to a lesser charge,
an offer the D.A. rejected in every one of the sixteen
cases. From what we have heard from other criminal
defense attorneys, it is nearly unprecedented that the
Manhattan D.A.'s office would take a case to trial
that concerned allegations of non-violent civil
disobedience, with no allegations of property damage.
So why this time?

The D.A. has always maintained that we were treated
differently because we were locked down. But
demonstrators using lock boxes in New York City are so
common that a police officer testified at our trial
about the training he received at the academy on how
to remove them. No locked-down demonstrators before
or since our action have been refused a plea agreement
and dragged through a trial, much less been subjected
to an illegal and unethical campaign to have them
jailed. What's different this time?

When Mr. Morgenthau was inundated with letters and
calls from elected officials, angry at the March 22
2004 jail recommendation, his staff responded with the
infamous April 9 2004 sentencing letter, in which jail
was recommended for every defendant for whom they
could dredge up any excuse, however weak. One
defendant should be jailed, they told the judge,
because back in college in New Jersey he had been
busted for pot. They neglected to mention that his
conviction had since been expunged. Another should be
jailed because she was once arrested in Washington,
D.C. They neglected to mention that the arrest had
been nullified, without prosecution, when it came to
light that the police had simply swept up a crowd in a
park, regardless of individual actions. To the credit
of this court, the D.A.'s ridiculous justifications
were ignored when sentencing those particular
defendants in May of 2004.

On July 6 of this year, the system worked. New
York's Court of Appeals resealed the records of the
remaining four of us, clearly establishing Mr.
Morgenthau's illegal conduct. Undaunted, Messrs.
Glasser and Sullivan waited until the last business
day before our sentencing to present material from the
Internet they'd been sitting on since sometime before
March, oral histories that establish that Ms. Barnhart
and I are longtime activists. As if that were a

So what's behind this extraordinary sequence of
events? It's not the lockboxes. It's not the traffic
jam. It's not our activist histories. The same
factors have been present in dozens, if not hundreds,
of similar cases in Manhattan, but have never elicited
similar behavior on the part of the D.A., before or
since. The unique factor in this case is the
political message of our demonstration. Ten days
after the murder of American Rachel Corrie by an
Israeli soldier in the occupied Gaza Strip, images of
our action were beamed all over the world by CNN.
Business at the branch of Bank Leumi at the corner
where the demonstration occurred was disrupted that
day. Opponents of the war on Iraq often engage in
civil disobedience in New York City; Palestine
activists rarely do. The events of March 26 2003 gave
Mr. Morgenthau an opportunity to send a message:
Criticize Israel in New York City, and we will throw
the book at you.

Your honor, I'm not asking you to ignore the verdict,
or your own concerns about the events of March 26
2003. I am asking you to consider our motives, which
were to draw attention to a human rights disaster, in
the context of our lives of service for the public
good. I heard, loud and clear, what you said on May
12 2004 about ambulances. I risked my life riding in
a Palestinian Red Crescent Society ambulance in
Bethlehem in 2002 so that the EMTs would not get shot
by Israeli soldiers. I've been a healthcare activist
for a decade and a half. I've advocated for better
Medicaid coverage, for the inclusion of women and
people of color in clinical trials, for expedited
review of promising AIDS treatments. I've sat at the
bedside of many dying friends.

I have a keen sense of the need to support New York
City's emergency services. In the months following
the September 11 attacks, I did what I could to
support our devastated fire department. When
firefighters said that they were having trouble
getting enough people to the hundreds of firefighter
funerals, I began attending and bringing friends to
the funerals not just of the firefighter I knew, Peter
Vega, but of firefighters I'd never met.

The idea that we didn't consider the effect of our
actions on emergency services is mistaken. Had an
emergency vehicle needed to get through that day, we
would have seen to it that they did. Nothing in our
past, or in the many letters about us you've received,
would indicate otherwise. In fact, we posted
observers on the scene specifically to alert us of any

I am asking you as well to consider the district
attorney's motives, which seem to be based in a desire
to suppress advocacy on behalf on Palestinians, rather
than to see justice done.

[image by Fred Askew from the M26 site]

This page is an archive of entries in the War category from August 2005.

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