Sheila McGregor - Engels for today - capitalism and the family

Sheila McGregor - Engels for today - capitalism and the family




Sheila McGregor - Engels for today - capitalism and the family

Why Fukushima Is a Greater Disaster than Chernobyl and a Warning Sign for the US


The radioactive inventory of all the irradiated nuclear fuel stored in spent fuel pools at Fukushima is far greater and even more problematic than the molten cores.

In the aftermath of the world’s worst nuclear power disaster, the news media is just beginning to grasp that the dangers to Japan and the rest of the world posed by the Fukushima-Dai-Ichi site are far from over. After repeated warnings by former senior Japanese officials, nuclear experts, and now a U.S. Senator, it is sinking in that the irradiated nuclear fuel stored in spent fuel pools amidst the reactor ruins may have far greater potential offsite consequences than the molten cores.

Fukushima's devastation two weeks after the tsunami.

After visiting the site recently, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) wrote to Japan's ambassador to the U.S. stating that, "loss of containment in any of these pools could result in an even greater release than the initial accident."

This is why:
  • Each pool contains irradiated fuel from several years of operation, making for an extremely large radioactive inventory without a strong containment structure that encloses the reactor cores;
  • Several pools are now completely open to the atmosphere because the reactor buildings were demolished by explosions; they are about 100 feet above ground and could possibly topple or collapse from structural damage coupled with another powerful earthquake;
  • The loss of water exposing the spent fuel will result in overheating can cause melting and ignite its zirconium metal cladding – resulting in a fire that could deposit large amounts of radioactive materials over hundreds of miles.

Irradiated nuclear fuel, also called "spent fuel," is extraordinarily radioactive. In a matter of seconds, an unprotected human one foot away from a single freshly removed spent fuel assembly would receive a lethal dose of radiation within seconds. As one of the most dangerous materials in the world, spent reactor fuel poses significant long-term risks, requiring isolation in a geological disposal site that can protect the human environment for tens of thousands of years.

It's almost 26 years since the Chernobyl reactor exploded and caught fire releasing enormous amounts of radioactive debris. The Chernobyl accident revealed the folly of not having an extra barrier of thick concrete and steel surrounding the reactor core that is required for modern plants in the U.S., Japan and elsewhere. The Fukushima Dai-Ichi accident revealed the folly of storing huge amounts of highly radioactive spent fuel in vulnerable pools, high above the ground.

What both accidents have in common is widespread environmental contamination from cesium-137. With a half-life of 30 years, Cs-137 gives off penetrating radiation, as it decays. Once in the environment, it mimics potassium as it accumulates in biota and the human food chain for many decades. When it enters the human body, about 75 percent lodges in muscle tissue, with perhaps the most important muscle being the heart. Studies of chronic exposure to Cs-137 among the people living near Chernobyl show an alarming rate of heart problems, particularly among children.

As more information is made available, we now know that the Fukushima Dai-Ichi site is storing 10,833 spent fuel assemblies (SNF) containing roughly 327 million curies of long-lived radioactivity About 132 million curies is cesium-137 or nearly 85 times the amount estimated to have been released at Chernobyl.

The overall problem we face is that nearly all of the spent fuel at the Dai-Ichi site is in vulnerable pools in a high risk/consequence earthquake zone. The urgency of the situation is underscored by the ongoing seismic activity around NE Japan in which 13 earthquakes of magnitude 4.0 - 5.7 have occurred off the NE coast of Honshu last week in the 4 days between 4/14 and 4/17. This has been the norm since the first quake and tsunami hit the site on March 11th of last year. Larger quakes are expected closer to the power plant.

Earlier this month, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) revealed plans to remove 2,274 spent fuel assemblies from the damaged reactors that will probably take at least a decade to accomplish. The first priority will be removal of the contents in Pool No. 4. This pool is structurally damaged and contains about 10 times more cesium-137 than released at Chernobyl. Removal of SNF from the No. 4 reactor is optimistically expected to begin at the end of 2013. A significant amount of construction to remove debris and reinforce the structurally-damaged reactor buildings, especially the fuel-handling areas, will be required.

Also, it is not safe to keep 1,882 spent fuel assemblies containing ~57 million curies of long-lived radioactivity, including nearly 15 times more cs-137 than released at Chernobyl in the elevated pools at reactors 5, 6, and 7, which did not experience melt-downs and explosions.

The main reason why there is so much spent fuel at the Da-Ichi site, is that it was supposed to be sent to the Rokkasho reprocessing plant, which has experienced 18 lengthy delays throughout its construction history. Plutonium and uranium was to be extracted from the spent fuel there, with the plutonium to be used as fuel at the Monju fast reactor.

After several decades and billions of dollars, the United States effectively abandoned the "closed" nuclear fuel cycle 30 years ago for cost and nuclear non-proliferation reasons. Over the past 60 years, the history of fast reactors using plutonium is littered with failures the most recent being the Monju project in Japan. Monju was cancelled in November of last year, dealing a fatal blow to the dream of a "closed" nuclear fuel cycle in Japan.

The stark reality, if TEPCO's plan is realized, is that nearly all of the spent fuel at the Dai-Ichi containing some of the largest concentrations of radioactivity on the planet will remain indefinitely in vulnerable pools. TEPCO wants to store the spent fuel from the damaged reactors in the common pool, and only to resort to dry, cask storage when the common pool's capacity is exceeded. At this time, the common pool is at 80 percent storage capacity and will require removal of SNF to make room. TEPCO's plan is to minimize dry cask storage as much as possible and to rely indefinitely on vulnerable pool storage. Senator Wyden finds that TEPCO's plan for remediation carries extraordinary and continuing risk. He sensibly recommends that retrieval of spent fuel in existing on-site spent fuel pools to safer storage in dry casks should be a priority.

Given these circumstances, a key goal for the stabilization of the Fukushima-Daichi site is to place all of its spent reactor fuel into dry, hardened storage casks. This will require about 244 additional casks at a cost of about $1 million per cask. To accomplish this goal, an international effort is required – something that Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) has called for. As we have learned, despite the enormous destruction from the earthquake and tsunami at the Dai-Ichi Site, the nine dry casks and their contents were unscathed. This is an important lesson we should not ignore.

Mossad, Blackwater, CIA Led Operations in Homs

Al-Manar News Lebanon – 3 March, 2012

“The crisis is at its end” is no longer a relieving statement made by some political analysts, as the crisis is really close to its end. Baba Amro is now under the control of the Syrian army and so are the armed groups of which a big number escaped to the Lebanese borders dubbing their retreat “tactical”.

Around 700 Arab and Western gunmen surrendered in Baba Amro, well-informed sources told Al-Manar website, adding that “huge and critical surprises will be uncovered in the coming few days such as the kinds of arms seized, as well as the military tactics the armed groups followed, and the sides that supervised the operations.”

The sources further assured to the news website that the security operation in Homs will be over in a maximum of five to eight days.

Weapons from Israel used for First Time in Baba Amro

For his part, Syrian expert in strategic affairs Salim Harba pointed out that Baba Amro neighborhood and the areas surrounding it were emptied from the armed groups’ organizational as well as command structures with minimum army and civilian casualties, as the area was mainly concentrated by gunmen.

Speaking to Al-Manar website, Harba said that “the captured gunmen held Arab nationalities, including Gulf, Iraqi, and Lebanese… among them were also Qatari intelligence agents and non-Arab fighters from Afghanistan, Turkey, and some European countries like France.

“The Syrian army also uncovered tunnels and equipments there,” he added, pointing out that “advanced Israeli, European, and American arms that have not yet been tested in the countries of manufacture, in addition to Israeli grenades, night binoculars, and communication systems were confiscated by the security forces.”

Harba went on saying that “communication stations where established on the Lebanese borders to oversee the military operations in Baba Amro, and to ensure contact between field commanders and a coordination office led by members of information in the Qatari capital Doha.”

He clarified that “the escape of British journalists from Homs through the Lebanese-Syrian borders was the result of this coordination.”

In parallel, the Syrian strategic expert revealed that “the communication stations were being operated by Lebanese figures; some of them were members of the Future parliamentary bloc,” and considered that “these figures worked on transforming Wadi Khaled region into a strategic depth for Baba Amro.”

Mossad, Blackwater Directed from Qatar Operations in Homs


Additionally, Salim Harba revealed to Al-Manar website that “a coordination office was established in Qatar under American-Gulf sponsorship. The office includes American, French, and Gulf –specifically from Qatar and Saudi Arabia- intelligence agents, as well as CIA, Mossad, and Blackwater agents and members of the Syrian Transitional Council.”

“Qatar has also made deals with Israeli and American companies to arm the armed groups, and Gulf countries have been financing the agreements,” he added.

The Syrian expert pointed out that “the significance of the security operation in Homs is due to the high expectations that regional and international sides had from the armed gangs in Baba Amro … they wanted Homs to be turned into a new Benghazi.”

Indicating that the operation was implemented with high professionalism and accuracy, Harba reassured that documents will be exposed at the right time.

“The authority will not reveal everything it has now… the Syrian security forces have documents and confessions that could harm everyone who conspired against Syria, and could make a security and political change, not just on the internal Syrian level, but also on the regional level,” he assured.

In the same context, Harba considered that all the conferences and meetings by what he referred to as the “enemies of Syria” were aimed at paving the way for an American initiative under a “humanitarian” title.

He concluded: “At the end, the US will submit to the Russian initiative after it realized that confrontations will only result in its defeat, and that the Syrian regime is still strong enough to deal with any conspiracy.”

Translated by Sara Taha Moughnieh


Source

Flying proudly over the birthplace of Libya's revolution, the flag of Al Qaeda


The black flag of Al Qaeda was hoisted in Libya yesterday as Nato formally ended its military campaign.

The standard fluttered from the roof of the courthouse in Benghazi, where the country’s new rulers have imposed sharia law since seizing power.

Seen as the seat of the revolution, the judicial building was used by rebel forces to establish their provisional government and media centre.
Change of regime? A trademark Al Qaeda flag was seen flying over Benghazi's courthouse last week 

Flying high: The Al Qaeda flag, with Arabic writing and a moon design, can be seen flying alongside a Libyan national flag above Benghazi's courthouse

The flag has been spotted on the courthouse several times, prompting denials from the National Transitional Council that it was responsible. Complete with Arabic script declaring ‘there is no God but Allah’ and a full moon underneath, it was hoisted alongside the Libyan national flag.

Extremists have been seen on Benghazi’s streets at night, waving the Al Qaeda flag and shouting ‘Islamiya, Islamiya! No East, nor West, VICE reported.

A sudden lurch toward extremism will alarm many in the West who supported the ousting of Colonel Gaddafi.

It also threatens to embarrass David Cameron who staked his personal reputation on the campaign to free Libya from the tyrant. Nato stuck to its decision to end its seven-month operation despite calls from the National Transitional Council for it to stay longer.

Allies of Nato have been keen to see a quick conclusion to a costly effort that has involved 26,000 air sorties and round-the-clock naval patrols.

The UN Security Council authorised the mission in March to protect civilians in the civil war.

Nato staff temporarily seconded to the headquarters in Naples for the Libyan operation are being reassigned to their regular duties, officials said.

Last week, the country’s interim leader, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, declared that sharia will be the ‘basic source’ of legislation.

The chairman of the National Transitional Council has also declared the country’s future parliament will have an ‘Islamist tint’.

Sharia law is a form of hardline Islamic rule favoured by fundamentalist groups such as the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Mr Abdul-Jalil has been at pains to insist ‘that we as Libyans are moderate Muslims’, and has said the proposed constitution is ‘temporary’ and will be put to a referendum.

But he has given a speech in which he said any law that ‘violates sharia’ is ‘null and void’.

This means Libyan men will be free to take more than one wife, a policy branded a ‘disaster for women’ by Adelrahman al-Shatr, a founder of the newly-formed centre-right Party of National Solidarity.

He said: ‘By abolishing the marriage law, women lose the right to keep the family home if they divorce. It is a disaster for Libyan women.




The Al-Qaeda flag was seen above Benghazi's courthouse just days after Libyan rebels imposed Sharia law on parts of the country.

‘It is a subject that should be discussed with the different political groups and with the Libyan people. These declarations create feelings of pain and bitterness among women.’

A spokesman for a group called Women Living Under Muslim Laws said: ‘Women are directly targeted by this change in laws and will lose many acquired rights in the process.’

NATO'S LIBYA CAMPAIGN

Mar 17: U.N Security Council passes a resolution to impose a no-fly zone in Libyan airspace.
Mar 19: French and Italian aircraft enter Libyan airspace to begin reconnaissance and surveillance. British and U.S. ships and submarines fire Tomahawk cruise missiles at Libyan air and ground defences.
Naval blockade also enforced.
May 11: Nato aircraft fires four rockets at Gaddafi's compound in Tripoli, killing two people.
May 12: 52 NATO strikes are carried out against loyalist targets across the country.
May 26: In the strongest attack of the operation so far, Nato planes bomb 20 targets in Tripoli under 30 minutes.
June 13: Nato carries out 62 airstrikes against targets in Tripoli and four other cities.
June 20: Nato is accused of killing 19 civilians in Sorman, west Tripoli, following another attack
July 16: Another Nato strike kills 10 rebels and wounds 172 during an advance on Brega.
Aug 9: Nato bombs a warship in Tripoli harbour.
Aug 20: Nato-supported rebels in Tripoli launch an uprising in the city, as Nato launch bombing raids over government targets.
Oct 20: Rebel forces take Sirte, with Gaddafi captured and eventually killed as Nato planes attack his convoy.
Oct 23: Gaddafi's family are forced to flee as rebels claim his compound in Bab al-Azizia.
Oct 31: Nato ends operations in Libya 

Collateral Murder - Wikileaks - Iraq

Wikileaks has obtained and decrypted this previously unreleased video footage from a US Apache helicopter in 2007. It shows Reuters journalist Namir Noor-Eldeen, driver Saeed Chmagh, and several others as the Apache shoots and kills them in a public square in Eastern Baghdad.

They are apparently assumed to be insurgents. After the initial shooting, an unarmed group of adults and children in a minivan arrives on the scene and attempts to transport the wounded. They are fired upon as well.

The official statement on this incident initially listed all adults as insurgents and claimed the US military did not know how the deaths ocurred. Wikileaks released this video with transcripts and a package of supporting documents on April 5th 2010 on http://collateralmurder.com

 


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 Another you-tube video showing an in-depth analysis of the leaked military video showing a US army helicopter firing on Iraqis.

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Lizzie Phelan interview on NYT

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Mainstream Corporate Media and its methods of manipulation!


 - Michael Parenti

We are told by media people that some news bias is unavoidable. Distortions are caused by deadline pressures, human misjudgment, budgetary restraints, and the difficulty of reducing a complex story into a concise report. Furthermore, the argument goes, no communication system can hope to report everything. Selectivity is needed.
I would argue that the media’s misrepresentations are not all the result of innocent error and everyday production problems, though such problems certainly exist. True, the press has to be selective–but what principle of selectivity is involved? Media bias does not occur in a random fashion; rather it moves in the same overall direction again and again, favoring management over labor, corporations over corporate critics, affluent Whites over low-income minorities, officialdom over protesters, the two-party monopoly over leftist third parties, privatization and free market “reforms” over public-sector development, U.S. corporate dominance of the Third World over revolutionary social change, and conservative commentators and columnists like Rush Limbaugh and George Will over progressive or populist ones like Jim Hightower and Ralph Nader (not to mention more radical ones).
The corporate mainstream media seldom stray into territory that might cause discomfort to those who hold political and economic power, including those who own the media or advertise in it.
What follows are some common methods of media manipluation:
Suppression by Omission.
The most common form of media manipulation is suppression by omission. The things left unmentioned sometimes include not just vital details of a story but the entire story itself. Reports that reflect poorly upon the powers that be are least likely to see the light of day. Thus the Tylenol poisoning of several people by a deranged individual was treated as big news, but the far more sensational story of the industrial brown-lung poisoning of thousands of factory workers by large manufacturing interests (who themselves own or advertise in the major media) remained suppressed for decades, despite the best efforts of worker safety groups to bring the issue before the public.
Often the media mute or downplay truly sensational (as opposed to sensationalistic) stories. Thus, in 1965 the Indonesian military–advised, equipped, and financed by the U.S. military and the CIA–overthrew President Achmed Sukarno and eradicated the Indonesian Communist Party and its allies, killing half a million people (some estimates are as high as a million) in what was the greatest act of political mass murder since the Nazi holocaust. The generals also destroyed hundreds of clinics, libraries, schools, and community centers that had been opened by the communists. Here was a sensational story if ever there was one, but it took three months before it received passing mention in Time magazine and yet another month before it was reported in The New York Times (April 4, 1966), accompanied by an editorial that actually praised the Indonesian military for “rightly playing its part with utmost caution.”
Information about the massive repression, murder, and torture practiced by U.S.-supported right-wing client states such as Turkey, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, El Salvador, Guatemala, and others too numerous to mention is simply omitted from the mainstream media and thereby denied public debate and criticism. It is suppressed with an efficiency and consistency that would be called “totalitarian” were it to occur in some other countries.
Attack and Destroy the Target.
Sometimes a story won’t go away. When omission proves to be insufficient, the media move from ignoring the story to vigorously attacking it. For example, over the course of 40 years, the CIA involved itself with drug traffickers in Italy, France, Corsica, Indochina, Afghanistan, and Central and South America. Much of this activity was the object of extended congressional investigations–by Congressman Pike’s committee in the 1970s and Senator Kerry’s committee in the late 1980s–and is a matter of public record. But the media did nothing but relentlessly misrepresent and attack these findings in the most disparaging way.
In August 1996, when the San Jose Mercury News published an in-depth series about the CIA-Contra crack shipments that flooded East Los Angeles, the major media suppressed the story. But after the series was circulated around the world on the Web, the story became too difficult to ignore, and the media began its assault. Articles in the Washington Post and The New York Times and reports on network television and PBS announced that there was “no evidence” of CIA involvement, that the Mercury News series was “bad journalism,” and that the public’s interest in this subject was the real problem, a matter of gullibility, hysteria, and conspiracy mania. In fact, theMercury News series, drawing on a year-long investigation, cited specific agents and dealers. When placed on the Web, the series was copiously supplemented with pertinent documents and depositions that supported the charge. In response, the mainstream media simply lied, telling the public that such evidence did not exist. By a process of relentless repetition, the major media exonerated the CIA of any involvement in drugs.
Labeling.
A label predefines a subject by simply giving it a positive or negative tag without the benefit of any explanatory details. Some positive labels are: “stability,” “the president’s firm leadership,” and “a strong defense.” Some negative ones are: “leftist guerrillas,” “Islamic terrorists,” and “conspiracy theorists.” In the June 1998 California campaign for Proposition 226, a measure designed to cripple the political activities of organized labor, union leaders were repeatedly labeled “union bosses,” while corporate leaders were never called “corporate bosses.” The press itself is falsely labeled “the liberal media” by the hundreds of conservative columnists, commentators, and talk-show hosts who crowd the communications universe with complaints about being shut out of it.
A strikingly deceptive label is “reform,” a word that is misapplied to the dismantling of social reforms. So the media talked of “welfare reform” when referring to the elimination of family assistance programs. Over the last 30 years, “tax reform” has served as a deceptive euphemism for laws that have repeatedly reduced upper-income taxes, shifting the payment burden still more regressively upon middle- and low-income strata.
Preemptive Assumption.
Frequently the media accept as given the very policy position that needs to be critically examined. During the 1980s, when the White House proposed a huge increase in military spending, the press went along without giving any exposure to those who called for reductions in the already bloated arms budget.
Likewise with the media discussion on Social Security “reform,” a euphemism for the privatization and eventual abolition of a program that is working well. Social Security operates as a three-pronged human service: in addition to retirement pensions, it provides survivors’ insurance to children in families that have lost their breadwinner, and it offers disability assistance to people of preretirement age who have sustained serious injury or illness. From existing press coverage you would never know the good that Social Security does and how well it works. Instead, the media assume a very dubious position that needs to be debated: That the program is in danger of collapsing (in 30 years) and therefore needs to be privatized.
Face-Value Transmission.
One way to lie is to accept at face value what are known to be official lies, uncritically passing them on to the public without adequate confirmation. When challenged on this, reporters insist that they cannot inject their own personal ideology into their reports. No one is asking them to. My criticism is that they already do. Their conventional ideological perceptions usually coincide with those of their bosses and with officialdom, making them faithful purveyors of the prevailing political orthodoxy. This confluence of bias is experienced as the absence of bias, and is described as “objectivity.”
Slighting of Content.
One has to marvel at how the media can give so much emphasis to style and process, and so little to actual substance. A glaring example is the way elections are reported. The political campaign is reduced to a horse race: Who will run? Who will win the nomination? Who will win the election? News commentators sound more like theater critics as they hold forth on what candidate is performing well and projecting the most positive image. The actual issues are accorded scant attention, and the democratic dialogue that is supposed to accompany a contest for public office rarely takes place.
Accounts of major strikes–on those rare occasions when the press attends to labor struggles–offer a similar slighting of content. We are told how many days the strike has lasted, about the inconvenience and cost to the company and the public, and that negotiations threaten to break down. Missing is any reference to the content of the conflict, the actual issues: the cutback in wages and benefits, the downgrading of jobs, or the unwillingness of management to negotiate a new contract.
False Balancing.
In accordance with the canons of good journalism, the press is supposed to tap competing sources to get both sides of an issue. In fact, both sides are seldom accorded equal prominence. One study found that on NPR, supposedly the most liberal of the mainstream media, right-wing spokespersons are often interviewed alone, while liberals–on the less frequent occasions when they appear–are almost always offset by conservatives. Left-progressive and radical views are almost completely shut out.
False balancing was evident in a BBC World News report (December 11, 1997) that spoke of “a history of violence between Indonesian forces and Timorese guerrillas”–with not a hint that the guerrillas were struggling for their lives against an Indonesian invasion force that had slaughtered some 200,000 Timorese. Instead, a terrible act of aggression was made to sound like a grudge fight, with “killings on both sides.” By imposing a neutralizing gloss over the genocidal invasion of East Timor, the BBC announcer was introducing a distortion.
Framing. 
The most effective propaganda relies on framing rather than on falsehood. By bending the truth rather than breaking it, using emphasis and other auxiliary embellishments, communicators can create a desired impression without departing too far from the appearance of objectivity. Framing is achieved in the way the news is packaged, the amount of exposure, the placement (front page or buried within, lead story or last), the tone of presentation (sympathetic or slighting), the headlines and photographs, and, in the case of broadcast media, the accompanying visual and auditory effects.
Newscasters use themselves as auxiliary embellishments. They cultivate a smooth delivery and try to convey an impression of detachment. They affect a knowing tone designed to foster credibility, voicing what I call “authoritative ignorance,” as in remarks like: “How will this situation end? Only time will tell”; or “No one can say for sure.” Sometimes trite truisms are palmed off as penetrating truths. So we are fed sentences like: “Unless the strike is settled soon, the two sides will be in for a long and bitter struggle.”
Learning Never to Ask Why.
Many things are reported in the news but few are explained. We are invited to see the world as mainstream pundits do, as a scatter of events and personalities propelled by happenstance, circumstance, confused intentions, and individual ambition–never by powerful class interests, yet producing effects that serve such interests with impressive regularity.
Passive voice and the impersonal subject are essential rhetorical constructs for this mode of evasion. So recessions apparently just happen like some natural phenomenon (“our economy is in a slump”), having little to do with the profit accumulation process, the constant war of capital against labor, and the inability of underpaid workers to make enough money to buy back the goods and services they produce.
In sum, the news media’s performance is not a failure but a skillfully evasive success. Their job is not to inform but to disinform, not to advance democratic discourse but to mute it, telling us what to think about the world before we have a chance to think about it for ourselves. When we understand that news selectivity is likely to favor those who have power, position, and wealth, we move from a liberal complaint about the press’s sloppy performance to a radical analysis of how the media serve the ruling circles with much skill and craft.
Michael Parenti is a leading progressive thinker and author of more than ten books including Against Empire; Dirty Truths; and Blackshirts and Reds. He lives in Berkeley. His latest book, America Besieged, which includes an earlier version of this article, is published by City Lights.

The real criminals in the Tarek Mehanna case


In my opinion, the solution is not in Islam (or any other religion). The religions don't/can't answer the questions that greatest scientific minds are clueless about as Tarek claims … Also, supporting the Mujahiddin and the Al Qaeda is definitely not the answer, and again in my opinion, is the worst thing anyone can do. However knowing that the wrong policies of the west are responsible for the birth and the development of these terrorist groups is important. Looking for the solution in the wrong places was Tarek's mistake, however in his defence speech there are lots of truth to ponder on. The world needs a paradigm shift in thought and judgment.

The US and its allies are the biggest hippocrates of our times… 


- Sarah Deniz
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FRIDAY, APR 13, 2012 
By Glenn Greenwald
In one of the most egregious (outrageously bad ) violations of the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech seen in quite some time, Tarek Mehanna, an American Muslim, was convicted this week in a federal court in Boston and then sentenced yesterday to 17 years in prison. He was found guilty of supporting Al Qaeda (by virtue of translating Terrorists’ documents into English and expressing “sympathetic views” to the group) as well as conspiring to “murder” U.S. soldiers in Iraq (i.e., to wage war against an invading army perpetrating an aggressive attack on a Muslim nation). I’m still traveling and don’t have much time today to write about the case itself — Adam Serwer several months ago wrote an excellent summary of why the prosecution of Mehanna is such an odious threat to free speech and more background on the case is here, and I’ve written before about the growing criminalization of free speech under the Bush and Obama DOJs, whereby Muslims are prosecuted for their plainly protected political views — but I urge everyone to read something quite amazing: Mehanna’s incredibly eloquent, thoughtful statement at his sentencing hearing, before being given a 17-year prison term.
At some point in the future, I believe history will be quite clear about who the actual criminals are in this case: not Mehanna, but rather the architects of the policies he felt compelled to battle and the entities that have conspired to consign him to a cage for two decades:
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TAREK’S SENTENCING STATEMENT
APRIL 12, 2012
Read to Judge O’Toole during his sentencing, April 12th 2012.

In the name of God the most gracious the most merciful Exactly four years ago this month I was finishing my work shift at a local hospital. As I was walking to my car I was approached by two federal agents. They said that I had a choice to make: I could do things the easy way, or I could do them the hard way. The “easy ” way, as they explained, was that I would become an informant for the government, and if I did so I would never see the inside of a courtroom or a prison cell. As for the hard way, this is it. Here I am, having spent the majority of the four years since then in a solitary cell the size of a small closet, in which I am locked down for 23 hours each day. The FBI and these prosecutors worked very hard-and the government spent millions of tax dollars – to put me in that cell, keep me there, put me on trial, and finally to have me stand here before you today to be sentenced to even more time in a cell.

In the weeks leading up to this moment, many people have offered suggestions as to what I should say to you. Some said I should plead for mercy in hopes of a light sentence, while others suggested I would be hit hard either way. But what I want to do is just talk about myself for a few minutes.

When I refused to become an informant, the government responded by charging me with the “crime” of supporting the mujahideen fighting the occupation of Muslim countries around the world. Or as they like to call them, “terrorists.” I wasn’t born in a Muslim country, though. I was born and raised right here in America and this angers many people: how is it that I can be an American and believe the things I believe, take the positions I take? Everything a man is exposed to in his environment becomes an ingredient that shapes his outlook, and I’m no different. So, in more ways than one, it’s because of America that I am who I am.

When I was six, I began putting together a massive collection of comic books. Batman implanted a concept in my mind, introduced me to a paradigm as to how the world is set up: that there are oppressors, there are the oppressed, and there are those who step up to defend the oppressed. This resonated with me so much that throughout the rest of my childhood, I gravitated towards any book that reflected that paradigm – Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and I even saw an ethical dimension to The Catcher in the Rye.

By the time I began high school and took a real history class, I was learning just how real that paradigm is in the world. I learned about the Native Americans and what befell them at the hands of European settlers. I learned about how the descendents of those European settlers were in turn oppressed under the tyranny of King George III.

I read about Paul Revere, Tom Paine, and how Americans began an armed insurgency against British forces – an insurgency we now celebrate as the American revolutionary war. As a kid I even went on school field trips just blocks away from where we sit now. I learned about Harriet Tubman, Nat Turner, John Brown, and the fight against slavery in this country. I learned about Emma Goldman, Eugene Debs, and the struggles of the labor unions, working class, and poor. I learned about Anne Frank, the Nazis, and how they persecuted minorities and imprisoned dissidents. I learned about Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and the civil rights struggle.

I learned about Ho Chi Minh, and how the Vietnamese fought for decades to liberate themselves from one invader after another. I learned about Nelson Mandela and the fight against apartheid in South Africa. Everything I learned in those years confirmed what I was beginning to learn when I was six: that throughout history, there has been a constant struggle between the oppressed and their oppressors. With each struggle I learned about, I found myself consistently siding with the oppressed, and consistently respecting those who stepped up to defend them -regardless of nationality, regardless of religion. And I never threw my class notes away. As I stand here speaking, they are in a neat pile in my bedroom closet at home.

From all the historical figures I learned about, one stood out above the rest. I was impressed with many things about Malcolm X, but above all, I was fascinated by the idea of transformation, his transformation. I don’t know if you’ve seen the movie “X” by Spike Lee, it’s over three and a half hours long, and the Malcolm at the beginning is different from the Malcolm at the end. He starts off as an illiterate criminal, but ends up a husband, a father, a protective and eloquent leader for his people, a disciplined Muslim performing the Hajj in Makkah, and finally, a martyr. Malcolm’s life taught me that Islam is not something inherited; it’s not a culture or ethnicity. It’s a way of life, a state of mind anyone can choose no matter where they come from or how they were raised.

This led me to look deeper into Islam, and I was hooked. I was just a teenager, but Islam answered the question that the greatest scientific minds were clueless about, the question that drives the rich & famous to depression and suicide from being unable to answer: what is the purpose of life? Why do we exist in this Universe? But it also answered the question of how we’re supposed to exist. And since there’s no hierarchy or priesthood, I could directly and immediately begin digging into the texts of the Qur’an and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad, to begin the journey of understanding what this was all about, the implications of Islam for me as a human being, as an individual, for the people around me, for the world; and the more I learned, the more I valued Islam like a piece of gold. This was when I was a teen, but even today, despite the pressures of the last few years, I stand here before you, and everyone else in this courtroom, as a very proud Muslim.

With that, my attention turned to what was happening to other Muslims in different parts of the world. And everywhere I looked, I saw the powers that be trying to destroy what I loved. I learned what the Soviets had done to the Muslims of Afghanistan. I learned what the Serbs had done to the Muslims of Bosnia. I learned what the Russians were doing to the Muslims of Chechnya. I learned what Israel had done in Lebanon – and what it continues to do in Palestine – with the full backing of the United States. And I learned what America itself was doing to Muslims. I learned about the Gulf War, and the depleted uranium bombs that killed thousands and caused cancer rates to skyrocket across Iraq.

I learned about the American-led sanctions that prevented food, medicine, and medical equipment from entering Iraq, and how – according to the United Nations – over half a million children perished as a result. I remember a clip from a ’60 Minutes‘ interview of Madeline Albright where she expressed her view that these dead children were “worth it.” I watched on September 11th as a group of people felt driven to hijack airplanes and fly them into buildings from their outrage at the deaths of these children. I watched as America then attacked and invaded Iraq directly. I saw the effects of ’Shock & Awe’ in the opening day of the invasion – the children in hospital wards with shrapnel from American missiles sticking but of their foreheads (of course, none of this was shown on CNN).

I learned about the town of Haditha, where 24 Muslims – including a 76-year old man in a wheelchair, women, and even toddlers – were shot up and blown up in their bedclothes as the slept by US Marines. I learned about Abeer al-Janabi, a fourteen-year old Iraqi girl gang-raped by five American soldiers, who then shot her and her family in the head, then set fire to their corpses. I just want to point out, as you can see, Muslim women don’t even show their hair to unrelated men. So try to imagine this young girl from a conservative village with her dress torn off, being sexually assaulted by not one, not two, not three, not four, but five soldiers. Even today, as I sit in my jail cell, I read about the drone strikes which continue to kill Muslims daily in places like Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. Just last month, we all heard about the seventeen Afghan Muslims – mostly mothers and their kids – shot to death by an American soldier, who also set fire to their corpses.

These are just the stories that make it to the headlines, but one of the first concepts I learned in Islam is that of loyalty, of brotherhood – that each Muslim woman is my sister, each man is my brother, and together, we are one large body who must protect each other. In other words, I couldn't see these things beings done to my brothers & sisters – including by America – and remain neutral. My sympathy for the oppressed continued, but was now more personal, as was my respect for those defending them.

I mentioned Paul Revere – when he went on his midnight ride, it was for the purpose of warning the people that the British were marching to Lexington to arrest Sam Adams and John Hancock, then on to Concord to confiscate the weapons stored there by the Minuteman. By the time they got to Concord, they found the Minuteman waiting for them, weapons in hand. They fired at the British, fought them, and beat them. From that battle came the American Revolution. There’s an Arabic word to describe what those Minutemen did that day. That word is: JIHAD, and this is what my trial was about.

All those videos and translations and childish bickering over ‘Oh, he translated this paragraph’ and ‘Oh, he edited that sentence,’ and all those exhibits revolved around a single issue: Muslims who were defending themselves against American soldiers doing to them exactly what the British did to America. It was made crystal clear at trial that I never, ever plotted to “kill Americans” at shopping malls or whatever the story was. The government’s own witnesses contradicted this claim, and we put expert after expert up on that stand, who spent hours dissecting my every written word, who explained my beliefs. Further, when I was free, the government sent an undercover agent to prod me into one of their little “terror plots,” but I refused to participate. Mysteriously, however, the jury never heard this.

So, this trial was not about my position on Muslims killing American civilians. It was about my position on Americans killing Muslim civilians, which is that Muslims should defend their lands from foreign invaders – Soviets, Americans, or Martians. This is what I believe. It’s what I’ve always believed, and what I will always believe. This is not terrorism, and it’s not extremism. It’s what the arrows on that seal above your head represent: defense of the homeland. So, I disagree with my lawyers when they say that you don’t have to agree with my beliefs – no. Anyone with commonsense and humanity has no choice but to agree with me. If someone breaks into your home to rob you and harm your family, logic dictates that you do whatever it takes to expel that invader from your home.

But when that home is a Muslim land, and that invader is the US military, for some reason the standards suddenly change. Common sense is renamed ”terrorism” and the people defending themselves against those who come to kill them from across the ocean become “the terrorists” who are ”killing Americans.” The mentality that America was victimized with when British soldiers walked these streets 2 ½ centuries ago is the same mentality Muslims are victimized by as American soldiers walk their streets today. It’s the mentality of colonialism.

When Sgt. Bales shot those Afghans to death last month, all of the focus in the media was on him-his life, his stress, his PTSD, the mortgage on his home-as if he was the victim. Very little sympathy was expressed for the people he actually killed, as if they’re not real, they’re not humans. Unfortunately, this mentality trickles down to everyone in society, whether or not they realize it. Even with my lawyers, it took nearly two years of discussing, explaining, and clarifying before they were finally able to think outside the box and at least ostensibly accept the logic in what I was saying. Two years! If it took that long for people so intelligent, whose job it is to defend me, to de-program themselves, then to throw me in front of a randomly selected jury under the premise that they’re my “impartial peers,” I mean, come on. I wasn’t tried before a jury of my peers because with the mentality gripping America today, I have no peers. Counting on this fact, the government prosecuted me – not because they needed to, but simply because they could.

I learned one more thing in history class: America has historically supported the most unjust policies against its minorities – practices that were even protected by the law – only to look back later and ask: ’what were we thinking?’ Slavery, Jim Crow, the internment of the Japanese during World War II – each was widely accepted by American society, each was defended by the Supreme Court. But as time passed and America changed, both people and courts looked back and asked ’What were we thinking?’ Nelson Mandela was considered a terrorist by the South African government, and given a life sentence. But time passed, the world changed, they realized how oppressive their policies were, that it was not he who was the terrorist, and they released him from prison. He even became president. So, everything is subjective - even this whole business of “terrorism” and who is a “terrorist.” It all depends on the time and place and who the superpower happens to be at the moment.

In your eyes, I’m a terrorist, and it’s perfectly reasonable that I be standing here in an orange jumpsuit. But one day, America will change and people will recognize this day for what it is. They will look at how hundreds of thousands of Muslims were killed and maimed by the US military in foreign countries, yet somehow I’m the one going to prison for “conspiring to kill and maim” in those countries – because I support the Mujahidin defending those people. They will look back on how the government spent millions of dollars to imprison me as a ”terrorist,” yet if we were to somehow bring Abeer al-Janabi back to life in the moment she was being gang-raped by your soldiers, to put her on that witness stand and ask her who the “terrorists” are, she sure wouldn’t be pointing at me.

The government says that I was obsessed with violence, obsessed with ”killing Americans.” But, as a Muslim living in these times, I can think of a lie no more ironic.
-Tarek Mehanna
4/12/12
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