Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Concerned Citizen, Witness, or Snitch?
The media play an integral role in the way the world perceives America, especially young black men. It's been said, if you say something enough times, it will become true. Therefore, it is important to put the media on notice when they start to propagate negative stereotypes.
Case in point, Law & Order: CI. I'm a big fan of the show, but I can't let a recent episode go by without registering my outrage and sounding an alarm before mainstream media jumps on the bandwagon of the "stop-snitching" craze, spinning it to portray the black community in a negative light.
The episode, "Flipped," was about a rapper who was killed leaving a radio station. There were several witnesses to the murder. All of the predominantly black characters were afraid of being labeled a snitch and refused to cooperate with the police. Even the black police officer working for the gang unit sanctioned this "don't tell" manifesto. To add injury to insult, there were several young children – about 8 or 9-years-old – who continued to play as if nothing happened, despite the fact that the body of an assassinated snitch flew off the roof landing near their play area.
As a lifetime member of the beloved community, I doubt that there is one neighborhood in America so desensitized to murder that children would continue business as usual amid a dead body; certainly not a black neighborhood. I take offense that Law & Order would devote an entire episode to depicting the black community as a bunch of apathetic hedonists with questionable values, spooked by the thought of assisting the police in any way for fear that they would be labeled a snitch and assassinated.
It is true that snitches are detested in the black community. However, a person reporting criminal activity in their neighborhood is not a snitch. That would be a CONCERNED CITIZEN. Someone that gives an accurate account of a crime is called a WITNESS.
Snitches are the government-made parasites that drop a dime on people for a reduction in prison time, a get-out-of-jail credit, monetary payment, or a hit of crack. When necessary, these foot soldiers in the so-called "War on Drugs" embellish the truth. Quite often, they fabricate stories. Snitches are responsible for nearly 46% of wrongful capital convictions from false testimony, according to a study by Northwestern University Law School's Center on Wrongful Convictions. They are also the reason that innocence commissions across the country have concluded that snitch testimony is false and unreliable. Snitches are criminals hustling the system.
Although the media has caught a hold of the "stop-snitching" slogan, the crafty snitch system has also spawned sayings like "Don't Go To The Pen, Send A Friend," and "If You Can't Do The Time, Drop A Dime."
So yes, I'm a card-carrying member of the "stop-snitching" movement, but I refuse to allow mainstream media to frame the issue, creating the illusion that the crime epidemic is fueled by the black community's reluctance to cooperate with police investigations.
The majority of black's are no different than the average American. They want to keep their neighborhoods free of drugs, gangs, violence, and other criminal activities. I'm not saying that incidents of witness intimidation do not occur, but honest people are not conspiring with criminals in some imaginary code of silence.
I will admit that average black is a little closed-mouthed when it comes to talking to the police. That can probably be attributed more to the fear of dishonest police than the fear of retaliation. An honest citizen might offer information one minute, then find themselves in custody for the crime the next minute. They know that when police officers go to court, whether it's on a traffic violation or for a murder trial, they say whatever will guarantee the conviction disregarding the guilt or innocence of the defendant.
In black and poor communities the police are not trusted, and for good reasons. Police lie, plant evidence, and strong-arm residents more frequently than anyone will admit. Unless the corruption receives major media attention like the Rampart debacle in Los Angeles, the Tulia case in Texas, or the gunning down of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston by police in Atlanta, gun-toting fanatics persist and are rarely held accountable for their abuse.
In the Rampart case, 30 officers and at least three supervisors were accused of framing people. According to the LA Times, the scandal resulted in the examination of more than 3,000 questionable cases. In Tulia, Texas, 46 residents were set up by an unreliable undercover narcotics officer. The victims were later exonerated. In Atlanta, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard is seeking to indict three police officers on murder charges for the botched drug raid at Johnston's home. The magnitude of police corruption cases across the country proves that more than a few law enforcement officers are dishonest.
So let's get it correct. Black people are not a gang of quasi-criminals determined to obstruct justice. They are intelligent people who have learned from the constant injustices perpetrated on black people, that, regardless of our income level, we are presumed guilty even when proven innocent. Minorities and poor white people understand that they are jeopardizing their freedom talking with the police. Very much like the wealthy whites-they call it exercising their Fifth Amendment rights.
To the writers at Law & Order, and any of the mainstream media telling our stories, take care not to present a biased picture of the black community for the sake of "drama." To talk about the "stop-snitching" phenomenon without addressing the unreliable snitch-racket or police corruption is partial and misleading. The black community has enough problems; we don't need a media-driven movement added to the list.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Opposition grows to U.S. militarism
Growing opposition to U.S. militarism is having an impact on the Pentagon’s aggressive war plans far beyond Iraq.
An example of the changing mood can be seen in the mass movement opposing proposed new U.S. bases in the Czech Republic and Poland.
In recent polls a clear majority of the population of those countries is opposed to U.S. bases there. By an overwhelming majority, people are demanding the right to decide on this dangerous escalation in a national referendum.
Thousands have signed their names to petitions and participated in rallies and demonstrations demanding “No to the Bases.”
The petition in Czech Republic states that the bases “would serve to reawaken the Cold War in Europe and could reignite a new arms race. It is unthinkable that a democratic country should make such a decision of such long-range impact, as the acceptance of foreign military bases on its soil, without an open debate. Neither the government nor the Parliament has the mandate to make such a decision alone.”
More than 40 organizations are part of the No to the Bases Campaign formed last July in the Czech Republic.
The approval of the bases seemed a foregone conclusion when the U.S. military started surveying for sites in Poland and Czech Republic four years ago. The missile shield would consist of radar sites and large missile interceptor silos. The radar would have the ability to monitor almost the entire territory of Russia.
The Pentagon claims that the missile shield is intended as a protection of the U.S. and Europe from missile attacks by what it slanderously calls “rogue states,” such as Iran or North Korea. But the project deals with intercontinental ballistic missiles, which neither North Korea nor Iran even possess. The overwhelming consensus is that the bases are an ominous part of the growing ring of U.S. and NATO bases surrounding Russia.
Russia’s President Putin at the Munich Conference on Security Policy on Feb. 10 warned of U.S. efforts to open a new Cold War and a new arms race. He denounced the Pentagon’s plans to encircle Russia and place missile sites in Central Europe. The 250 participants at the meeting in Germany included more than 30 defense and foreign ministers.
President Putin said, “The process of NATO expansion has nothing to do with modernization of the alliance or with ensuring security in Europe.” He also criticized the “almost uncontained, hyper use of force in international relations.”
Outside, as many as 6,000 anti-militarist demonstrators protesting NATO expansion surrounded the building where the conference was underway. More than 3,500 police were used to prevent the protesters from exercising their rights.
On Feb. 7, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Peter Pace, speaking to the U.S. House of Representatives, escalated the threats: “I think we need the full range of military capabilities. We need the ability for regular force-on-force conflicts because we don’t know what’s going to develop in places like Russia and China, in North Korea, in Iran and elsewhere.”
Belarus, a country of 10 million people located between Russia and Poland, recently expressed its opposition to the expansion of the U.S. dominated NATO military alliance as a clear violation of the NATO pledge not to expand an inch further east if Soviet troops were withdrawn from the East European countries that made up the Warsaw Pact. Nikolai Cherginets of the National Assembly of Belarus was speaking about its southern neighbor Ukraine and Georgia’s move towards joining NATO.
In violation of NATO’s 1990 agreement, NATO has expanded into 10 countries that were formerly part of the Warsaw Pact or into republics that were formerly part of the Soviet Union. The new members of NATO are Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. All of these countries have become military satellites of the U.S. and economically dependent on the imperialist West.
Most of these countries have been forced by their relations with the U.S. military alliance to participate in sending troops to Iraq and/or Afghanistan.
Ukraine’s possible admission to NATO would bring Russia’s Black Sea naval base and much of the former Soviet armaments industry within arm’s reach of the U.S. dominated military alliance and it would expand NATO to Russia’s southwestern border. Along with Ukraine and Georgia, Croatia, Albania and Macedonia are on the list of countries waiting to join NATO.
The Pentagon has also moved its largest sea-based missile defense radar in the Pacific from Hawaii to the Aleutian Islands, close to Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula.
In December 2001 Washington unilaterally withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty that it had signed 30 years earlier in order to begin testing a new generation of missiles. These are the weapons that the U.S. wants to put in place in the Czech Republic and Poland.
U.S. political and economic domination surged forward in Eastern Europe and many of the former Soviet republics after the collapse of the USSR. U.S. and other western-based corporations flooded the region, grabbing and privatizing formerly publicly owned industries and resources. Aggressive U.S. government-funded NGOs set the political and social agenda.
Support for Western capitalist methods is evaporating as millions see the violence and brutality of the U.S. occupation of Iraq and watch with growing apprehension the threats of new and wider wars. The enormous dislocation and insecurity of the capitalist markets has fostered widespread unemployment and low wages while shredding social programs throughout the region.
According to polls in both the Czech Republic and Poland, up to two-thirds of the population oppose the U.S. bases. Both countries, however, are governed by pro-U.S. center-right coalition governments that support the U.S. base proposal.
In the Czech Republic the right wing Civic Democratic Party heads a weak coalition government cobbled together after the country had been without any government for eight months following an election impasse. No political party had sufficient numbers to form a government.
One of the first acts of the new government was to announce that it wants to host the new missile shield system popularly referred to as the “Son of Star Wars.” But the new officials lacked the authority to even enforce a ban on a demonstration of 2,000 “No to the Bases” activists who marched through downtown Prague on Jan. 29.
In Poland, Defense Minister Radoslaw Sikorski was forced to resign after saying that Poland would take Russia’s concern over the U.S. bases into consideration. Sikorski had also opposed placing at risk the 1,000 Polish troops who will be part of the NATO forces sent to Afghanistan.
Opponents of U.S. bases also criticize the extra-territoriality of the bases, which will become sovereign U.S. territory. Tens of thousands of U.S. forces stationed around the world are not subject to local laws. What actually goes on at a U.S. base, what weapons are stockpiled or are tested, what operations are planned are all secret and not discussed with host countries.
Opposition to U.S. bases has given impetus to a growing political movement that has moved millions of people into militant confrontations with the Pentagon from South Korea and the Philippines to Vieques, Puerto Rico. Even in Italy, on this coming Feb. 17, thousands are expected in a national demonstration to protest the expansion of the U.S. base of Camp Ederle in Vicenza.
The simple democratic demand for a national referendum on the placement of a new generation of weapons and bases in the Czech Republic and Poland is an important struggle against wider U.S. wars and military expansion.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
U.S. Says Powerful Iraqi Cleric Is Living in Iran
WASHINGTON-The powerful Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr has left Iraq and has been living in Iran for the past several weeks, senior Bush administration officials said Tuesday.
With fresh American forces arriving in Baghdad as part of the White House plan to stabilize the capital, officials in Washington suggested that Mr. Sadr might have fled Iraq to avoid being captured or killed during the crackdown.
But officials also said that Mr. Sadr, who has family in Iran, had gone to Tehran in the past and that it was unclear why he had chosen to leave Iraq at this time. Mr. Sadr’s departure from Iraq was first reported Tuesday night by ABC News.
Neutralizing the power of Mr. Sadr, whose Mahdi Army has sporadically battled American forces for the past four years, has been a particular concern for American officials as they try to rein in powerful Shiite militias in Baghdad.
With the new American offensive in Baghdad still in its early days, American commanders have focused operations in the eastern part of the city, a predominantly Shiite area that has long been the Mahdi Army’s power base.
If Mr. Sadr had indeed fled, his absence would create a vacuum that could allow even more radical elements of the Shiite group to take power.
Last year’s election of Nuri Kamal al-Maliki as prime minister enhanced Mr. Sadr’s political stature inside Iraq. Mr. Maliki was elected with the backing of a political bloc led by Mr. Sadr.
American and Iraqi officials have said that recent intelligence points to signs of fracturing within the Mahdi Army, and that radical splinter groups who are not under Mr. Sadr’s control could be carrying out commando-style raids and assassinations.
Officials have suggested that these splinter groups could be receiving orders from officials in Iran, but have not offered direct evidence to back up their claims.
An aide to Mr. Sadr, reached by telephone on Tuesday night, denied that Mr. Sadr had left Iraq and said that the cleric was planning a televised address in the next several says.
Last week, during a raid in Diyala Province, Iraqi forces killed an aide of Mr. Sadr’s who American military officials said had been leading “rogue” elements of the Mahdi Army and fomenting violence against Iraqi civilians and police.
Three days later, Iraqi and American troops arrested the second-highest-ranking official in the Health Ministry, who they said was running a Mahdi Army splinter group and funneling millions of dollars to rogue Shiite militants.
The raids were carried out after Mr. Maliki dropped his protection of Mr. Sadr.
American officials said Tuesday that Mr. Sadr may have seen these operations coming and fled the country to avoid his own arrest.
But military officials in Iraq have also been wary of moving directly against Mr. Sadr, fearing that capturing or killing the militant cleric would further stoke the sectarian violence inside Iraq and turn more Shiites against the Maliki government.
In 2004, American forces arrested several of Mr. Sadr’s top aides and shut down a newspaper allied with the Mahdi Army, setting off bloody clashes in eastern Baghdad and the Shiite holy city of Najaf.
The news of Mr. Sadr’s departure from Iraq came amid an escalating war of words between the Bush administration and top Iranian officials. In recent days, White House and military officials have accused the Iranian government of supplying Shiite militias with the materials to make deadly roadside bombs.
Iranian officials have denied the charges.
Marc Santora contributed reporting from Baghdad.
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Some Cubans Welcome Relations With U.S.
HAVANA -- Some Cubans welcomed a poll released Wednesday showing that most Americans favor renewed diplomatic ties with the communist-governed island.
Cuba's government had no immediate reaction to the poll, but acting President Raul Castro, who took power in July after his brother Fidel became ill, has said at least twice that his country wanted better relations with the United States.
While the AP-Ipsos poll showed 64 percent of respondents had an unfavorable opinion of Fidel Castro, 62 percent said the United States should re-establish diplomatic ties broken off in 1961. Only 30 percent said it should not.
The poll, which had a margin of error of 3 percentage points, also showed that 48 percent favored continuing the U.S. trade embargo of Cuba while 40 percent wanted to end it. The embargo -- which Cuban officials call a "blockade" -- sharply restricts U.S. travel to Cuba as well as trade.
Cubans interviewed in the streets of Havana -- while told about support for the embargo -- tended to assume that renewed diplomatic ties would mean a broad range of closer ties. And they liked that idea.
"People have family there, they will be able to come," said Eduardo Pedreira, a 49-year-old parking lot worker who said he has cousins in the United States. "It's been years since I've seen them."
A co-worker, Carlos Luis Haro, said restored relations "would be very beneficial for both" countries.
A block away, self-employed cobbler Roberto Sanchez Cruz, 38, sat at a table in the doorway of a crumbling building, mending a stack of torn shoes with a thick needle. He said he thought new relations would lead to more visitors from the United States and a boost for the island's economy.
"There's a lot of work here, but no money," he said, and dismissed the idea of embargoes and broken relations: "That's all politics. The working people are the ones who suffer."
In December, a Gallup Poll survey conducted without government approval in Cuba's two biggest cities found that those surveyed were most likely to cite the United States as the "ideal partner" for increased commercial ties with Cuba.
The scant contact between the two countries is now handled through Switzerland or via low-level diplomatic offices called interests sections.
On Aug. 18, Raul Castro said in an interview with the Communist Party newspaper Granma that Cuba was open to normalized relations with the United States, though he rejected "impositions and threats" from the U.S.
In a Dec. 2 speech, he repeated that theme: "We take this opportunity to once again state that we are willing to resolve at the negotiating table the long-standing dispute between the United States and Cuba" as long as the U.S. respects Cuba's sovereignty.
"After almost half a century, we are willing to wait patiently until the moment when common sense prevails in Washington power circles," he added.
U.S. law might have to be changed to achieve full relations with Cuba's current government. Statutes restrict ties so long as either of the Castro brothers is in power.