There's been a lot of Web and TV chatter about the continuing importance of Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominees—given the relative non-newsworthy hearings for Judge Sonia Sotomayor and her two predecessors, now-Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito. It's a legitimate question, given the fact candidates are so thoroughly prepared by surrogate questioners and communications persons not to make news.
Lauren e-mailed Bonnie Erbe's "Sotomayor's a Bore -- What Ever Happened to the Days of Bork and Thomas?" (US News & World Reports). I should have thought to check for Bonnie's writing but I'm just so used to seeing her on TV that I forget about that. So thank you to Lauren. Bonnie Erbe had something worth saying.
Lauren's a community member and so is KeShawn who e-mailed to note this from Jennifer Koons (New York Times):
Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor addressed major issues of concern to the environmental community during Senate Judiciary Committee hearings that ended yesterday, shedding some light on how she would approach cases concerning regulatory takings, the Constitution's Commerce Clause, as well as her views on upholding congressional action regarding protective measures such as the Clean Water Act.
So that's that. I got some other e-mails and I guess I wasn't clear on what sort of thing I will and will not highlight. Sorry. Right-wing opions? I was comfortable with highlighting them. They didn't need to love her or support her. But I'm not going to go along with her being mocked for being Latina because (a) there's nothing wrong with being Latino or Latina and (b) maybe you missed the "about" section on me to the right, I'm Black. I'm not going to make fun of someone for their race or ethnicity.
I want to be clear that I'm not screaming "Racism!" about things that came in. It would be easy to, but I'm not sure how fair that would be. Trashy shows like South Park have lowered people's standards and made them think certain 'jokes' are okay and they aren't. I think that show has really damaged this country.
So I will just say here to the 9 visitors who e-mailed right-wing things,, I appreciate the effort you went to and I don't think you're racists because you e-mailed them and I don't think people who wrote them are necessarily racists. I could hear that on any episode of South Park and the people writing, right wingers like the creators of South Park, might think that's what cuts it as funny.
And I'm actually glad you sent those things because race is one of the topics tonight.
What was the Republican plan for the Sonia Sotomayor hearings?
If you listen to idiots like Amy Goodman or that Ron Elvin on NPR, you're told that it's racism and it's the last gap and they're sitting there trying to appeal to a White race that really doesn't exist to that degree anymore.
First, Latinas and Latinos in most cases fall under White as a race. Don't confuse ethnicity with race.
Second, I'm really getting sick of the so-called left commentariet in this country.
I'm a pro-choice, pro-labor, pro-universal marriage rights, anti-war Black single mother. I am in no way right-wing. So why does my supposed own side disgust me so these days?
Because they're stupid and they think we're even more stupid than they are.
No, the GOP did not decide to play the Klan and think that would get them more White voters.
I'm sure there are racists in the Republican Party. I'm sure there are some in the Democratic Party (hopefully that's a small number). And I'm sure not all the racists are White. (In fact, if you're Black, think about some of the jokes in our community about Asian-Americans and others. While it may be us reclaiming to make jokes about ourselves, when we're pushing stereotypes of Asian-Americans are others, we're not reclaiming, we're embracing bigotry.)
Is race involved in what went down in the hearings?
Yes. But that doesn't make people racists.
In America, we should talk about race, we shouldn't run from it.
I'm willing to allow that some White people are genuinely concerned about issues and confused about them that fall into the category of race. So if we allow that there could be genuine concern and confusion than a senator asking about Sotomayor's "wise Latino" comment, we might want to listen to what's being said.
Senator X might be sincerely bothered by that comment. He might hear it and think, "Racism." Stan did a great job, I don't know the exact post, sorry, of taking on the "Now they care about racism! They're just pretending!" pompous spin. Stan pointed out that most of us grasp racism from our own experiences.
Now idiots like Amy Goodman aren't going to grasp that. Amy Goodman's never been discriminated against due to her race. She's always decrying racism because of her Red roots and she has a very superficial knowledge base when it comes to racism. (She also tends to lie.)
My children know what racism is. I didn't teach them it. Life taught them. Like me, they are Black. And they learn about it from the way they are treated. That's how I learned about it, that's how we all learn about it if we're non-White.
And what I loved about Stan's post was that he was able to step out of his own situation and really examine it and point out that if someone who's never grasped racism before suddenly does because of something that happened to them, that's how we all discover it.
So it's not a bad thing and it's something that if we were mature we could have a conversation about.
I'd much rather have a serious conversation than all the snark that the left's been offering.
And if Senator X is truly, for the first time, thinking how he might be discriminated against, great. That means he can get a little of feeling what I go through on a daily basis and I get a feeling of what's going on inside him.
We could have conversations about the hearings, commentary, that did just that. But we didn't get that, we got a bunch of snark and a bunch of holier than thou.
It was ridiculous.
So I'm not going to call any of the senators on the Republican side a racist. There was one, as I've noted this week, whose comments did raise some red flags but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.
Is wanting to overturn affirmative action racism?
It can be. It can also be a desire based on the belief that we can have true equality in this country or it can be the result of not grasping why it's still needed. (Obviously, I believe it's still needed.)
But there can be a "I just hate them all and don't want them on equal footing!" racism. That's possible.
But I didn't hear affirmative action addressed in that manner. If I had, I would agree with the commentary that the GOP was trying to appeal to Whites with racism.
What I think they were doing was going up against affirmative action and up against Barack. Up against him as president and a member of the other main political party. I don't believe they were being 'racist' in going after Barack.
Here's what I saw happening.
Republicans raised questions about Sotomayor. Over and over. They repeated themselves constantly. Why was that? They were trying to drill the message home.
Sotomayor is not going to please a lot of people as a judge. There are some on the left who believe the lies and think she's their lefty hope! They're wrong. She didn't go to public schools, kids. She didn't have a simple life as an adult. She's corporate through and through and she will side with them over and over.
So conservatives will love her! No. They're going to have other things to disagree with her on.
And because her hearings were so nothing -- so bland and so non-informative -- everyone of her early moves will be noted in a way that others won't be scrutinized.
So Sonia Sotomayor gets on the bench in August or September (or maybe this month) and starts in on the bench in October (that's when they resume). So you've got a year and one month of Sotomayor before the mid-term elections.
Every time you're upset with her decision, whether you're White, Black, Asian-American, Latino, whatever, the GOP is hoping that you're thinking, "Bad decision. And she wasn't qualified." That's what the race talk, in large part, seemed to be about to me.
Them planting the seeds to end affirmative action (always on their checklist) and to tie Sotomayor to it. If they can do that, then they win the mid-terms because Sotomayor is bound to tick off a number of groups with her rulings.
Now pretend we're children and not adults. (If you can't picture yourself as a child, pretend you're Amy Goodman. It's the same thing after all.) You wanted to get rock candy at the mall but you were told no and that kid in your class, that kid was eating rock candy. That's not fair! That's not right! And when we're kids and we're angry, we start looking for excuses to explain why someone else got something we didn't.
So if they can tap into anger at her decisions, they hope they can get that sort of response but from adults and that they'll say, "Well, she wasn't qualified and she only got on the bench because she's Latina."
(I think she'll get on the bench. I don't think that's because she's Latina. I think it's because she's a Corporatists. And the two sides of America's one Corporate Party can support that.)
They're trying to set that up and it's about Sotomayor and it's about more than the 2010 elections.
And it really bothers me that we get snark and bad jokes and you've got people thinking the GOP is over. The GOP isn't over. If a party disengrates in the next few years, if, it'll be the Democrats. They're the ones in power. They control the White House, both house of Congress. They've got a lot more to live up to right now.
Back when it was the other way, they just had to talk a good game. Which they did.
Now someone's going to say, "But overturning Affirmative Action is something racists want!"
I don't think so. I think a number of racists want it overturned. But I don't think they're the only ones. And I certainly no Black people who argue it should be overturned for various reasons -- including a woman at my church who is offended when she thinks anyone might see her and think she got where she was "because of her race."
I support Affirmative Action and I've got three young children and I want them to have the even playing field. So it really offends me that instead of discussing what the GOP was doing -- using Sotomayor as a way to increase support of overturning Affirmative-Action -- we're playing stupid and snarky.
Now people can be snarky and still cover the needed topics, but that's not what's happened.
And when I see and hear all these White people on TV and radio offering snark, I think, "You're not doing a damn thing to cover what matters and if my children suffer because Affirmative-Action is overturned, I'm sure you'll find something new to snark over and you're White life will go on just the same as it always have. You won't be the one to suffer."
So those are my thoughts.
I hope I was clear that I'm not calling any Republican senator a racist. And I hope I've been clear all week that if Sotomayor had come out with remarks indicating how she's rule, and i could see that she'd be a supporter of abortion, I'd support her.
But she didn't and she's not said anything about it so I'm not supporting her.
I'm not campaigning against her. I'm not calling my senators and saying, "Don't vote for her!" But I'm not supporting her.
Abortion's a very important issue and I didn't hear anything from her that reassured me she felt the same way.
She's a Corporatist. She'll be seated. My life is too valuable to me for me to waste time defending a Corporatist who can't even support abortion rights publicly.
"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, July 17, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces multiple deaths, at least 40 pilgrims are wounded in Baghdad bombings, US war resister Robin Long speaks, increasing tensions between the north and the central government, and more.
This morning the US military announced: "BAGHDAD -- Three Multi-National Division-South Soldiers were killed when Contingency Operating Base Basra was attacked by indirect fire at approximately 9:15 p.m. on July 16. The names of the deceased are being withheld pending notification of next of kin. The incident is under investigation." The announcement brings the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4326. Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) reports, "Shortly after the attack, the Iraqi army gave the U.S. military permission to carry out aerial searches northwest of the airport, the area from where the rockets are thought to have been launched, U.S officials said. Troops chased a car to a house, which they searched. A joint U.S.-Iraqi patrol raided another home. Three Iraqi men were briefly detained, the military said."
Violence rocked Iraq as usual today but a lot of it targeted pilgrims. Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) explains the pilgrimage "is expected to fill the streets of Baghdad on Saturday in the first major security challenge for Iraqi military forces" with "a limited curfew" being imposed and "thousands of additional Iraqi soldiers and police officers . . . on the streets". Alsumaria reports, "While thousands of pilgrims have poured in to Al Kazimiya to mark Imam Kazem Anniversary (AS), citizens are complaining about closing main roads which is usually caused by religious occasion." Muhanad Mohammed (Reuters) observes, "Despite intensive security, some bombers made it through." Turning to the reported violence today . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which wounded thirteen pilgrims, a Baghdad roadside bombing which wounded eight pilgrims, a Baghdad roadside bombing which wounded five pilgrims, another Baghdad roadside bombing which injured five pilgirms, a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured three pilgrims, a Baghdad roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 pilgrim and wounded six more, a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured two men, a Falluja roadside bombing which injured nine males who were playing football and a roadside bombing attack on the home of police chief Abdulsalam Khawarm in Anbar Province resulting in the deaths of two of his children and leaving eight more people injured. Reuters notes 1 dead in the Falluja bombing on the football players, a Mosul roadside bombing left two Iraqi soldiers injured and a Shirqat sticky bombing injured one police officer.
Reuters notes 1 person wounded in a Kirkuk shooting today and, dropping back to yesterday, one wounded in a Kirkuk shooting as well.
Today on the second hour of NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, Diane and the Wall St. Journal's Youchi Dreazen, the Washington Post's David Ignatius and Foreign Policy's Moises Naim discussed Iraq.
Diane Rehm: Alright and let's turn now to Iraq and the latest on violence there, David? You had three American soldiers killed Thursday after insurgents fired mortar rounds into a US base in southern Iraq. You've also got problems with the Kurds. You've got lots of issues still going on even as the US is planning its pull-out.
David Ignatius: This was a week, Diane, that reminded us of the underlying fragility of Iraq. We've gotten in the habit of not paying much attention to it. Our troops are pulling back from the cities under the timetable we agreed to with the Iraqis. And-and, these last weeks we saw in these-these bombings and the political conflicts just how easily Iraq could spin back into a very chaotic situation. Take the bombings that happened on Wednesday. By my count, there were about eleven people killed, something like fifty or sixty wounded. But what was striking was that one of the bombs was in Ramadi -- in the Sunni heartland, the area we thought had been stabilized by our counter-insurgency work. Another bomb was in Sadr City. Another was right in the heart of Baghdad, in Sadhun Street. Those latter two were really going after Shi'ites, the first, in Ramadi, was going after Sunnis. More of these bombings are going to again make Iraqis frightened that they can't be secure without militias and then you're back in the sectarian killing game and you're going to start finding fifty bodies -- dead bodies -- every morning in the morgue.
Diane Rehm: At twenty-seven [after] the hour you're listening to The Diane Rehm Show. And what's going on with the Kurds, Youchi?
Youchi Dreazen: In many ways, this is the most dangerous aspect of Iraq right now. You've had recently [June 28th] a standoff between Kurdish fighters and Iraqi national army fighters. Last year there was an incident that did not get much attention here in which US drones that were monitoring a similar standoff saw columns of armed Iraqi army soldiers and columns of Kurdish peshmerga racing towards each other. By the account of everyone who was watching it, bruising for a fight, and they stood down only amidst much mediation by US embassy and military -- as was the case here where there was US mediation. And what you have is this very thorny issue about what will be the boundaries between Kurdistan, what will be the boundaries between Arab-Iraq? How will they divide oil? How will they divide Kirkuk? These issues have been kicked down the road again and again and again. And now they're at the end of the road. They have to at some point be resolved. I think what you've seen is, when the US invaded, there was a status quo that existed under Saddam that was toppled, there was a Sunni-led status quo. Then there was a new status quo that was not sustainable where you had fighting between Sunni and Shia Arabs and the Kurds were kind of left off to their own devices in the north. Now you have a new status quo where the Shia-Sunni tensions are much reduced -- the Arab tensions -- and now their focusing much more again on the Arab-Kurdish tensions that were there under Saddam decades ago.
Moises Naim: And the Kurdish prime minister yesterday said that the Kurdish autonomous region was closer to going to war with the central government than ever before, since 2003, since the US invasion. And that points, as Youchi said, to the tensions about the divisions -- federalism, they're trying to find out what is the divisions of authority, power between a centralized government and a regional government. And this is a region that is quite different in its governance, in its function, in its economy, in its politics, than the rest of the country.
Diane Rehm: And the United States population is certainly concerned as is the Iraqi that what if the violence continues to uptick, gets worse? Do troops reinvigorate, US troops? What do you do?
David Ignatius: Well for the administration, I think there's a recognition that, as we reduce our military presence there, it is inevitable that violence will increase. That's accepted. And it's just a price of our getting out. The Iraqis want us out, we want to get out. So some increase in violence, it's understood, will happen. And the question is: Will the Iraqi forces be strong enough to contain it within acceptable levels? And what's-what's-what's your choke point? If you're President Obama and you're seeing ten people die a day, well, what do you say? Suppose it gets up to fifty, what do you - what do you do then? And that's -- it's-it's grisly. But that's the kind of decision I fear that the-the Obama administration going to have to make about Iraq over the coming year.
Moises Naim: It's very hard to imagine that there's a political environment in the United States that will support a massive increase of troops -- of US troops -- in Iraq. The-the line their will be crossed if Iran becomes very influential country in Iraq. If Iranian influence there which it hasn't seemed to be the case but that will be then the-the political base for it.
[. . .]
Diane Rehm: To Charlie in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Good morning, you're on the air.
Charlie: Good morning. I'd like to go back to the MidEast a little bit in terms of I think that Iraq is a lost cause. I think Sadr, Ayatollah Sadr's militia has only stood down under orders from Iran and under realization that the US military would destroy Sadr City. They will res -- they will resurge and they will take over the south and if -- have this very informal reunion with Iran. The Sunnis were bought off with US money and viagra pills for their ancient sheiks -- and that's the truth, not a joke. And the Kurds, our most loyal allies, are the largest tribe, as far as I know, on earth without a homeland. And I'm afraid that they -- especially with the oil money -- do not intend to be left behind this time. I think also I'd like one more comment, on the Gaza situation again. [. . .]
What about Gaza? This isn't the Gaza snapshot. And by bringing that up, Gaza, it's what everyone quickly glommed on after David's initial remarks on Iraq.
David Ignatius: Well, I think the -- it's too early for me at least to say that Iraq is a lost cause. One interesting fact about Iraq is that our greatest potential problem -- which is Iranian influence, Iranian support for extremist militias, like Moqtada Sadr who the caller was referring to, Iran politically is imploding. That threat, the ability of Iran to destabilize Iraq, is, I think, somewhat reduced, I want to say signifianctly reduced -- becuase of the chaose following the election. And I think you can generalize that to potential Iranian clients all ove. Political parties in Iraq that are supported by Iran must be worrying, "Holy smokes our paymaster are in trouble."
As noted in Diane's discussion, things are very tense between the central government in Baghdad and the Kurdish Regional Government. Anthony Shadid (Washington Post) reports, "In separate interviews, Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and the region's president, Massoud Barzani, described a stalemate in attempts to resolve long-standing disputes with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's emboldened government. Had it not been for the presence of the U.S. military in northern Iraq, Nechirvan Barzani said, fighting might have started in the most volatile regions." Quil Lawrence (NPR's All Things Considered) reported this afternoon on the tensions quoting Barzani, "Whoever wants to get ahead in Iraqi politics does so by criticizing the Kurds." On territorial disputes and what may have been an attempt by al-Maliki's government to enroach on Kurdish territories June 28th, Lawrence quotes Barzani stating, "Our problem is that we do not believe there is any political will in Baghdad to solve this problem." Gordon Duff (Salem-News) addresses the June 28th confrontation and offers his opinions:
News stories reporting on this conflict conveniently omit Kurdish history. Our NATO partner, Turkey, that refused to allow US troops access to Northern Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom, has long been an enemy of our Kurdish allies. If Turkey had joined with the US, the military disaster that led to years of conflict might have been averted. Instead, the US depended on Kurdish armies to defeat Saddam in Northern Iraq.
Reports of Kurdish incursions in and around Kirkuk fail to mention that the Arabs in the region are remnants of Saddam's occupation forces, not residents. The efforts by the Baghdad government to continue control of this Kurdish region is driven by need to control the regions oil revenues and continue to fuel Iraq's massive corruption.
January 31st, 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces held provincial elections. The Kurdish region did not take place in those elections. Their elections take place next week on Saturday. The Economist editorializes on the elections here. UPI notes of the elections, "A quota established by the KRG sets aside 30 percent of the seats for female candidates." In reporting last week, the New York Times offered a very bad dispatch featuring all the US talking points and nothing resembling journalism -- just a concept of "bad Kurds!" which might make a few people feel better but doesn't really inform anyone. And that was their 'big' piece. Jay Garner called it out in a letter to the paper. Garner is interviewed by The Kurdish Globe today and he notes of the KRG that "
Elizabeth Dickinson: With [US Vice President Joe] Biden as the U.S. envoy for reconciliation in Iraq, what priorities should he be pushing for? Jay Garner: No. 1, a referendum on disputed lands, because I don't think you can ever have a stable Iraq as long as you have an unstable Arab-Kurdish border. No. 2, a resolution on the oil law because it's a thorn in everybody's side. No. 3, continue to exert whatever leverage we have on the Iraqi government to get these things done. Anything that happens here, whether it is Kurds versus Arabs or Shiite versus Sunni -- and those are huge flash points -- is not an Iraqi problem; it's a regional problem. It's huge. It's much greater than Iraq, because if it's Shiite-Sunni you are going to have Iranians on the side of the Shiites and you are going to have the Gulf region on the side of the Sunnis. If it's Arab-Kurdish, you are going to have an ethnic war, and lives will be gone and other countries will get involved because they are going to want to shape how it comes out. I don't think the [U.S.] administration wants to pull out in 2011, run for the presidency in 2012, and have this whole damned thing blow up on them, you know? So it is good that [U.S. President Barack Obama has] appointed Biden; it's good that he's made a special envoy; and it's good that Biden is drilling in on this. Biden is a guy that has studied a long time. He is more thoughtful about this than the other people, and I think that's a good first step. But you've got to have some leverage to execute that. So whatever leverage we have left, we need to make sure that those flash points are solved before we leave.
Garner mentioned the oil law (aka the theft of Iraqi law) and Nouri's sending messages on that today. Missy Ryan (Reuters) reports that the Oil Ministry's spokesperson Asim Jihad declared today of talk that unions might stop the British Petroleum and China National Petroleum Corporation oil deal (jointly, they were awarded a contract from the puppet government in the oil auction -- that was the only awarded contract from that auction), "The government will protect the companies." 'At all costs' was left implied.
Yesterday's snapshot noted the House Veterans Affairs Disability and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee's joint-hearing with the Subcomittee on Health. Kat covered the hearing last night and noted the discussion on rape victims. That was the first panel, Service Women's Action Network's Anuradha Bhagwati, Wounded Warrior Project's Dawn Halfaker and National Association of State Women Veterans Coordinators, Inc and the Texas Veterans Commission's Delilah Washburn. Grace After Fire's Kayla Williams raised an issue during questioning about suicide rates. Asked of the number of females, she explained she didn't know that number and then explained that the military is only tracking the suicides for those on active duty and not the number of suicides among veterans. (Or, at least only releasing the data for those on active duty.) Something to keep in mind as the Los Angeles Times reports: "About 37% of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have mental health problems, a nearly 50% increase from the last time the prevalence was calculated, according to a new study published today analyzing national Department of Veterans Affairs data. The study, which examined the records of about 289,000 veterans who sought care at the VA between 2002 and 2008, also found higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression."
Turning to war resistance, last week Robin Long was released from the brig. Today he spoke on KPFA's The Morning Show "Not for a second do I regret or wish I'd done something different."
Philip Malderi: You're listening to The Morning Show on KPFA, I'm Philip Malderi. I'm joined in the studio by Robin Long. Robin was in the US army. He enlisted shortly after the Iraq War got under way in June of '03. He was guaranteed by his recruiter that he wouldn't be sent to Iraq but of course those promises were not exactly fulfilled. In 2005, realizing he had made a mistake, he went to Canada and decided to resist serving in Iraq. Canada ultimately sent him back and he went to a navy brig down in San Diego to serve a year in prison. And now he's out. He joins me in the studio. Robin Long, welcome to KPFA.
Robin Long: Good morning.
Philip Malderi: Uh, again why did you decide to join in the first place? Why don't we start there.
Robin Long: You said initially I'd joined in June. I'd actually signed up for the delayed entry program in about February. You know, I'd always grown up thinking I want to join the army and, you know, a lot of people in my family are in the military and I just thought it was something I would do my whole life and so I signed up for the delayed entry program. And shortly after we went and invaded Iraq. And at the time I actually thought, you know, this is the right thing to be doing, you know there's connections with al Q-al Qaeda and there's weapons of mass destruction there but by the time June came when I was actually, I was getting ready to go to basic training in October, but around June, I was talking to my recruiter and said, "Hey, I have-have some moral qualms with what's going on over there." And he, uh, at that time, he assured me that I wouldn't go to Iraq, I'd be sent to a nondeployable post and --
Philip Malderi: And you believed it.
Robin Long: Oh, yeah, I believed it. They-they kept true to their word. I was stationed at Fort Knox for two years but speaking out while I was there, saying stuff, that's when they decided to give me orders to go to Iraq -- the only person in my unit. I don't know if it was punishment or what it was but they, uh, they ended up sending me to a unit that was already in Iraq .
Philip Malderi: They pulled you out of your unit in Kentucky and only you and sent you to a unit that was already in Iraq?
Robin Long: I was --
Philip Malderi: But was going to send you actually?
Robin Long: Yeah, they were - they were going to send me. They were sending me to Fort Carson, Colorado to join up with Second Brigade, Second Infantry and they were already in Iraq at the time so I was just supposed to report there and meet up with them in Iraq. They'd already been there for like four months.
Philip Malderi: So what did you decide to do?
Robin Long: Well I told them when they told me where I was going that, "No, I'm not going to go there. You know, if you're going to give me these orders, I'm going to - I'm going to refuse them. I'm not going to show up at Fort Carson." They said, "Yeah, you are. You're going to show up." Eventually, you know when the time came to hop on the plane, I-I didn't, I didn't get on the plane to go to Fort Carson and it took me about two months to actually decide to go up to Canada. I lived underground in a friend's basement for-for a good two months.
Philip Malderi: So what happened in Canada? Was there a system of support for war resisters?
Robin Long: I initially went up there by myself. I didn't now anyone. I was up there for six months before I even found a group called the War Resisters Support Campaign. There based out of Toronto but they have chapters in cities all across Canada and they help with financial needs, finding you a place to stay. They raise money to-to pay for lawyers and stuff up there so there's like a legal avenue people are trying to do up there by applying for political refugee status and they just kind of help out with everything with that. So.
Philip Malderi: So where did you settle down?
Robin Long: Initially, I settled down in a little town called Marathon, Ontario on the most northern tip of Lake Superior. You don't know cold until you've lived there, negative forty for months at a time.
Philip Malderi: (Laughing) This was -- this was your punishment.
Robin Long: Yeah, you know, nice in summer time but the winter? It's definitely cold.
Philip Malderi: Uh, now, during the Vietnam war, those that can remember it, people who resisted going to Vietnam and went to Canada, the Canadian government of that time protected them and did not send them back to the States to be prosecuted. What changed? What happened this time?
Robin Long: Well, the -- the Canadian people and the majority even of Parliament still want the war resisters, actually all conscientious objectors from any war to be able to stay in Canada. Parliament voted -- has voted twice in the last two years to allow war resisters and their families to stay. But the Conservative government that is in charge -- you know, that Parliament votes on laws and everything, but the government that's in charge has to actually implement the laws. They're just ignoring the votes. And they're ignoring their constituents and what most people want. [C.I. note: No law has been passed. We'll go over that point at the end of the transcript.] So they're just acting like this vote never even happened. So it's really just the Conservatives, a Bush-supporting Conservative government led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper that's changed.
Philip Malderi: And how did they capture you?
Robin Long: The RNC, the Mounties, came to where I was staying and said I had a nation-wide immigration warrant, picked me up and I didn't get hand cuffed or anything, they just put me in the cop car, brought me to the Nelson city cell. I was staying in Nelson, British Columbia at the time. And took about seven days and I was handed over to the US authorities in Blaine, Washington.
Philip Malderi: And then the Army prosecuted you?
Robin Long: Yeah, they, about forty days later, they prosecuted me for desertion with intent to remain away permanently which, uh, has a maximum sentence of three years but, uh, I -- there was no refuting it. I-I had deserted. It's all paper work so to get a lesser sentence, I pled guilty to it and only received fifteen months. The judge -- because there's a pretrial agreement -- the judge what she actually does is she gives you a sentence and whichever's less, what your pretrial or what she gives you, is what you get. So she gave me thirty months and a dishonorable discharge but the pretrial gave me fifteen.
Philip Malderi: So where did you serve this time?
Robin Long: I served it down in San Diego.
To be clear, Parliament didn't pass a law. Both votes were non-binding. That's why Stephen Harper can ignore them. Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada, would be forced -- as would any future Prime Minister -- to follow the two motions passed already if either had been legislation and not a non-binding motion. Why the political parties haven't pushed for a real vote on real legislation may be due to the Senate or higher up. The only one passing anything -- another reason it couldn't be a law -- is the House. Both times that the non-binding motion was brought before a body, it was brought before the House.
Canada has a bi-cameral Parliament with an upper and lower house. The Senate is the upper house and it has never voted on it. In practice, usually the Senate goes along with what the House does becuase the House is directly elected by the Canadian people. The Senate is staffed, not elected. They are rubber stamped by the Governor General of Canada . . . on the say so of . . . the Prime Minister. Meaning, Stephen Harper's recommended people since he was in power. Once recommended, they serve until they retire (with a mandatory retirement age) or die while in office. The bulk of the Senate shouldn't be Harper supporters or even Conservative Party supporters because the last decades -- as far back as the sixties have seen the Liberal Party the primary party in power. So where's the problem in the Senate?
Noel Kinsella. Who is he? He's the Speaker of the Senate. How does someone become the Speaker? In the House, they're elected. In the Senate, they're appointed. In his position, he could refuse to allow a vote or do any number of things. But it's also true that you've got barriers above him. Say the Senate went along with the House (either out of tradition or conviction), you don't have a law yet. It has to be signed off on.
The first who could sign it into law would be Michaelle Jean. She's Queen Elizabeth II's representative. Her posts is Governor General of Canada and the queen appoints her. If a bill passed both houses, Michaelle Jean could allow it to become a law, nix it or leave the issue up to the Queen. Nixing it -- no reason needs to be given -- means no law. Passing it onto the Queen who can say yea or nay. (The Queen also has two years after the Governor General to decide, no, it's not a law. It would be a law throughout that time but the Queen can reverse it.) So if we follow all of that, the ultimate reason why the House does non-binding measures may be due to the fact that they grasp the pressure from the Bush administration and now the Obama administration (which makes their opinions known through an acting ambassador, Terry Breese, because they've not filled the post of Ambassador to Canada) on Canadian officials would also be conveyed to the Queen of England who, having refused to stop the illegal war in 2003 (she could have), wouldn't allow this to become law. While the British are largely out of Iraq (approximately 400 British troops remain), they are still in Afghanistan and have had war resisters. Queen Elizabeth II is not about to go along with that (or give Canadian troops an argument for not serving in Afghansitan). Repeating because England has kept their monarchy (Canada didn't "keep it" -- they remain endentured to England because they never had a revolution which is why Queen Elizabeth is their head of state), Queen Elizabeth could have prevented England from entering the Iraq War. She didn't. It's another reason why you have rumbles of doing away with the monarchy in England.
But Canada has no real independence. If England declares war, Canada has as well, whether they delcare it themselves or not. Which means that while Canada chose not to send soldiers to Iraq, as part of England, they officially are in support of that war. (That illegal war.) And that's the difference that Philip Malderi was asking about: England didn't take part in a war on Vietnam. Not the Indochina War or the later American conflict. That's one reason why Canada could take the stand they did during Vietnam. Also true, a strong prime minister, like Pierre Trudeau, could take that stand right now. The Queen is head of state but Harper is head of government and, in a face off on a popular issue, the Queen might go along. Harper being Harper, such a face off isnt likely to take place.
The above is a very complicated process and one that's very different from the US -- which fought a war to have their independence from England and fought the 1812 war when Canada was being a proxy for England. What's not complicated is that the Iraq War is not ending. There are over 130,000 US troops in Iraq presently. So it was amazing, on allegedly left radio, Philip Malderi tried to declare that the Iraq War was winding down. Well, as a colleague of his on campus said during 2008, "Phil's no longer just drinking the Kool-Aid, he's drinking the urine." We wished that Phil could have been in Harlem Tuesday night so Carl Dix could have set him straight on the Iraq War (Dix was in a dialogue with Cornel West at Aaron Davis Hall). But Robin Long was present and tried to walk Philip through, "What's going on in Iraq, they say all combat troops are leaving but, if you look at it, they're just changing the name. They're being called the same thing they were being called in Vietnam. They're being called 'advisers' now. And we have 30 permanent bases in Iraq. Just because they're not being called combat troops, there's still a lot of people there."
Turning to TV notes. Tony Blair's appearance at The Hague may be delayed for a bit; however, the War Criminal can be found this week on your TV screen via NOW on PBS:Once one of the most dangerous and violent cities in the West Bank, Jenin was the scene of frequent battles between the Israeli military and Palestinian fighters, and the hometown of more than two dozen suicide bombers.Today, however, there's been a huge turnaround. Jenin is now the center of an international effort to build a safe and economically prosperous Palestinian state from the ground up. On Jenin's streets today, there's a brand new professional security force loyal to the Palestinian Authority and funded in part by the United States. But can the modest success in Jenin be replicated throughout the West Bank, or will the effort collapse under the intense political pressure from all sides?This week, NOW talks directly with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the international community's envoy to the region and an architect of the plan. We also speak with a former commander of the infamous Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in Jenin about his decision to stop using violent tactics, and to residents of Jenin about their daily struggles and their hopes for the future.To Blair, the Jenin experiment can be pivotal in finally bringing peace to the Middle East. He tells NOW, "This is the single most important issue for creating a more stable and secure world."A war criminal, an architect of the illegal war on Iraq, wants to tell the world what our "single most important issue" is and expects to be trusted? Tony Blair belongs behind bars, not on your TV screen. On PBS' Washington Week, Gwen sits around the table with USA Today's Joan Biskupic, the New York Times' Mark Mazzetti (aka The Little Asset Who Could), and Time magazine's Karen Tumulty and Hedda Hopper Lives!' Jeanne Cummings who will continue her efforts to be seen as the tabloids' new Jeane Dixon. Bonnie Erbe sits down with Bay Buchanan, Avis Jones-DeWeever, Tara Setmayer and Amy Siskind on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, all three PBS shows begin airing tonight on many PBS stations. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
Gun Rush Americans are snapping up guns and ammunition at an increasingly higher rate despite the economic downturn. But as Lesley Stahl reports, the economic downturn, as well as the election of Barack Obama, may be the reason for the run on guns. Watch Video
Poisoned The African lion, already down as much as 85 percent in numbers from just 20 years ago, is now in danger of becoming extinct because people are poisoning them with a cheap American pesticide to protect their cattle herds. Bob Simon reports. Watch Video
Steve Wynn The casino mogul most responsible for taking Las Vegas to new heights of gaming and glitter talks to Charlie Rose about his spectacular success and the eye disease that's slowly robbing him of his ability to see the fruits of his labor. Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, July 19, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
nprthe diane rehm show
kpfathe morning showphilip maldari
the los angeles times
mcclatchy newspapersmohammed al dulaimythe washington postanthony shadidalsumaria
all things considered
60 minutescbs news
pbsto the contrarybonnie erbenow on pbs