Thursday, May 31, 2007

Imperialist Threats to Sudan Continues From Britain and HRW

June 1, 2007

Blair tells his critics to ‘get real’ as he hints at intervention in Darfur

Philip Webster
London Times
Political Editor

Tony Blair told his foreign policy critics to “get real” yesterday as he issued a warning that Britain must remain ready to use military force to prevent genocide, oppression and injustice overseas.

He gave a broad hint that he believed the international community should be prepared to intervene militarily in Darfur and said he feared that the world, especially a large body of western opinion, had become dangerously misguided about the threat of global terrorism.

Writing in The Economist, Mr Blair rejected as “seductive but dangerous” the argument that British and American intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan had made life worse for ordinary people there and allowed terrorism to flourish.

In a lengthy defence of his record in foreign affairs he gave warning that there was “no alternative” to fighting terrorism, “wherever it rears its head”.

He told those advocating a more distant relationship with Washington to “get real” and accept that Britain was “infinitely more influential” with close links to Europe and America.

In a valedictory article aimed at The Economist’s international readership, Mr Blair argued that Britain’s self-interest now dictated a “values-based” foreign policy that stood up for the principles of freedom, democracy and justice around the globe.

He wrote: “We should be prepared to intervene, if necessary militarily, to prevent genocide, oppression, the deep injustice too often inflicted on the vulnerable.”

Over the past decade Britain had taken military action in Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and Iraq, in each case removing “regimes of appalling brutality”, he said.

He then referred to Darfur. “So when we come to Darfur, do we really believe that if we do not act to change this situation, the violence will stop at the borders of Sudan? In the early 1990s we could not summon the will to act in Bosnia. It took 250,000 lives lost before we realised we had no option.”

He referred to arguments that the removal of the Taleban and Saddam Hussein had worsened the plight of ordinary people and created new fronts for terrorism. But he insisted: “This is a seductive but dangerous argument. Work out what it really means.

“It means that because these reactionary and evil forces will fight hard, through terrorism, to prevent those countries and their people getting on their feet after the dictatorships are removed, we should leave the people under the dictatorship.

“It means our will to fight for what we believe in is measured by our enemy’s will to fight us, but in inverse proportion. That is not a basis on which you ever win anything.”

Mr Blair said that much of Western opinion was becoming “dangerously misguided” and complacent about the nature and scale of the threat from global terrorism.

With an ideology based on “an utter perversion of the true faith of Islam”, al-Qaeda and other groups hostile to the West were ready to use any opportunity to destabilise peace and provoke conflict, he said. “Not a single major European nation is immune.

“There is no alternative to fighting this menace wherever it rears its head,” wrote Mr Blair. “There are no demands that are remotely negotiable. It has to be beaten. Period.”

The current bloodshed in Iraq was caused not by the USled invasion of 2003, but by the efforts of al-Qaeda and the Iranian-backed Mahdi Army to destabilise the country for their own ends, he wrote. “Remove al-Qaeda, remove the malign Iranian activity, and the situation would be changed, even transformed.”

Mr Blair said that one of the key lessons he had learnt from a decade in Downing Street was that Britain must be “a player, not a spectator” in international affairs.

He voiced “real concern” about growing indifference, and even hostility, on both sides of the Atlantic to Britain’s historic alliance with the US.

300,000: people are thought to have died in Darfur from conflict, disease and starvation

Rights group asks UN to create Darfur oil fund

Thu 31 May 2007 5:09 PM ET
By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK, May 31 (Reuters) - Human Rights Watch asked the U.N. Security Council on Thursday to create a fund using Sudanese oil revenues to help the country's Darfur region as part of its bid to force Khartoum to accept U.N. peacekeepers.

In a letter to the 15-member council, the U.S.-based rights group said all oil export revenues and royalties owed to Khartoum should be paid into a "Darfur Recovery Fund" until the Sudanese government agrees to several conditions.

Among those requirements are that Khartoum accept the full deployment of joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force of more than 23,000 troops and police, and that the government stops its support of the Janjaweed militia.

"Given Sudan's blatant failure to protect civilians in Darfur, the Security Council should designate Sudanese oil revenues to create a fund to assist those suffering most from Khartoum's abusive policies," said Peter Takirambudde, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

"Such limits on Sudan's oil revenues have the best chance of stopping the violence and compelling Khartoum to accept the full African Union-United Nations force," he said.

More than 200,000 people have died and 2 million have been driven from their homes since the conflict in western Sudan between ethnic African rebels and the government, backed by the Arab Janjaweed militia, began in 2003. Khartoum says 9,000 have died and rejects accusations of genocide.

The Security Council last year adopted a resolution to deploy a "hybrid" U.N.-A.U. force. But Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has argued that this figure is too high. He has agreed to the deployment of 3,000 U.N. police and military personnel to aid the African Union force of about 7,000.


Human Rights Watch said a recovery fund "would permit both the Sudanese government and private firms to continue to export oil," but all monies would be paid to the fund that would be used to help the people of Sudan. China buys much of Sudan's 330,000 barrels per day of crude oil.

The rights group also again called for targeted sanctions on Sudanese leaders.

The United States imposed new sanctions on Sudan on Tuesday and sought support for an international arms embargo out of frustration at Sudan's refusal to end the Darfur conflict.

U.S. President George W. Bush also directed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to consult with Britain and other allies on pursuing new U.N. Security Council sanctions against Sudan that would extend an arms embargo on Sudan and stop military flights into Darfur, among other measures.

Britain weeks ago initiated such a resolution and both countries are still working on a text before wider consultations can be held, U.N. diplomats said.

Security Council ambassadors plan to visit five African nations in mid-June, including Sudan, so it is doubtful any sanctions would be approved before then.

(Added reporting by Evelyn Leopold at the United Nations)

Interview With Kalamu Ya Salaam on Post-Katrina New Orleans

Interview with KALAMU YA SALAAM

E. Ethelbert Miller
May 15, 2007

KALAMU YA SALAAM is a writer and educator from New Orleans. An extensive collection of his writings, plus a feature-length interview are available online at CHICKEN BONES

You can read his poem, ‘You can't survive on salt water’ in FPIF'S Fiesta:

He talks here with poet E. Ethelbert Miller.

E. Ethelbert Miller:
How do you feel about the United States not accepting assistance from Cuba after Hurricane Katrina?

The United States did not accept assistance from a number of countries including one country that offered to fly in a water purification system. The issue is the non-responsiveness of the federal government and the incompetent response on the part of state and city governments. To only look at the refusal of physicians and medical aid from Cuba is to get caught up in a kind of cold war/ideological issue that muddies the water of perceiving the depth and breadth of government failures. I don't believe the federal government was merely incompetent. I believe there was a larger plan at work, especially when you consider that the New Orleans voting bloc was directly responsible for the Democrats winning both the governorship and a senate seat. Without the 85%+ voting margin from New Orleans, both the governor and the junior senator from Louisiana would have been Republicans. I know that Karl Rove can count votes. I believe this was an opportunity to disperse that concentrated Demo! cratic voting base. Was this dispersal planned beforehand? I don't think so. Was this dispersal part of the rationale for the way in which the federal government responded? I definitely believe so. Cuba and communism is not the question. That said, an interesting footnote to add is a deep look at the influx of Latino/a workers (many of them immigrants) into New Orleans to do construction and service work, an influx that was both encouraged and facilitated by federal policies and programs.

E. Ethelbert Miller:
How has the tragedy of New Orleans influenced your work?

I am involved in a number of media projects that specifically reference Katrina.

One: our Listen To The People oral history project that will hopefully be online by August 29, 2007. We have over 70 hours of video interviews with approximately 30 people who range from a lady who spent five days atop an expressway and two firemen who did rescue work and were in the city throughout the hurricane and its immediate aftermath, to the president of the New Orleans city council and the president of Liberty Bank, the largest black financial institution in the region.

Two: we are producing a number of videos that range from straight documentaries to fictional movies that focus on post-Katrina life in New Orleans.

Three: I continue to write prose and some poetry about New Orleans.

E. Ethelbert Miller:
Did you experience any personal loss to your literary estate?

Yes but I was fortunate. New Orleans is divided by the Mississippi River. I live on the west bank, which did not flood. I had books, equipment, etc. in two storage facilities. One of the facilities completely flooded. I have not yet done an inventory so I don't know exactly what was loss. I am not inclined to inventory any time soon. One of the coping mechanisms many of us have adopted is erasing our internal hard drives. There are people, places, things, possessions, etc. we don't even try to remember. They are gone. Forget about it, at least for right now. There is too much work to do for us to sit around thinking about our losses.

E. Ethelbert Miller:
Will it be difficult to rebuild New Orleans while the United States is at war in the Middle East?

New Orleans is moribund. I seriously doubt that our city can be revived under the current federal administration and if certain issues are not addressed within the next four or five years, then it will definitely be too late.

The major issue is the depletion of the marshes and wetlands and the erosion of the costal areas. Local scientists from LSU, the major state university, and other individuals and agencies have written detailed reports citing the catastrophic problem of soil erosion that literally threatens to swamp New Orleans. The best estimate is that there is a five-year window to take definitive action to stop and turnaround the environmental problems. Dealing with this environmental problem will require federal intervention, a huge commitment of financial, material and human resources, and most of all vision on the part of our elected and appointed leaders. To date none of our leaders has publicly evidenced any of the vision necessary to save New Orleans.

Beyond the long-term environmental problem, New Orleans is facing major urban infrastructure issues. It will take billions of dollars to fix the broken water and sewage systems. One estimate is that over $200,000 a day is lost in terms of potable water leaking into the ground. But that is only an economic loss. More serious is the sewage system with an unmeasured but significant amount of raw sewage leaking into the ground daily. We have had 18 months of sewage leaking into the ground. As more people return the problem grows exponentially.

The water and sewage issues are far beyond the means of the city administration to solve the problem. Once again, however, regardless of available resources, none of the city officials has stepped up and offered an analysis of the problem or a vision of how to deal with the problem.

Eighteen months after the hurricane and the city still does not have an official, agreed upon program for the reconstruction of New Orleans. Frankly, we are in very bad shape, going down slow.

E. Ethelbert Miller:
Migration is an important theme in African American literature. Do you see Katrina being written about many years from now?

Hopefully, Katrina will be understood as part of a larger issue of urban development in the 21st century. I'm not sure that Katrina will be a major issue because I foresee momentous changes in front of us in the aftermath of the Iraq debacle, larger environmental issues, and the shifting geo-political system that sees the rise to singular dominance of China. Also we need to consider the political independence of South and Central America based on a major shift in global economics. Ten years from now, Katrina and the loss of New Orleans may be a minor concern compared to the other issues facing us.

E. Ethelbert Miller:
I know you have a love for black music, are there any songs that you feel have a special meaning since Katrina?

Oh, that is too complex to answer quickly. I am very, very impressed with my friends in the Dirty Dozen Brass Band who released a remake of all the songs on Marvin Gaye's What's Going On using Katrina rather than the Vietnam War as the social-political context. A song I reference a lot in recent poetry readings is "Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?"

New Orleans writer and educator Kalamu ya Salaam is co-director of Students at the Center, a public high school writing program; co-founder of Runagate Multimedia, a publishing company; leader of the WordBand, a poetry performance ensemble; moderator of e-Drum, a listserv for Black writers; and co-moderator with his son, Mtume, of The Breath of Life - A Conversation About Black Music. He can be reached at

E. Ethelbert Miller is an award-winning poet, the director of the African American Resource Center at Howard University, and the board chairperson of the Institute for Policy Studies. His interviews are a regular feature of Fiesta.

International Support Demonstrated For Mumia Abu-Jamal Appeal

As lawyers appeal for new trial Rally demands: ‘FREE MUMIA’

By Betsey Piette
Workers World
Published May 24, 2007 12:38 AM

Over a thousand people rallied in support of death row, political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal on May 17 outside the Federal Building in downtown Philadelphia, where a three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit convened to hear oral arguments on his right to a new trial.

Around 200 Mumia supporters, including Dick Gregory, former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, Lynne Stewart, Kathleen Cleaver, and international delegates from France and Germany, were also eyewitnesses on Mumia’s behalf inside the courtroom. Abu-Jamal was prohibited from attending this oral hearing.

Participants included busloads from New York and Boston; youth organized by FIST (Fight Imperialism, Stand Together) and Students for a Democratic Society, who traveled overnight from North Carolina; a car caravan from Georgia led by McKinney; and supporters from Richmond, Cleveland and as far away as Los Angeles and San Francisco. However, the overwhelming majority were from the Philadelphia area, many who took off from work to attend.

There were rallies supporting Abu-Jamal in several other U.S. cities (see page 7 round-up article) and demonstrations in many countries around the world, including France, Japan, Mexico, Turkey, Germany, the Netherlands, Canada, Sweden and Britain.

The oral arguments were presented before Chief Judge Anthony Scirica and Judge Robert Cowen, both Reagan appointees, and Judge Thomas Ambro, a Clinton appointee. All three appeared to be familiar with the arguments contained in written briefs filed by attorneys prior to the hearing. During their time on the Third Circuit all three have overturned capital convictions based on the same claim Abu-Jamal is making about race-based exclusion of jurors by the prosecution.

Abu-Jamal was represented by Attorneys Robert Bryan and Judith Ritter, along with NAACP Attorney Christina Swarns. They argued that racial bias in jury selection and improper instructions by the prosecutor to the jury during the sentencing phase of Abu-Jamal’s 1982 murder trial provided grounds for a new trial. Arguing for the prosecution, Assistant District Attorney Hugh Burns presented the state’s appeal of the December 2001 decision by Federal Judge William Yohn that overturned Abu-Jamal’s death sentence even though he remains on death row.

Burns, who was the first to present, often referred to Abu-Jamal’s court appointed attorney Anthony Jackson and his failure to file a complaint about racism in jury selection during the trial. Jackson, assigned to “represent” Mumia by Judge Albert Sabo, was disbarred in 1992 for drug abuse, yet the state is still using this attorney to prosecute Mumia 25 years later.

Jackson did file a pre-trial motion in March of 1982 requesting information on the racial composition of the entire venire (jury pool) because he strongly suspected that there would be a problem. However, his motion was denied by Sabo, and the fact that Jackson did not raise this concern again during the trial proceedings was used by Burns to argue that it should not be considered today.

The appellate judges devoted considerable time debating whether racism in jury selection could be determined if the racial makeup of the jury pool was unknown. When asked about the racial composition of the jury pool at Abu-Jamal’s PCRA (Post Conviction Relief Act) hearing in 1995, Prosecutor Joseph McGill claimed he didn’t remember. However, given that African Americans made up 44 percent of the population of Philadelphia in 1982, the fact that less than 15 percent (two out of fourteen) of the jurors at Abu-Jamal’s trial were Black should be evidence enough.

The racial composition of the final pool of jurors is known. Twenty-eight out of forty-three were white and fifteen Black. Each side in a trial can use twenty challenges to eliminate potential jurors without stating why; however, these peremptory challenges may not be used to keep members of a particular race off the jury. McGill used 15 peremptory challenges to remove 10 of the 15 remaining Black jurors, but only five of the 28 whites.

An added factor in support of defense claims was the systematic pattern of exclusion of African Americans from juries by Philadelphia prosecutors around the time of Mumia’s 1982 trial. This was addressed by Swarns, who presented oral arguments contained in an amicus brief on behalf of Abu-Jamal by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

The LDEF pioneered the affirmative use of civil actions to end jury discrimination. Their 31-page brief, which underscores the seriousness of the evidence of racial discrimination, can be found at:

The LDEF brief cites the 1986 case of Batson v. Kentucky, in which the Supreme Court declared that a criminal defendant who is able to prove that his trial prosecutor used peremptory challenges to exclude potential jurors on the basis of race is entitled to a new trial. Attorneys on behalf of Abu-Jamal are asking the Third Circuit Court of Appeals to consider the combination of factors that infer that his was unquestionably a racially charged case.

Case tainted with racism

Abu-Jamal is African-American and the victim was a white policeman. In the months between the Dec. 9, 1981, shooting death of Daniel Faulkner and the July 1982 trial, the local media continually emphasized the racial aspects of the case, particularly Abu-Jamal’s membership in the Black Panther Party and his support of the MOVE organization, including the political prisoners known as the MOVE 9.

In his work as a journalist, Abu-Jamal often reported on prisons and police brutality and in one instance publicly challenged then Police Commissioner Frank Rizzo. He also wore his hair in dreadlocks at the time and the LDEF brief cites a Philadelphia Inquirer article from June 10, 1982, which stated, “Several prospective jurors left the courtroom Tuesday saying they were too upset and afraid to serve after being questioned by Abu-Jamal, who wears his hair in the dreadlocks style of the MOVE sect.”

Swarns argued that the trial prosecutor in Abu-Jamal’s case, Joseph McGill, had a history of systematically striking Black jurors. The LDEF brief notes that “a survey of homicide cases tried by Mr. McGill between September of 1981 and October 1983 reveal that he excluded prospective African-American venire persons approximately three times as often as he excluded non-black prospective jurors.”

The brief points out that “A comprehensive statistical study of Philadelphia County death penalty cases tried between 1981 and 1997 reveals that, ‘in 317 capital trials in Philadelphia between 1981 and 1997, prosecutors struck 51 percent of black jurors and 26 percent of non black jurors.’” Both Swarns and Bryan made reference to a notorious video training tape prepared by Philadelphia D.A. Jack McMahon advocating the systematic exclusion of African-American prospective jurors based on his experience in the D.A.’s office.

Swarns also noted that African-American jurors were struck from the jury pool because they were unemployed, divorced or single parents, yet these criteria were not applied to white jurors. Black jurors were asked if they had heard Abu-Jamal on Black radio stations, yet white jurors were not asked if they had heard Abu-Jamal’s commentaries that played on NPR. One African-American man was dismissed because he admitted to having a hearing problem, while a white juror who had to turn up his hearing aid to listen to Prosecutor McGill’s questions was allowed to remain.

One African-American woman whom McGill picked for the jury because “she hated Abu-Jamal” was later thrown off by Sabo when she had to attend to a dying pet. She’d asked for a brief time off but was refused. Meanwhile Sabo adjourned the proceedings for an entire afternoon so that a white, male juror could take a civil service exam.

The issue of McGill’s clearly inappropriate instructions to jurors during the July 1982 sentencing phase was addressed by Ritter who also questioned the legality of McGill’s three-page verdict form.

Each death sentence must rest on two findings: proof beyond a reasonable doubt of at least one aggravating circumstance that would have increased the seriousness of the crime; and the finding that there are no mitigating circumstances sufficiently substantial to call for leniency in sentencing. The verdict form in Abu-Jamal’s case consisted of a list of aggravators without any instructions on their application.

While the law doesn’t require jurors to be unanimous when it comes to considering mitigating circumstances (for example, positive character witnesses or the fact that the defendant in this case had never been convicted of a crime), the verdict form provided no space for jurors to indicate that some jurors felt these were relevant even if not all agreed upon them.

In fact McGill’s instructions gave jurors the impression that they had to be unanimous in order for mitigating circumstances to be considered. In addition, Ritter challenged the constitutionality of McGill’s charge to the jury that it was alright if they gave Abu-Jamal the death sentence because he would have “appeal after appeal.”

A third appeal by Abu-Jamal’s attorneys argued that his 1995 PCRA hearing was constitutionally flawed because the judge—the same Judge Albert Sabo who tried Mumia’s original case—was biased in favor of the prosecution. The PCRA transcript shows that Sabo denied subpoenas of witnesses requested by the defense, cut off defense lines of questioning and threatened Abu-Jamal’s attorneys with contempt of court when they challenged him. One defense witness who testified to being coerced by prosecutors to lie in the 1982 trial, found herself arrested in the courtroom while she was still on the witness stand in the PCRA hearing.

Sabo’s racism and bias against Abu-Jamal is also evidenced by his comment to another judge, “I’m going to help them fry the n****r,” overheard by court stenographer Terri Maurer Carter.

‘The Mumia rule’

While many of the cases cited as legal precedent by Abu-Jamal’s attorneys have been grounds for the reversal of a number of convictions in capital cases, that is no guarantee of a new trial for Abu-Jamal. In a May 15, article by author Dave Lindorff and columnist Linn Washington Jr. titled “Justice System on Trial as Mumia Case Reaches Climax,” they point out that over the course of Abu-Jamal’s more than two-decade-long appeals process, the courts have shown a willingness to create special exceptions that apply only to him.

They note an example of what might be called ‘The Mumia Rule’ that occurred in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The state’s top judges in 1986 overturned a death sentence where McGill had made the same closing arguments to jurors at the conclusion of a murder trial presided over by none other than Sabo.

The state’s top court declared that McGill’s language had “minimized the jury’s sense of responsibility for a verdict of death” and ordered a new trial. Three years later in 1989, this court reversed itself when it came to upholding Abu-Jamal’s conviction. Eleven years later in 1997 the court flip-flopped again and barred such language by all prosecutors “in all future trials.”

In his closing arguments during the May 17th hearing, defense attorney Robert Bryan made a point of this when he listed defendants whose capital cases have come before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals—Donald Hardcastle, Arnold Holloway, Curtis Brinson and Harold Wilson—whose convictions were overturned because of racial discrimination in the proceedings. “Are we to believe that there was no racism in this highly charged case in which a political Black defendant was accused of killing a white police officer; that his is the exception to the rule?” Bryan charged.

The three white, male judges appeared to take a cavalier view when discussing the “criteria” by which they would decide whether racism was a factor in this case. An example of this was their debate over what percentage of exclusion of African Americans from a jury would constitute “bias.” At one point Judge Ambro even acknowledged that the intentional exclusion of even one juror on the basis of race violates Abu-Jamal’s constitutional rights.

John Parker, a Mumia supporter who flew in from Los Angeles, told Workers World that “While some have applauded the judges for their ‘fair attitude’ at the hearing, in the first place it’s ridiculous that there had to be a hearing since there is more than ample proof that Mumia did not have a fair trial. The judges read the arguments before the trial started. They should have granted a new trial automatically. In the second place, if these judges were really concerned about fairness, truth and decency, they would see more of a sense of urgency in getting Mumia free, not waiting a month or so to make a decision while Mumia remains tortured under the conditions he’s placed in on death row.”

The judges are expected to return a ruling within the next 45 to 90 days.

Before, during and after the two-hour-plus legal proceedings, demonstrators took to the streets, including marching up Market Street and several times around City Hall, blocking traffic for nearly 30 minutes. The march was led by a sound truck packed with youthful supporters. Along the way, shoppers, motorists and workers on their lunch hour stopped to receive material on the case, ask questions and often express their support by honking their horns and waving their fists in the air.

Widespread support was also evident at three separate events the night before, including a reception at the Friends Center for Cynthia McKinney and the French delegation, a teach-in at Drexel University sponsored by Educators for Mumia, and a jam-packed hip-hop and spoken word performance at the Rotunda featuring Immortal Technique.

This community support is a critical factor in winning freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal. For all the legal dancing around how the federal courts should weigh the claims raised by the attorneys, many suspect that this case will not be determined on the basis of law, but on the basis of the political movement mobilizing in the streets.

Speaking at the teach-in the night before the appellate hearing and at a public forum the following evening, German author and researcher Michael Schiffman provided stark evidence that a lot of people have lied in order to put Abu-Jamal on Pennsylvania’s death row and to keep him there. Schiffman presented a slide show of photos taken by press photographer Pedro Polakoff that exposes police manipulation of the 1981 crime scene and contradicts statements made by key witnesses for the prosecution and is further evidence of prosecutorial misconduct. Schiffman noted, “To bring this to light would put many careers on the line—some in very high places.”

Already an on-line petition is being circulated calling on the Third Circuit Court judges to do the right thing and rule in favor of a new trial, but organizing has to be done to raise broader awareness of the facts in the case and to prepare Abu-Jamal’s supporters for what comes next. Toward this end, the Philadelphia International Action Center has issued a call for a meeting on May 29 at 7 p.m. at the Calvary Church, 48th and Baltimore in Philadelphia. Call 215-724-1618.

Piette was an eyewitness to the May 17 oral argument.

Articles copyright 1995-2007 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011
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Solidarity for Mumia in 6 U.S. cities, 8 countries

Published May 24, 2007 12:14 AM

In at least five U.S. cities outside Philadelphia and at least eight other countries demonstrations in solidarity with Mumia Abu-Jamal took place aimed at bringing attention to the latest court hearing May 17 and winning the political prisoner a new trial on the way toward freeing him.

Ankara, Turkey

In Ankara, Turkey’s capital and Istanbul, its biggest city, activists protested against the United States for imprisoning Mumia unfairly for 25 years. The group included academics, journalists, human rights activists and also correspondents of the daily Evrensel in front of the U.S. Embassy in Ankara and the Central Post office in Istanbul. They delivered a petition to the U.S. Embassy demanding a fair trial for Mumia Abu-Jamal.

The Cleveland Lucasville Five Defense Committee demonstrated during rush hour downtown. Signs called for the freedom of Abu-Jamal and the Lucasville Five, innocent men who face execution in Ohio in relation to the 1993 Lucasville prison uprising, and demanded “Justice for Aaron Steele.” Steele, a 23-year old African-American bus mechanic, died May 8 after being shot multiple times by Cleveland police. Passersby grabbed hundreds of newsletters on Mumia’s case. Other Mumia supporters had held a protest during the morning rush hour.

San Diego, Calif.

Members of the San Diego International Action Center and the San Diego Mumia Coalition gathered at a busy community intersection and distributed newsletters and other material on Mumia’s case to workers on their way home from work in the evening commute. Several motorists pulled over to get more details on Mumia’s struggle. Poet Jim Moreno read his Ode to Mumia for the assembled activists.

Milwaukee, Wis.

Organized in only one week, a broad-base of labor and community activists joined to support a May 17 press conference and protest in Milwaukee demanding a new trial for political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Speakers from Africans on the Move, AFSCME Local 82, Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), International Action Center-Milwaukee, the National Lawyers Guild, Pan African Revolutionary Socialist Party, Peace Action-Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Green Party spoke in downtown Milwaukee at the Henry Reuss Federal Plaza.

Prior to the May 17 action IAC-Milwaukee organizer Bryan G. Pfeifer was invited to speak about the struggle surrounding Mumia Abu-Jamal’s case on “The Eric Von” show hosted by African American- radio journalist Eric Von and “The Word Warriors Report,” hosted by African- American City Councilman Michael McGee Jr.


In Houston, in the execution capital of the country, where 16 executions are scheduled over the summer, anti-death penalty activists were fired up by the strong turnouts at two demonstrations. Outside the criminal courthouse, notorious for sending Shaka Sankofa, Frances Newton and Joseph Nichols to the execution chambers, demonstrators faced down a phalanx of cops in riot gear, mounted police and undercover cops everywhere that outnumbered the protesters 10-1. “Maybe they thought Mumia was joining us,” said one of the organizers.

In the afternoon from 4-6 p.m. there was another militant demonstration and rally, this one showing unity among young and older and Black, Latino, Asian and white protesters from the Nation of Islam, the National Black United Front, the New Black Panther Party--whose youth distributed almost 600 of the Mumia newspapers--the Anarchist Black Cross, Code Pink, World Can’t Wait, gay activist/leader Ray Hill, the Revolutionary Communist Party, Zapatista supporters who just returned from meeting Zapatistas with La Otra Campana across the border, the director of S.H.A.P.E. Center where the Movement to Abolish the Death Penalty is based, the leader of the Venezuela Solidarity Committee and others as every group took the microphone.

San Francisco

In San Francisco over 300 people rallied in front of the federal building to demand that Mumia Abu-Jamal be set free, in an action sponsored by the locally-based Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal. A broad coalition of students, union members, community activists and prisoner advocates spoke out, including Rudy Corpuz, Jr. and other members of United Playaz, who linked the fight to free Mumia with the everyday reality of repression and racism in the Black and Brown communities of the Bay Area.

Kiilu Nyasha, a local activist and former Black Panther Party member, delivered a solidarity statement to the crowd on behalf of the San Francisco 8 who are former BPP members and community activists who were arrested this spring and charged with the 1971 killing of a San Francisco policeman. Cristina Gutierrez of Barrio Unido called upon the crowd to unite to “change this system. His freedom is our freedom. His life is our life.” Judy Greenspan spoke at the rally representing Workers World Party. Other speakers demanded a new trial and freedom for Mumia.

Native political prisoner Leonard Peltier’s statement to Mumia was read from the podium in Milwaukee, Houston and other cities.

Cihan Celik in Istanbul, Susan Danann, Bob McCubbin, Bryan G. Pfeifer, Gloria Rubac and Judy Greenspan contributed to this article.

Articles copyright 1995-2007 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011
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Mumia Abu-Jamal's Defense Produces Photographic Evidence Pointing to His Innocence

New Evidence of Mumia Abu-Jamal Frame-Up:
Explosive crime scene photos unveiled for the first time in the US

By Hans Bennett
View the photos at

"The newly discovered photographs reveal the fact that the police were actively manipulating evidence at the homicide scene. For example, their moving the police officer's hat from the roof of Billy Cook's vehicle to the sidewalk to make the scene more emotionally dramatic was fraudulent and criminal.

It was as if they were setting up a scene, putting in props for a movie to be shot. That is incredible," said Robert R. Bryan, lead attorney for death-row journalist and former Black Panther, Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of killing Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner and sentenced to death in a 1982 trial that Amnesty International has declared a "violation of minimum international standards that govern fair trial procedures and the use of the death penalty."

The new crime scene photos described by Bryan were recently unveiled in Philadelphia by German author Michael Schiffmann, during a crucial week for Abu-Jamal.

On May 17, a three-judge panel from the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals held oral arguments in Philadelphia and considered four different issues regarding the fairness of Abu-Jamal's original 1982 trial. Joined by Christina Swarns of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Bryan argued that Abu-Jamal's trial was tainted with racist jury selection, confusing jury instructions, prosecutorial misconduct in summation to the jury (at both guilt and penalty phases), and the bias of a trial judge that a court stenographer overheard boasting in 1982, that he was going to help the prosecution "fry the nigger."

Supporters of Abu-Jamal packed the federal courthouse and held a large demonstration outside on the street. While many of the hundreds of supporters outside held large posters displaying the new crime scene photos to the Philadelphia public, the explosive new evidence could not be presented in the courtroom because of the narrow "four-issue" scope of the oral arguments.

Only a new trial will allow this new photographic evidence to be presented before a court.

German Author Michael Schiffmann Presents New Photos
Among the many international observers in Philadelphia for the hearing, was German author Michael Schiffmann, who utilized the important week to present the crime scene photos and other new evidence from his new book (not yet published in the US) "Race Against Death; Mumia Abu-Jamal: a Black Revolutionary in White America," an expansion of Schiffmann's PhD dissertation at the University of Heidelberg, just released in Germany.

Following the May 17 oral arguments, Schiffmann presented Race Against Death to a standing-room only crowd at a community center in West Philadelphia. Along with presenting original ballistics analysis, Schiffmann unveiled the new crime scene photos from the morning of December 9, 1981, that have only been published in his German book.

Schiffmann recounted how in May, 2006, he discovered two photographs on the Internet that were taken by the only press photographer immediately present at the 1981 crime scene – Pedro P. Polakoff, III. Upon contacting him, Polakoff told Schiffmann that he arrived within 12 minutes of hearing about the shooting on the police radio and about ten minutes before the Mobile Crime Unit (responsible for forensics and photographs) arrived. According to Polakoff, this unit had still not taken any photos when Polakoff left after 30-45 minutes at the scene.

Schiffmann published five of Polakoff's photos in Race Against Death, and chose four of those to present to the US public on thousands of large posters spread around Philadelphia, and also on the "Journalists for Mumia" website,

One photo is of Police Officer James Forbes, who testified in court that he had secured the weapons of both Faulkner and Abu-Jamal without touching them on their metal parts in order to not destroy potential fingerprints. Attorney Robert R. Bryan considers this photograph of Forbes to be the "most stunning example" of the "incompetent manner in which the police at the scene dealt with the evidence," because Forbes is "holding both pistols found at the scene in one hand, bare-handed! This is unthinkable. A nitwit could do better. Why were there no fingerprint tests? Why no ballistic examinations? It reminds me of a scene from 'The Keystone Cops,' the way the evidence was being handled and manipulated, except this was not funny."

Another, two-photo sequence shows that the police moved P.O. Faulkner's hat from the roof of Abu-Jamal's brother's car, and placed it instead on the sidewalk in front of 1234 Locust where it was later photographed by the police photographer who arrived 10 minutes after Polakoff.

The last photo is of the large, empty space directly behind P.O. Faulkner's car, where the second-most important prosecution witness, cab driver Robert Chobert, testified to have been parked when he claimed to have observed Abu-Jamal shoot Faulkner.

Schiffmann extensively interviewed Polakoff about what he saw and heard at the crime scene, and reports in Race that
"according to Polakoff, at that time all the officers present expressed the firm conviction that Abu-Jamal had been the passenger in Billy Cook's VW and had shot and killed Faulkner by a single shot fired from the passenger seat of the car."

While this observation contradicts the official prosecution scenario that Abu-Jamal ran from across the street before shooting Faulkner, it strongly supports Schiffmann's original ballistics analysis and conclusion that a third person (not Abu-Jamal or his brother Billy Cook) most likely shot and killed Faulkner. This third person was Kenneth Freeman (Billy Cook's friend and business partner), who – according to the available evidence – was the passenger in Cook's car, and was therefore the black male that six eyewitnesses reported to see fleeing the scene moments before other police arrived.

Polakoff also told Schiffmann that the police opinion that the passenger was the shooter "was apparently based on the testimony of three witnesses who were still present at the crime scene, namely, by the parking lot attendant in charge of the parking lot on the Northern side of Locust Street, by a drug addicted woman apparently acquainted with the parking lot attendant, and another woman. As Polakoff later heard from colleagues in the media, the parking lot attendant had disappeared the day after, while the drug-addicted witness died a couple of days later from an overdose."

Schiffmann concludes that "whatever it was that these witnesses saw or did not see, we will probably never know – the interesting fact in any case is that neither of them ever appeared in any report presented by the police or the prosecution."

Polakoff told Schiffmann that he was simply ignored when he repeatedly contacted the DA's office in 1982 and 1995 to give them his account--and his photos--of the crime scene.

Mainstream Media Ignores Photos

While a few alternative media websites like The Independent Media Center and Infoshop News have enthusiastically reported on the unveiling of Polakoff's photos, a "Google" news search reveals a total blackout in the mainstream media. Not even one mainstream media outlet has reported on them.

Veteran Philadelphia journalist Linn Washington, Jr., has been covering the Abu-Jamal case for over 25 years. He feels that the media's failure to even acknowledge these explosive photos continues a long history of media bias against Abu-Jamal's fight for a new and fair trial. This shows "once again how this supposed information seeking institution shirks its ethical duties in the Abu-Jamal case to 'seek truth and report it.'"

"This series of photographs damage the prosecution's case significantly because they graphically show police tampering with and manipulating the crime scene."

"Given the old 'picture-is-worth-a-thousand-words' dynamic, it is not surprising that the prosecutor repeatedly rejected this photographer's offers of assistance because his photos expose the structural flaws in the case presented in court against Abu-Jamal. These photos provide additional evidence that the jury did not consider all of the available evidence due to misconduct by police and prosecutors. This misconduct fuels demands for a fair trial in this case."

Listen to the audio from Michael Schiffmann's presentation:

View the crime scene photos:

Hans Bennett ( is an independent photo-journalist based in Philadelphia and is co-founder of the new group, "Journalists for Mumia Abu-Jamal," whose new website is

The Power of Truth is Final -- Free Mumia!

International Concerned Family Friends of MAJ
P.O. Box 19709
Philadelphia, PA 19143
Phone - 215-476-8812/ Fax - 215-476-6180
E-mail -
Web -

Send our brotha some LOVE and LIGHT at:
Mumia Abu-Jamal
AM 8335
175 Progress Drive
Waynesburg, PA 15370

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Anti-War Movement Responds to Cindy Sheehan's Letters


Cindy Sheehan made public two letters this weekend. The first letter announced her resignation from the Democratic Party over the agreement by the Democratically-controlled Congress to unconditionally fund the criminal and colonial war in Iraq that killed her son Casey and hundreds of thousands of others, mostly Iraqis.

In the second letter, coming a day after the first, Sheehan announced that she would no longer be active in the peace movement. The reason for her first letter is self-evident. Why did she feel compelled to write the second one?

It should come as no surprise to anyone that Sheehan has been the target of endless threats and attacks by pro-war groups, right-wing talk radio, and the corporate media. But they haven’t been the only attackers. As Sheehan has stepped up her criticism of the Congressional Democrats' complicity in the war, she has come under attack, some as venomous and personal as any right-wing Republican attack, by some who insist that the antiwar movement must be limited to protesting against Bush and the Republicans. Some of the same forces, who are closely tied to the Democrats, were happy to use Sheehan as long as she limited her criticism to Bush, but then viciously turned on her after she announced her resignation from the Democratic Party over the war.

Cindy Sheehan has come to the conclusion that she has been pushed out of the antiwar movement and it’s not hard to understand why she feels this way. She feels pushed out by the betrayal of the Democrats on the war funding. She feels pushed out by the isolation and hostility not only from the “right,” but also from many in the orbit of the Democratic Party that Sheehan had once considered allies. She feels pushed out be the failure of the various coalitions in the antiwar movement to put aside egos and narrow agendas in the interest of forging an independent and militant mass movement powerful enough to shut the war down.

Some good can come from this, if the antiwar movement takes this as a turning point. Many of us made a struggle to demand that Congress cut off all war funding and end the war a priority this spring. Some of us did this, not based on any expectation that Congress would actually end Bush’s war, but to clearly expose the Democratic Party and to demonstrate that they are as much of a pro-war party as the Republicans. If the antiwar movement can absorb this reality, as painful as it is, than it will be all the much harder for the movement to be pulled off the streets and made an appendage of the Democratic Party.

The movement owes a debt to Cindy Sheehan for striking a blow against those who plan to mislead the antiwar movement and tie it to the pro-war Democratic Party.

The rank and file of the antiwar movement stands in solidarity with Cindy Sheehan, not with those who are beholden to the Democratic Party. It takes courage for a mother, catapulted into the world spotlight after camping out in Crawford Texas two summers ago to protest the death of her son in Iraq, to stand up to and openly break with powerful politicians who would be all too willing to provide her a platform with all the perks if she simply toed the line.

It is our hope that after Cindy Sheehan had taken the time to re-unite with her family, and do whatever she feels necessary to repair the toll that all of this has taken on her family and herself, that she will once again be a leading voice against war, against empire, and for justice at home and abroad.

The Troops Out Now Coalition

Dear Abayomi ,

It was with great surprise that we read Cindy Sheehan's message:
This was about her decision to pull back from her activism in the antiwar movement. Surprise, because we know how deep her commitment is to this struggle, and because we know how much of herself she has poured into this work.

At the same time, we were not surprised that she needed a break. Cindy, like many of us, has been working to end the war in Iraq for many years. But like very few, she put most of the rest of her life on hold as she tirelessly traveled the country, spoke to groups large and small, marched and rallied and lobbied and participated in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience, did media interviews and so much more every single day. And we cannot forget for one moment that all of this was done not only as someone opposed to an unjust and immoral war but also as a grieving mother, a parent whose son was senselessly killed in a war that never should have happened, a war that has taken so many Iraqi and U.S. lives. Her clarity and her energy helped to inspire others to activism, people who also lost loved ones in Iraq and much wider circles of people as well.

We are saddened by Cindy's decision, even though we respect it and know she is doing what is right for her and her family.

But what is most sad is how long this deadly, costly, outrageous war has gone on. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are dead and their nation is in ruins. More than 3,400 U.S. servicepeople are dead, and tens of thousands will live with debilitating wounds for the rest of their lives. Our national treasury has been robbed of over $400,000,000,000 and now Congress has agreed to give Bush another $96 billion for this war and occupation. What we are most sad and angry about is how stubborn the so-called leadership in Washington is and how hard it is to end this war.

However, we are inspired when we think about Cindy's work and the journey she has been on. Her ability to turn personal grief into public action for the greater good should serve as a model for others. What Cindy did was a reminder that the actions we take as individuals do make a difference, and that the impact of those actions is amplified when we join with others. Cindy's individual contribution has been enormous, but she was part of a much larger movement. Without that movement, her presence in Crawford, TX, would not have resonated the way it did. Without that movement, her ongoing activism would not have had its power or ability to reach so many others. And that's a critically important lesson for us all: We each must find our voice and take the action that's most appropriate for us as individuals -- and inspire others to do so as well -- that is how we make the strongest contribution toward the growth of our movement.

Our movement also needs to take this moment to reflect on how we support one another. We have taken on an extremely difficult challenge: We seek to change the policies of the largest, most deadly military force in human history. We are confronting the economic, cultural and social power of the rulers of this nation, and we are demanding profound changes. Doing this work takes a toll on us, and yet we push forward. There are differences among us and there always will be. The goal shouldn' necessarily be to eradicate those differences but rather to find new, constructive ways to deal with them. We're going to need every ally and every tool in the toolbox -- and probably some others that haven't been dreamed up yet -- to end this war!

We thank Cindy for all that she has done, and wish her well in regaining her strength. And we take this opportunity to recommit ourselves to the hard work ahead -- the work of building and strengthening our movement and the work of ending the war and bringing all the troops home!

We look forward to taking this mandate into our upcoming National Assembly in Chicago. Hundreds of delegates from UFPJ's member groups around the country will gather June 22-24 to discuss the next stage of our work. Keep an eye out for updates -- together we will end this war!

Yours, for peace and justice,
Leslie Cagan
UFPJ National Coordinator

Cindy Sheehan Says She Will Return After Stepping Back

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

"We Will Retool...and Come at it from a Different Direction" - Cindy

Sheehan Says She Will Return After Stepping Back as Antiwar Leader
Cindy Sheehan has been the face of the US antiwar movement for the past two years. In August 2005, she set up Camp Casey outside President Bush's Crawford estate in memory of her son Casey, who was killed in Iraq. Now Cindy says she is stepping back from her role as a leading campaigner against the Iraq war. In this Democracy Now! special, Cindy Sheehan joins us for the hour to talk about her decision. [includes rush transcript]
We turn now to Cindy Sheehan, who has just announced that she is stepping away from the antiwar movement after two years of being the nation's most visible critic of the war in Iraq.

She began speaking out against the invasion and occupation of Iraq after her 24-year-old son, Army Specialist Casey Sheehan, was killed in Iraq on April 4, 2004.

Cindy Sheehan made headlines around the world in August of 2005, when she staged a camp-out to pressure President Bush to meet her as he vacationed at his Crawford estate.

On Monday, Sheehan announced her resignation as the face of the antiwar movement. Sheehan said she is stepping down in part because of hostility from Democrats, whom she has criticized for supporting the war. Sheehan also cited repeated threats on her life, strains on her health and family, and divisions inside the peace movement.

She wrote, "When I started to hold the Democratic Party to the same standards that I held the Republican Party, support for my cause started to erode and the 'left' started labeling me with the same slurs that the right used. I guess no one paid attention to me when I said that the issue of peace and people dying for no reason is not a matter of 'right or left', but 'right and wrong.'"

Cindy Sheehan joins us from Sacramento, California.

Cindy Sheehan, co-founder of Gold Star Families For Peace. Her son Casey was killed in Baghdad on April 4, 2004.
AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to Cindy Sheehan, co-founder of Gold Star Families for Peace. Her son Casey, killed in Sadr City in Baghdad, April 4, 2004. She has authored a number of books, including Peace Mom: A Mother’s Journey Through Heartache to Activism. Cindy Sheehan, welcome to Democracy Now!

CINDY SHEEHAN: Good morning, Amy. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s very good to have you with us. You have just flown home. Yesterday, you arrived in California. Tell us about your decision. On Memorial Day, many people around this country and the world read your painful letter, saying it seems, at least for now, goodbye to your active role as one of the leaders of the peace movement in this country.

CINDY SHEEHAN: It was not an easy decision, and it wasn’t a spur of the moment decision or a quick decision like going down to Crawford, Texas, was very, you know, spur of the moment and very, very not thought out well. But it turned out well. Anyway, I’ve been thinking about it for a year, when I -- after last summer, when I almost died, and I started thinking about pulling back a little bit. And after, you know, I regained some of my strength, I just went back into it full force. And it’s hard to work within this movement that is so divided, that is so -- really has a lot of negative energy. It’s draining. It’s drained my energy. And I used to -- you know, I still get so much support from so many people, but when people -- our new left really is just barely right of center, but when people there start criticizing me and calling me the same names that the right has been calling me, I think it’s time to reevaluate, pull back, you know, see what other direction we can come at this from.

AMY GOODMAN: Cindy, I remember reaching you in the hospital last year, not even knowing that you were ill. But explain what happened.

CINDY SHEEHAN: Well, you know, I was having gynecological problems, and in less than twenty-four hours I lost almost half of my blood volume, so I had to go in. I had to have transfusions. I ended up having two emergency surgeries and then, you know, getting a really bad infection afterwards and having to go back to the hospital for a few days. So, you know, that was very symbolic, life-draining. You know, my lifeblood was draining out of me. So that was really touch-and-go there for a little while. And I’ve regained some of my strength, but that was serious surgery. And, you know, it’s my fault. I didn’t give myself enough time to heal physically from it.

AMY GOODMAN: Cindy, can we go back -- and I know this is extremely painful -- April 4, 2004. Though you’ve spoken a great deal about it publicly in this country and around the world, let’s talk about your journey, the subtitle of your book, “A Mother's Journey Through Heartache to Activism.” When did you learn that Casey was killed?

CINDY SHEEHAN: Well, he was killed, in California time it was a little before 8:00 in the morning. I woke up at 9:00 a.m. It was amazing. It was the first day since he had been gone that I felt any kind of lightness in my spirit. And I woke up. It was Palm Sunday. I went through my Sunday activity, cleaning house, doing laundry, shopping for the week, getting my clothes ready for the next week of work.

And my ex-husband and I, who, you know, I was still married to, Casey’s dad, we were sitting down, watching CNN and eating dinner. We had filet mignon that day. I remember what we were eating. And a report came on CNN. It showed a Humvee burning and said that eight soldiers had been killed in Baghdad that day. And I looked at Pat, and I said, “One of them was Casey.” And, you know, he got very upset. He goes, “Well, you know, he’s only been there a few days. You know, there’s hundreds of thousands of soldiers there. Chances are it can’t be Casey. You know, it’s statistically very slim that it was Casey. And we don’t even know where he is yet.” And I just said, “I don’t care what you say. One of them was Casey.” And about four hours later, my worst fears were confirmed by the US military.

AMY GOODMAN: And talk about your journey through that day. How did you cope?

CINDY SHEEHAN: You know, when I was walking my dogs, I came home. I saw them standing in my living room. You know, I immediately collapsed on the floor. I was screaming, screaming, screaming. And I think -- you know, it’s -- I don’t know how I coped. You know, people start coming over. The time starts to just become a blur. You do a lot of drinking. You do a lot of laughing. You remember the good times in that period. But I think the thing that gets you through that horrible period is an intense shock. It’s a physical, emotional kind of shock that envelops you.

And I remember I didn’t go to sleep that night. I didn’t go to sleep the next night, because I didn’t want to wake up. I didn’t want to forget that Casey was dead and wake up and have to relive that experience. I was sitting on the porch swing about 6:00 in the morning on Monday morning, after we heard Casey was killed, and I’m watching people get up and go to work. And I just wanted to scream at them: how can you live your lives when my son is dead? And, you know, you’re mad at -- you’re mad at the world for going on, when your life has been destroyed and your world, your very world, is destroyed. Your whole universe becomes a different place. And then, about eight or nine months later, the shock starts to wear off, and if you thought you were in pain before, that’s when the real pain settles in.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Cindy, how did you go from your private mourning to becoming more public, to speaking out? When was the first time that you spoke out after Casey died?

CINDY SHEEHAN: It was on the Fourth of July, 2004, exactly three months after Casey was killed. I went to the Unitarian Universalist Church in Berkeley, California, to support another Gold Star mom, Jane Bright, whose son Evan Ashcroft was killed in Iraq in July of 2003. I went to support her, because she came up to speak to their congregation. That’s when I first physically met Bill Mitchell, whose son Michael was killed in Iraq the same day in the same incident Casey was killed in. And I didn’t go there to speak, but I was compelled to speak. And since then, I haven’t shut up. So that was the first time, and it was, you know, very meaningful, I think, that it happened on Independence Day, that I found my voice. And I found really my independence from this country that is so destructive to so many people.

AMY GOODMAN: Cindy, when you went to Crawford and established Camp Casey in memory of Casey in August of 2005 and said you wanted an hour of the President's time, coming from that Dallas Veterans for Peace convention, you had met with the President before. Describe that meeting. Where did it take place? What happened there?

CINDY SHEEHAN: Well, a couple months after we buried Casey, we were invited to go up to Fort Lewis, Washington state, to -- what we were told -- have a sit-down with the President, so he could express, you know, the good wishes of a grateful nation. And so, our entire family went up there. We went to the post hospital. We had to go through some very intense security screening. And we sat down in this little tiny room, in one of the hospitals’ waiting rooms. And we sat there. The President came in.

We brought about four or five pictures of Casey from the time he was a baby until he was a soldier. We wanted him to see the pictures of Casey. We wanted to talk about Casey. We decided as a family that we weren’t going into any kind of political discussion with him. We wanted to use the short time we had with him to describe what a marvelous person was taken from our family. He didn’t look at the pictures. He didn’t want to talk about Casey. You know, he kept calling Casey "the loved one,” you know, to depersonalize Casey as much as he could. He didn’t even say “him” or, you know, he, of course, didn’t use his name or his rank. He called me "Mom" the entire time. Right before George Bush came in, they made us take off all our name tags. So he called me “Mom,” Casey “the loved one,” and just acted like it really -- we were at a tea party.

AMY GOODMAN: And what did you say to him, the President of the United States?

CINDY SHEEHAN: Well, he came up to me and he took my hand and he looked in my eyes, and he said, “Mom, I can’t imagine losing a loved one in a war, whether it be an aunt or an uncle or a brother or a sister.” And, you know, I stopped him before he can go through the whole litany of how Casey could be related to me, besides being my son. And I said, “Wait a second, Mr. President” -- that’s when I still called him “Mr. President” -- “Casey was my son, and you have children. Imagine one of your children being killed.” And he didn’t say anything. And I said, “Trust me, you don’t want to go there.” And he said, “You’re right. I don’t.” So that was about the one-on-one contact that we had. Then he talked about how Casey was in a better place and things like that.

AMY GOODMAN: You have written in your letter, the letter that you sent out on Memorial Day, that you have come to the conclusion that Casey died for nothing. Can you explain how you came to this conclusion?

CINDY SHEEHAN: Well, I set out on this quest really to make Casey's death count for something, to make it meaningful, not to be, you know, counted as death and destruction, as occupying a country that was no threat to the United States of America, not for lies. I didn’t want to think that he died for lies, that he died because my government is callous and has no regard for human life or human suffering. I wanted his death to count for peace. I want it to count for love. I want it to count for justice. And, you know, in this system we have, it’s ruled by the corporations, it’s ruled by the corporate war profiteers. They use people like they’re things and not people.

And I am just really devastated and frustrated with an American population, you know, not counting the people who listen to your show or who watch your show, an American population that doesn’t give the Iraq war one, you know, bit of attention, doesn’t think about it, doesn’t have to think about it. They don’t want to think about the death and destruction and the pain that’s being caused by the government that they’re giving their tacit support to by their silence. You know, we care more about who’s the next American idol, what was in Anna Nicole’s refrigerator when she died, than the hundreds of thousands of innocent lives that have been sacrificed for the greed for power and money that this country is always on the prowl for. So it just makes me think that Casey is going to go down in a long line of people who have been sacrificed to the corporate war machine in this country.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Cindy Sheehan, lost her son Casey, April 4, 2004, founded Camp Casey, where thousands have come almost on a kind of pilgrimage outside the estate of President Bush in Crawford. Since that time, Cindy has actually bought property in Crawford. Can you talk about your decision to buy the property, Cindy? And now, in your letter that you wrote on Memorial Day, saying you’re putting it up for sale.

CINDY SHEEHAN: Well, after we left Crawford in August of ’05, the McLennan County supervisors passed an ordinance that there’s no camping or parking or sleeping along the sides of Prairie Chapel Road. And, you know, we think that was a direct, specific and targeted ordinance against free speech, against the First Amendment, really, which gives you the right to petition your government for redress of wrongs and gives you the right to peaceable protest. And no matter what anybody says or any criticism they can have about me or Camp Casey, the protests there have always been very peaceable and always been very positive. So I decided if we wanted to keep having these gatherings in Crawford, Texas, we would have to own property. So I purchased five acres. It’s right inside the town of Crawford.

And I really think now that this part of my activism is over and that I think Camp Casey has served its purpose. And I think I have gone as far as I can right now in the movement. I’ve come to a road block. I’ve come to a dead end. I’ve come to a brick wall. And then, of course, I have, you know, decimated all of my resources, my monetary resources, on this activism, on this cause, in the movement, that I need, you know, resources to just be able to survive. And so, that’s why I decided to sell Camp Casey.

AMY GOODMAN: Cindy, yesterday, after your letter came out on Memorial Day and we announced that you would be on the broadcast for the hour, we were inundated with email from around the country and around the world. In the next part of the show, I want to read some of it to you, but one of the people who wrote, Marguerite from Santa Fe, said that they wanted to financially help you, describing a Cindy Sheehan retirement-from-the-peace-movement fund. What is your response?

CINDY SHEEHAN: We have gotten -- in any way people can reach me, we’ve gotten hundreds and hundreds of emails -- and, you know, very few negative ones -- offering support, offering emotional support, offering places I can go to rest, offering financial support. And I’m very overwhelmed, again, by the good-hearted nature of Americans. But I think that we have to realize that if you’re going to put so much pressure on one individual, that person has to be supported continually, not get to the point where I did, where I just had to throw my hands up and say, “I give up. I can’t do this anymore. I don’t have any more energy. I don’t have any more money. I don’t have any more stamina. I have to go away.”

And there are so many people, there are so many worthy organizations who are struggling financially, who could do so much, who have people who can be effective voices, that aren’t supported by the peace movement or people in America, the millions of people in America who oppose George Bush and who oppose the war. If they aren’t physically able to get out and do the work, then I think that they -- and if they have the financial resources -- should be supporting people in the movement who can do this.

AMY GOODMAN: As you talk about cash-starved organizations, I think about the tens of millions of dollars that the candidates are raising, who are running for president in 2008, that money -- majority of it, of course -- going to the major corporate networks for advertising.

CINDY SHEEHAN: Right. You know, it’s an obscenity. I can imagine people in third world countries looking at, you know, someone like Hillary Clinton raising $35 million for her presidential campaign that goes to really, you know, nonproductive means, and they see that, and they just -- it’s just really immoral, I believe. And we’re spending $12 million in Iraq. How many people could that help, not only around the world, but in our own country? You know, it’s very immoral and obscene what we do with our resources.

AMY GOODMAN: There was a time when you said you would run against Hillary Rodham Clinton for her stance supporting war.

CINDY SHEEHAN: I never said I would run against Hillary. I was heavily recruited or drafted, or people were -- from the state of New York just really wanted me to run against her for her Senate seat in New York. I did say -- I threatened to run against Dianne Feinstein here in California, though.

AMY GOODMAN: When we come back, I’ll read to you some of what our listeners and viewers and readers have written from around the world, and I also want to ask you more about your family. As you wrote in your Memorial Day letter saying you’re stepping back from the antiwar movement, you talked about sacrificing your twenty-nine-year marriage and wanting to come home to your children. We’re talking to Cindy Sheehan. We’ll be back in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: Joan Baez singing “Joe Hill” at Camp Casey, August 24, 2005, a few weeks after Cindy Sheehan established Camp Casey, where ultimately thousands of people came, many of them who lost loved ones in Iraq -- sons and daughters, husbands, wives, mothers, fathers. Cindy Sheehan joining us in Sacramento. She just flew home yesterday, after releasing a letter on Memorial Day called "Good Riddance, Attention Whore." Why did you call your letter that, Cindy?

CINDY SHEEHAN: Well, that was one of the last slurs that I read before I decided that I had, you know, had enough. And it was Memorial Day when I read that slur against me on a so-called left blog, a leftwing blog. And it was Memorial Day. I was in Crawford, Texas, and I thought -- I had just also talked to my oldest daughter, who had just been to the cemetery to put flowers on Casey's grave. And I thought, what am I doing here? Why aren’t I home with my children?

AMY GOODMAN: You talk about your twenty-nine-year marriage. At the time you were establishing Camp Casey, making international headlines, your marriage was crumbling. And your children, your surviving son and daughters, talk about them.

CINDY SHEEHAN: Well, I have a daughter Carly -- she is in university right now; she was Casey's next youngest sibling -- and then a son Andrew, who is a land surveyor in the Bay Area -- he’s doing really great -- and my youngest daughter Janey, who’s a massage therapist. And it was a struggle when I first started doing this. And when they saw their mom and dad -- it ruining their mom and dad's marriage, it was, you know, a lot. They had just lost their brother, and their mother went on this mission, this passion to end the war and to hold somebody accountable for their brother's death. And they’re just -- they’re so strong. I dedicate my book to them, because they have gone through a lot. And they get stronger every day. They get more capable every day. And we went from a family, where even though mom worked full-time, she did everything for the kids. My children were the center of my life. We were involved in every aspect of their lives. And it was very hard for them to adjust to the new life without their brother, their mom and dad divorced.

You know, they thought that they were going to be, you know, a family that was together forever, but, you know, April 4th, our entire universe changed. And, you know, the members of my family, they wanted to go back to April 3rd, before he Casey was killed, and I knew we could never do that. I knew we would have to move forward and forge a new life together, a new family together, without Casey there, because our family was never going to be the same.

And it was a struggle with my children, but, you know, we have regained a very solid relationship. I want to now, instead of spending quality time with them, I also want to spend quantity time with them. I want to be able to alleviate some of their physical stress that they have, to be there for them. Carly, this is her last quarter at university, and she’ll be graduating. You know, I want to be there for her to help her through this. She’s majoring in history. I majored in history. It’s very exciting to be with her and to have conversations, mature adult conversations, with her. So, you know, I want to get to know my kids as adults, and I want to be there for them, you know, help forge this new relationship that we have and give it a good foundation. You know, it’s been a relationship that’s been very inconsistent because of my travel. And I now share a home with my two daughters. And now, when I go away, I miss them even more than I did before.

AMY GOODMAN: Cindy, headlines around the world this week. Guardian of London: “Sheehan quits as face of US anti-war fight.” Xinhua News Agency, China: “Activist Cindy Sheehan ends her anti-war campaign.” Alalam News Network, Iran: “Anti-war mom gives up campaign.” Melbourne Herald Sun, Australia: “Grieving mom walks away.” Ontario Now, Canada: “Cindy Sheehan throws in the towel.” Your response? And are you concerned your decision could deflate some of those in the antiwar movement? What words do you have to say to them, and especially families who have lost loved ones in Iraq, soldiers who are in Iraq, soldiers who have come home?

CINDY SHEEHAN: Well, you know, I have -- in those hundreds of emails I’ve gotten in the past couple days, there’s been many from soldiers in Iraq, there’s been many from family members who have loved ones in Iraq and from people all over the Muslim world, telling me, please, please don’t give up, don’t abandon us. And I just want them to know I’m not. I’m just -- I’m pulling back. I’m, you know, getting some rest. I’m trying to restore my health. I want to come back stronger, but I’m not coming back the way I was before.

We’re going to seriously reevaluate our place -- and when I say “our,” I’m talking about Gold Star Families for Peace, I’m talking about the Camp Casey Peace Institute, my skeletal staff. We’re going to -- and my sister Dee Dee, of course. We’re going to just hunker down and find a way that we can be more productive, that we can be more useful to humanity. Like I said, I’ve come to a dead end in what I’m doing now. We’ve found a chink in the armor. We exploited that chink. Now, most of the country is on our side. I don’t think we can work with the politicians. When we come back, we won’t work with or against politicians, but we’ll work with humanity.

Well, since I’ve been traveling the globe, I’ve met so many people who have been encroached upon or damaged or their families damaged by this corporate military imperialism of the United States. We want to help them. And we’re hoping by helping our brothers and sisters around the world struggle against the imperialism of the US military and the US corporations, that it will have a residual effect in helping America. We don’t want to abandon our soldiers there in the field like the Democrats did. You know, last night I was on Air America. Laura Flanders calls it to sacrifice the troops, instead of support the troops. We don’t want to leave them abandoned in the field. We don’t want to give the impression to the people of Iraq that they have no hope.

But I just want to let you know that I was just a small cog in this movement. It’s a large movement. And I think that this will encourage people to step up to the plate. And I sacrificed too much for this movement, and I’m not blaming anybody except myself. I was a willing participant. And I would be willing to keep sacrificing, if I thought we were making progress, if I thought my sacrifices could help. But I don’t think that it’s helping anymore, so we’re going to pull back and figure out how we can help. But, you know, people need to step up now. And everybody in America is going to have to sacrifice something. We have too much. We work too much to get things that we don’t even need, while 24,000 people a day die of starvation in the world. So everybody is going to have to sacrifice a little bit. If everybody sacrifices a little bit, you know, a few people wouldn’t have to sacrifice so much.

AMY GOODMAN: Cindy Sheehan, I asked you about messages to people here -- of course, then there’s the Iraqi people, and people do know of your activism there. What would you say to Iraqis?

CINDY SHEEHAN: You know, I would say that we are still there trying to help you, trying to end this horrible occupation, that my new organization that’s going to be humanitarian in nature will do everything we can to help alleviate your suffering. And I just hope that the people of America finally come to the realization that you are our brothers and sisters -- we all share one beating heart of humanity -- and that we cannot allow our leaders to do what they’re doing anymore. And, you know, it’s very important for people in America to struggle against our system, to hold the Democrats to the same standard of accountability that we were trying to hold the Republicans to, and to force an end to this occupation. And that -- I’m not going to work, you know, in this political system anymore, because I don’t have the energy to do that anymore. But it’s very important that everybody keep up the struggle.

AMY GOODMAN: And I want to read a few of the comments of our listeners and viewers and readers around the world that came in at On electoral politics, Gordon Brown, a teacher in Switzerland, asked, “Who do you believe would make the best next president of the United States?” Leslie Bonnet of California writes, “Will Cindy join the Green Party, which has steadfastly advocated for peace and against the invasion of Iraq? Will Cindy consider running as a presidential or vice presidential nominee with the Green Party?” Barbara and Graham Dean said, “What can all of us in the peace and justice movement do now to give you back your hope that we can indeed change the dangerous course this government has forced upon this country?” And they ask, “Would you consider running for Congress?” Paul said, “Given what you’ve described as the corruption and deception that exist in both the Republican and the Democratic political parties and how the huge appropriations of money for defense contractors have become such a force in the US economy, do you have any hope we will return to being a nation that stands for right instead of being a nation that has to have something to fight?” And another listener/viewer, John Stauber, says, “What is your opinion of MoveOn and the role it played in the recent congressional debate over war funding?” Take your pick.

CINDY SHEEHAN: Well, of course, I’m not going to run for election. I don’t -- you know, I’m very disillusioned with our political system. If we don’t wake up in America and realize that we have to vote out of our courage and integrity for candidates who reflect our own beatitudes, and not the beatitudes of the war machine and the corporations, we are -- we’re doomed. And if we don’t get a viable third party -- or some people say second party; you know, the Democrats and Republicans are so similar, and their pockets are lined by the same people -- we are -- our representative republic is doomed, where George Bush has assumed all the powers to himself and Congress has given him those powers. And we really need an opposition party in this country. But we vote out of our fear. We go and we vote for the lesser of two evils, and we always end up getting somebody evil. And, you know, I say “evil,” not in the Christian sense of the word. But, you know, I do believe that.

I’m not going to join any party. If I do vote again and if I do become, you know, politically active, it will be independent. I’m not going to, of course, run for anything, be in the system. I have been asked by the Green Party to run for president, but, you know, that’s not anything that I want.

And I know John Stauber. He has been struggling against MoveOn. I was really upset with MoveOn, and plus with the corporate media, who were characterizing MoveOn as the antiwar left in America, which was just really, for people who are on the inside know how hilarious that is. So I think that MoveOn has a lot of resources, and they should be trying to represent -- truly represent the opposition to, instead of being, you know, so tied in with the Democratic Party, to really represent the views of the left.

AMY GOODMAN: Cindy Sheehan, what do you think are the greatest successes of the peace movement so far, and then, of course, what you want to see changed?

CINDY SHEEHAN: Well, you know, I think that we did an incredible job of educating America about -- causing a debate really in this country about the Iraq war that didn’t exist before August of ’05. It didn’t exist in a public way before August of ’05. And the shift in the country has been enormous, you know, to being against George Bush and against the war, when it was overwhelmingly in favor of it. And we thought we were doing something good when we elected Democrats. We thought that we were electing them to change the way things are going, not for this, to keep the status quo. And I think that we’ve been very successful in raising awareness.

Where things have to go now -- and, you know, I’ve been saying this for a long time -- is that we have to be willing to put our bodies on the line for peace and justice, that, you know, we can’t work on short-term band-aids. We need true solutions to the problem, to this corruptness, to the stranglehold the corporations have on our government. And we can’t just put band-aids on them. Like, ending the Vietnam War was major, but people left the movement. It was an antiwar movement. They didn’t stay committed to true and lasting peace. And that’s what we really have to do.

AMY GOODMAN: Cindy Sheehan, we have fifteen seconds. I have the sense, as you talk, that you’re not actually leaving, even as a public face of the movement, but stepping back perhaps for a few months, a few weeks, to regroup. Is that accurate?

CINDY SHEEHAN: Well, what I like to think about is like, we’re closing down the factory, we’re going to retool, and we’re going to open up, and it will be a new and improved version of it. But we are definitely going to come at it from a totally different direction.

AMY GOODMAN: Cindy Sheehan, I want to thank you for being with us.

CINDY SHEEHAN: Thank you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Co-founder of Gold Star Families for Peace, speaking to us from, well, near her home. She’s in Sacramento, California.

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Sudan Dismisses Claims of Genocide by the Bush Administration

Sudan shrugs off US genocide sanctions as political

By Mohamed Hasni
Published May 30, 2007

Sudanese officials and analysts Wednesday dismissed new US sanctions over what Washington termed Khartoum's genocide in Darfur as being a largely political exercise rather than harsh economic curbs.

One official said that economic sanctions could hurt in the long term, but that his country was counting on its "friends" to avert this, notably China, which takes 60 percent of its oil exports.

"I am sure that the companies targeted [by Washington] have long put alternatives in place" to minimize this kind of sanction, said Mohammed Mahjub Harun, a member of Sudan's institute of strategic studies.

He and other analysts questioned saw the sanctions announced Tuesday by US President George W. Bush as a means of pressing Khartoum into accepting an international peacekeeping force for Sudan's western region of Darfur.

The United Nations says that 200,000 people have been killed there and 2 million made homeless since rebellion broke out four years ago. That drew a harsh crackdown by Sudan's army and its feared Arab Janjaweed militia allies, which has been blamed for widespread murder, rape, and burning of villages.

Sudan disputes those estimates, saying that 9,000 people have died.

"This is only a reinforcement of sanctions that have existed for 10 years and have not prevented the Sudanese economy from developing thanks to close links formed with Asia," said Harun.

The stricter sanctions will bar another 31 companies, including oil exporters, from US trade and financial dealings, and take aim at two top Sudanese government officials, the Treasury Department said.

Bush said that he had directed US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to seek a new UN resolution to broaden economic sanctions on Sudan's leaders, expand an arms embargo on Sudan, and bar Sudanese military flights over Darfur.

China, which is not only a major customer for Sudanese oil but also supplies arms to the country, opposed the latest sanctions.

Liu Guijin, Beijing's special representative on Darfur, said that the sanctions would "only make achieving a solution more complicated," but stopped short of saying that China would use its veto power to block a new UN resolution.

Hassen Mekki, a political science lecturer, pointed out that the latest sanctions exclude some Sudanese companies that trade with the United States, such as those which produce Arabic gum used in making the soda drinks manufactured by giant American companies.

Harun said that the impact of the sanctions in general could be gauged by the fact that "there has not been a single street demonstration."

But Ahmed Sharif Osman, another analyst, said that the sanctions would have an impact, albeit limited. "This impact will be measured in the volume of financial transactions going through the American system."

US officials say that the goal of the sanctions is to force Sudan to allow the full deployment of a UN peacekeeping force, disarm the Janjaweed militias blamed for much of the carnage, and let humanitarian aid reach the region.

In Khartoum, presidential advisor Mazjub Al Khalifa told reporters that the decision "highlights the hostile intentions and points to the fact that the United States does not want peace in Darfur."

Sudan's UN envoy Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohammad called Bush's moves "very regrettable" coming just when he said that Khartoum was cooperating with the United Nations on joint peacekeeping with the African Union in Darfur. The world body is seeking a combined force of some 20,000 peacekeepers.

Harun said that Washington was trying to push European countries into following its lead and could well succeed "because in all cases, the countries of Europe have few trade links with Sudan."

"But it is unlikely that China will do the same [as Washington]," he added.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Cuba Celebrates Day of Africa

Cuba Celebrates Day of Africa

Matanzas, Cuba, May 28 (Prensa Latina) Ambassadors and other members of the diplomatic corps from 17 African nations accredited in Cuba visited the Slave's Route Museum on Monday, as part of celebrations for the Day of Africa.

Led by Pascal Oguemby, senior African ambassador in Cuba, the diplomats toured the facility at colonial Fort San Severino, in Matanzas, 62 miles east of Havana.

This year the Day of Africa was dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the independence of Ghana, and Ghanaian Ambassador to Havana Cecilia Gyan Amoah highlighted to Prensa Latina the real friendship the Cuban government shows to Africa.

Cuba has made a great contribution to Africa's development, with many nations winning their independence through collaboration offered by the Island, she said, and also referred to the great number of African students who have already graduated from or are currently studying in Cuba.

"We consider Cuba as one of our countries for the way they have always treated us. We are very grateful for this collaboration," she stressed.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

PANW Editor, Abayomi Azikiwe, to Speak at Africa Liberation Day Event on Sunday

Detroit's commemoration of African Liberation Day continues tonight at Black Star Community Bookstore with the showing of two films

Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire will speak at tonight's film showing in honor of Africa Liberation Day, 2007

Black Star Community Bookstore
May 27, 2007

African Film Festival
In Celebration of African Liberation Day

Congo:White King, Red Rubber, Black Death describes Leopold II, King of the Belgium's private colony of the Congo between 1885 and 1908 as a gulag labor camp of shocking brutality. Leopold posed as the protector of Africans fleeing Arab slave-traders but, in reality, he carved out an empire based on terror to harvest rubber.

Families were held as hostages, starving to death if the men failed to produce enough wild rubber. Children's hands were chopped off as punishment for late deliveries. The Belgian government has denounced this documentary as a "tendentious diatribe" for depicting King Leopold II as the moral forebear of Adolf Hitler, responsible for the death of 10 million people in his rapacious exploitation of the Congo. Yet, it is agreed today that the first Human Rights movement was spurred by what happened in the Congo.

Thomas Sankara is a revealing 26 minute documentary about the revolutionary African leader who wanted to give his country, Burkina Faso, a new socio-political dimension.

Event Info
19410 Livernois
Detroit, Michigan 48221
May 27, 2007