I looked up at the passing clouds against a brilliant azure California sky and thought of my mother who was an activist from age 19 until she died at age 75. My mother revered the UN. When we came of age she brought my sister and me to New York City to go there and do the tour. My mother gave me the idea that the UN was the center of the civilized world.... That was during the Vietnam War, and she also gave me the idea that any hope of peace was going to come from the people's will towards peace demonstrated through citizenship, and from the world's will towards peace as represented through the UN.
While standing there with my flag and my family, a lovely young girl came by and, liking the look of me, she handed me a "911 Bill of Deception" buck. "Thanks very much," I said.
I looked at the oversized dollar bill and got a spooky feeling. Hidden in the engraving were all sorts of names, quotes, 911 web addresses.... it said CIA, M-16, Cheney Did It... every major oil company's name was on it.... Quotes from the Project For A New American Century.... I put the bill in my pocket and proceeded with my day.
When we got home I showed it to my brother and sister. It gave my sister chills; my brother made a photocopy. I blew it up on the scanner and studied it. This little detail says: "Totalitarian Information Awareness," "New World Order," and "BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU." The center detail shows the bill issued from "THE UNINFORMED STATE OF DENIAL" with Bush, Cheney and Rove in the center.
Try to understand how strange I find all of this. I was out of the country for 14 years... I only arrived back on February 7, 2006. I heard about 911 on the radio, then later saw it on the BBC. I never saw Michael Moore's "Farenheit 911." I know nothing about the investigation findings. I only know what I saw. I saw the buildings brought down in the aftermath of the attacks... it looked to me like they were professionally imploded... just like I saw the Madison Hotel in Boston brought down in the 80's. And I read with interest that the planes came out of Logan Airport... an airport that for 9 years had received security citations and fines in the millions every year. An airport security guy said that it was so bad that on any given day before 911 anyone could have driven a tank through Logan Airport with no problem.
"What you missed," said my sister, "is the week after 911 when all the people became so much more kind and caring of each other. Patriotism then was the shared experience of having been attacked, and the solidarity of the survivors was to be good to each other. Then that passed."
It occurred to me that now March 2006, on the third anniversary of the war on Iraq, as many US military have been killed in action as were killed on 911. The American people have said they've had enough. Has George Bush had enough yet?
What I did not miss, however, was the European reaction to 911. In the two weeks following the attack on the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon, world support for the victims and their families and their country was strong and clear. Justice, Not Revenge. Bring the perpetrators to justice. This meant the appropriate action was a police action, not a military one. The message was, I thought, best expressed by High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson.
Now there is no Mary Robinson around anymore as the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights to say "Justice, Not Revenge," and to remind world leaders that any effort to eradicate terrorism can not be made at the cost of human and civil rights. (Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland wrote later that it was the Bush administration that forced her to leave her post at the UN: America Forced Me Out, Says Robinson) What she said after 911 was:
UN HIGH COMMISSIONER MARY ROBINSON
`In a world which has changed not for the better after the September 11 attacks, there is need to reinforce the rule of law and international human rights and for ensuring that tolerance was not looked upon as luxury but a way of life.' In these difficult times there is need to check expression of anger. We must not be carried away by the knee jerk different reaction of other countries.
"...true respect for human life must go hand in hand with securing justice," and that "the best tribute we can pay to the victims of terrorism and their grieving families and friends, is to ensure that justice, and not revenge, is served."
Speaking on terrorism, Ms Mary Robinson cautioned against the violation of human rights in the global `fixation' with the war against terrorism and said:
"What must never be forgotten is that human rights are no hindrance to the promotion of peace and security. Rather they are an essential element of any strategy to defeat terrorism."
See also: Address of Louise Arbour,
UN HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS;
London School of Economics;
Center for the Study of Human Rights; 16 February 2006;
THE RIGHTS OF OTHERS
But the solidarity of the world community, like that of the kinder and more caring ways of American citizens after the attack, also passed. It became glaringly clear that the US was hell-bent on Revenge, Not Justice. And with that, European support for the Bush administration evaporated... all that was left was the UK. The era of Suspicion, Fear and First-Strike was the Modus Operandi of the Bush administration in fighting terrorism, all contained in the AUMF drafted by John C. Yoo and Alberto Gonzales in September of 2001. The difference between apprehending TERRORISTS and fighting TERRORISM was lost. Once again, like 50 years earlier in the McCarthy era, America was fighting an ever-expanding war on an abstract noun.
We now know that Bush attempted to insert language into the AUMF that would have given a carte blanche for illegal domestic warrantless spying... to which the senators refused. (See: Power We Did Not Grant; Tom Daschle; Washington Post; December 23, 2005.) And, as revealed in the New York Times on December 16th of last year, the illegal domestic spying has been going on pervasively and without oversight. Until now.
SOMETHING'S HAPPENING HERE
For What It's Worth
Stephen Stills, 1966
There's something happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear
There's a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware
I think it's time we stop, children, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
There's battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind
I think it's time we stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
What a field-day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side
It's time we stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you're always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away
We better stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
BACK AT THE DEMO
I noticed the little girl who had given me the war of deception buck go over with another little girl to a man with a sign. He was fit, long haired, wearing a black t-shirt and carrying a sign. When the little girls went away, I went over to him and asked if they were his children. "Yes, they are." I told him that one of his daughters had given me the buck and I thanked him because she was so generous and good.
"Well, I gave them the choice. I said they didn't need to be here today, but they wanted to come. My daughter, the one that gave you the buck. Just two weeks ago she was in Bible class and the teacher was going over the Beatitudes. She got to the part, "Blessed Are The Peacemakers" and my daughter said, `I know about that one. My daddy is a peacemaker.' The Bible class teacher tried to move on quickly, but my daughter wanted to talk about her daddy the peacemaker."
I looked at the man. "Wait a minute, I know you." He let his sign drop and I saw "Veterans For Peace; Chapter 87." He said "My name is George Main." I said, "George, I was just reading about your case on the ACLU just yesterday." He said, "Yes, it's a strange thing. When I was in the service my job was to spy on people. My job would have been to spy on you." "It would have been well worth it, George," I said.
George said, "You have no idea what it was like when they pulled the Talon list and my name came up first. And when I got the call. But I keep on keeping on. You've got to."
ACLU STATEMENT GEORGE MAIN TARGET OF ILLEGAL NSA SPYING
GEORGE MAIN'S STATEMENT:
I am a veteran of the Army Security Agency, where I served as a resident linguist in Russian from 1969 to 1978. The agency reported directly to the National Security Agency, but was disbanded in 1978. After my training, I began to question the rightness of our actions and took my concerns to my commanding officer. He readily admitted that the surveillance we conducted was outside the law and even violated several treaties. And he told me to get back to work.
Today, I am president of the Sacramento Chapter of Veterans for Peace. Sacramento VFP has organized many events in direct protest to military recruiting and the occupation of Iraq. We are open and outspoken critics of Bush's policies. Our 2004 Veteran's Day protest at the Sacramento Military Entrance Processing Station marked our organization as the first entry on a published extract from a DOD database, TALON, Threat and Local Observation Notice report. The database was compiled by a new and little-known Pentagon agency, Counterintelligence Field Activity, or CIFA.
The story broke on MSNBC on December 13, 2005, asking the question, "Is The Pentagon Spying on Americans?" The story detailed a Pentagon program that was actively spying on American citizens engaged in anti-war and counter-military recruiting activities. I learned of the story from a flurry of emails joking that, "George made the FBI's most wanted list."
How did I react? I was relieved at first. This was validation that I wasn't paranoid. All those times I complained about my phone having a reverb and long delays where I could hear myself talking after I spoke; my joking complaints about not being able to call my home phone from my cell because the connection was unintelligible. And the two guys who didn't belong at our monthly meeting as we prepared for our Vet Day 2005 action. And all those other times I looked over my shoulder. I already have to deal with some right-wing nuts who posted my contact information and harass me on occasion. I hate going out to my '89 Ford Ranger and wincing some mornings as I start the engine.
I still remember the call I received from my government the day before Veteran's Day 2004. The man on the phone identified himself as a special agent for Homeland Security and he said he was calling about the Sacramento protest. I answered his questions: Yes, I knew it was federal property. Yes, I knew it would be closed for Veterans' Day. No, I did not represent a threat to federal property, personnel or our nation's security. My intention was only to exercise my First Amendment Rights. I also told him I expected maybe a dozen protestors considering the bad weather forecast.
It was very intimidating to have a special agent call out of the ether, saying "George, this is..." I was somewhat scared the next morning and thought to myself several times it would be nice if no one else showed up and I could just go home. Four armed, uniformed federal officers were on hand to greet the media-estimated crowd of 80 protestors on that rainy morning. The protest was peaceful and a huge success on the wettest day in recorded Sacramento history.
I am offended that my government would even consider surveilling a group of honorably discharged veterans. Our patriotism and love of country is as strong today if not greater than when we carried arms in defense of America. But I am not surprised by the arrogance of the administration. I served before the FISA court was born. I too spied on American citizens for the NSA. I questioned the legality of what I was doing but I did what I was told.
I can't just do as I'm told anymore. My children deserve better. So does my country.
The cops came, and asked that people not stand on the traffic island in the middle of Broadway. This was some unneccesary hassle on their part, as the island was not overcrowded, and my attorney friend says there is no law or ordinance forbidding it. The presence of the cops was felt, but they were not intimidating. There was an effigy leaning against a lamp-post in Army fatigues, it said, "Bush Lied. I died." Pinned to it were bookmarks with the photos of all the US soldiers from Sacramento area who had died in Iraq. When the cops came, somebody moved it... I couldn't tell why or where it was being taken to. Was somebody putting it into the cop car? That was strange.
George and I chatted a bit about NSA spying on librarians, grannies, environmental and peace activists. We talked about NSA spying on journalists and those with a background in intelligence. I introduced George to my sister and brother-in-law, and asked that he tell my sister the story about his daughter in Bible class, and "Blessed Are The Peacemakers."
I was very moved... proud to meet George Main, and knocked out by the uncanny improbability of making a connection with one of the dozens.. hundreds... thousands... tens of thousands? of people targeted by the NSA for illegal spying, who is also one of the group that the ACLU is representing in their March 9, 2006 suit against the NSA. There are 300 million people in America. The chances that I would meet one of this very select group of selected Americans is very very slim. And, by my membership in the ACLU, this is the very man I am joining with and supporting by my activism, by my donations and by my letter-writing and petitions to representatives. Uncanny.
The day was clouding over. We were becoming chilled and restless. We were making the move to go home. My sister heard George say as we were leaving, "I'm going to go on out to that traffic island. I'm going to go where we're not supposed to be." My sister thought this was not on... that George was inviting confrontation. I thought differently. "After everything this guy has been through and everything he has done," I said, "I don't think George is a man you can tell what to do, and where to stand."
What if it was you? What if you were a good guy, a peacemaker, with a lovely family and you were being harassed, spied on, targeted for actively opposing an illegal war and a criminal regime? What if it were you? What if it was being done to your loved ones or your friends.
The fates have conspired to bring this issue that is so very close to me, closer home still. I am proud to consider myself an associate and acquaintance, and hope to be numbered among the friends of George Main, target of illegal NSA spying. Happy to report that I was caught on camera more than once shaking George's hand. My interesting life unfolds in a very interesting way. As scribe says: ONWARD !!
(Hear more of the songs that told the anti-Vietnam War story here:
Read more about citizen activism here:
The Accidental Activist: Going Quixote by Boston Joe, March 13, 2006
LISTEN TO RUSS FEINGOLD
LISTEN TO SENATOR FEINGOLD ADDRESS THE SENATE CALLING FOR CENSURE OF GEORGE BUSH OVER ILLEGAL DOMESTIC SPYING
SEND SENATOR RUSS FEINGOLD YOUR MESSAGE OF SUPPORT:
CONTACT SENATOR RUSS FEINGOLD
Crossposted at BOOMAN TRIBUNE
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