Documentary Stirs Up Controversy Among Education Leaders

[It is way past time for everybody to take a close at our educational system, or lack thereof.  The policy of promoting "excellence," through special programs or charter schools, is a policy which promotes failure, as well as division.  We must have an educational system that promotes excellence in all students, instead of one which finds and rewards the easiest children to teach.  The over-achievers are children who are eager to learn, despite the difficulty.  Most kids are not like that.]

Documentary Stirs Up Controversy Among Education Leaders

By Annamarie Iannetta

MISSOULA, Mont. — The documentary, “Waiting for Superman”, is centered on America’s public schools. It follows families of several inner-city school students who entered lotteries to attend charter schools in their cities. And it is debuting in Missoula this weekend. School leaders are planning to view it and then discuss the material next week.The families featured in the film believe public schools have failed and their only chance to get their children a better education is attending a charter school.Some think the film is unfair to public schools. Others feel like it addresses valid problems.”It is controversial. I know that it takes a side and I know that not everyone agrees with that, and I’m looking forward to finding out what the other folks in the community think about it,” says Missoula Education Foundation Executive Director Dave Chrismon.”It may not apply to what we have in our school district here, so I think they’re being proactive and having a panel put together like that so people have an avenue to ask questions and voice concerns,” says Missoula resident Pattie Corrigan-Ekness.The Missoula Education Association is hosting a public panel on the documentary Monday, December 13th. It will start at 6:30pm at the Wilma Theater. The discussion will allow members of the public to ask questions and voice concerns.

VU students protest “School of Assassins”

VU students protest “School of Assassins”

By Jon Christian

School of AssissinsCaitlin Mitchell

Demonstrators were arrested as they made their way back to the parking lot

On a sunny Saturday afternoon a few days before Thanksgiving, Katy Savage found herself in Muscogee County Jail in Columbus, Georgia. Savage, who traveled to Columbus with eight Vanderbilt students to take part in the annual School of the Americas Watch (SOAW) vigil, never imagined she would be arrested during the course of the demonstration.

“I said ‘you guys aren’t doing the [civil disobedience] thing, are you?’ and they said ‘no, no, we’re just standing on the sidewalk,” Savage said. 30 seconds later, I was arrested.”

The School of the Americas, which was renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHISC) in 2001, is a combat training school for Latin American soldiers located near Columbus. Human rights activists have called for the school to be closed for years due to widespread reports of graduates committing war crimes upon their return to Latin America. Graduates of the academy include Panamanian military dictator Manuel Noriega and Raúl Iturriaga, director of the secret police under Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

SOAW was founded in 1990 by Catholic priest Roy Bourgeois in order to draw attention to the institution’s record of human rights abuses. This year’s vigil was the organization’s twenty-first protest.

Vanderbilt sophomore Caitlin Mitchell, who took a lead role organizing the trip to the vigil, first became interested in SOAW when Bourgeois gave a presentation at her high school. She attended the vigil for the first time in 2009, and decided to mobilize a larger number of Vanderbilt undergraduates to attend the event this year. Working with Vanderbilt Students for Nonviolence, she pulled together a group of nine Vanderbilt and Nashville activists who pooled their resources to make it to this year’s vigil.

For Mitchell, taking part in nonviolent demonstrations like the SOAW vigil is both about enacting political change and learning what other activists are doing at the grassroots level around the country and the world. She used her own excitement about demilitarization, education and peaceful demonstration to inspire fellow students to do the same.

“I told potential participants that they would get a chance to learn about U.S. policy in Latin America, and that they would get to meet activists from all over the United States and Latin America,” Mitchell said. “It was less about saying ‘get angry at this,’ and more about ‘hey, look what cool things you can do.’”

The School of the Americas Watch vigil is characterized by a bold artistic sensibility which incorporates elaborate costumes, large-scale puppets and theatrical performances.

Traditionally, a large number of activists at the vigil would climb over the barbed wire fences separating WHISC from the protest zone. Following 9/11, the penalty for doing so was raised to 6 months in prison, and only a few protesters scaled the fence this year. On Saturday, however, a number of demonstrators – some wearing massive puppet costumes – moved to the edge of the protest zone and blocked traffic.

“The way the protest was set up is they had the street up to the gates and the first intersection blocked off as the official protest zone. Afterwards, a group of 12 people were going to march out of the protest zone and block traffic in the street,” Mitchell said.

When demonstrators stepped off the curb, police moved in and began to arrest people both on and off the protest zone. In addition to activists, police arrested journalists, photographers and one local man who was not involved with the SOAW vigil but who stepped out of a local barber shop to take a photograph of the chaos.

“The police were blaring speakers, saying that if we left the protest zone we could be arrested,” Mitchell said. “I was just standing at this gas station, and there were people right in front of me getting arrested.”

In the confusion, somebody handed Savage the arm of an elaborate, multi-person puppet. The police apprehended her almost immediately.

“What’s astonishing to me is that at this point, they’re not evening making up things that people were arrested for like disorderly conduct or disrupting the peace or anything like that,” Savage said. “They’re actually arresting people explicitly for following their First Amendment rights. I don’t know why that isn’t more of a big deal to people.”

That evening, a number of Vanderbilt students joined a rally of several hundred across the street from Muscogee County Jail, where Savage was being held, to show their support for the people who were arrested. Police emerged with riot gear and dispersed the gathering.

“People started to realize, ‘wait, what if they arrest us too?’” said Tristan Call, a graduate student with the Vanderbilt Department of Anthropology. “It was a major reality check for a lot of us. If you’re involved with a movement like this in the United States, your constitutional rights don’t exist. Or, they only exist until after you’ve been arrested.”

Savage spent a day and a half in jail before going to trial with the other 25 activists who were taken into custody on Saturday. None of the police could remember where she had been apprehended or any specifics of the arrest, but she was charged with unlawful assembly, picketing and demonstration without a permit. In total, 25 out of 26 arrested individuals were penalized with jail time or fines – including the local man from the barber shop.

“It takes them about a half an hour to ring up a credit card in jail,” Call said with a laugh. “It takes 30 seconds at Subway, but in jail – we were literally there for six hours paying fines for everybody to get out.”

The group returned home determined to bring an even larger group to the vigil next year. In spite of her ordeal, Savage says that she’s glad to have shown support for victims of WHISC and for all that she learned over the weekend.

“The conferences that they hold before and during [the vigil] are what I really relish,” Savage said. “[and the opportunity] to learn about things that people are doing, and ways that you can connect with people.”

For more information about SOA/WHISC, visit soaw.org.

Adiala Jail Missing Prisoners and Holding ISI Accountable Under Pakistani Law

Fabrications and plain lies

The case of the Adiala Jail missing prisoners has taken a bizarre turn. In the November 24 hearing of this case, the attorney general had stated on behalf of the intelligence agencies that they did not have the prisoners in their custody. These prisoners had been acquitted by the Lahore High Court, but had not been released from Adiala Jail, from where they mysteriously disappeared in May. In a hearing held on the request of the government, the counsel for the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence (MI) submitted before the Supreme Court (SC) that the two intelligence agencies now have custody of the missing prisoners. Does the tale that they have been arrested during a special operation in the tribal areas conducted after the last hearing of the case sound plausible? Based on the track record of the intelligence agencies, it appears a hastily put together face-saving lie that does not stand up to the test of scrutiny.

It is not a coincidence that the intelligence agencies consider themselves above the law. After independence, it was inevitable that the over-developed state structure inherited from the British in the presence of weak political and social institutions would lead to the dominance of state institutions unaccountable to the public. The protracted authoritarian rule of Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Ziaul Haq and later Pervez Musharraf made them even more accustomed to acting independently, without any fear of accountability. That this attitude has trickled down to the lowest levels of the law enforcing apparatus could be gauged from the thana culture, where even a station house officer considers himself above the law. It is pertinent to mention that during the hearing of the missing persons’ case in 2007, Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry had said that the Supreme Court could summon the directors general of the intelligence agencies to answer the court and account for the disappeared persons. It is thus entirely likely that the ISI and MI already had custody of the Adiala Jail prisoners, but did not want to admit it at first.

Even if we concede that the ISI-MI lawyer’s submission is correct, it leaves many questions unanswered. Why did the provincial authorities continue to detain these prisoners when the court had ordered their release? How could the jail authorities allow any intelligence agency’s officials, fake or real, to spirit away prisoners? If the intelligence agencies are so efficient as to track down these people within two weeks, why did they wait so long to do it? Can these people be tried under the Army Act in a General Field Court Martial, as the ISI-MI counsel contended before the court, when in the past all civilians involved in terrorism were tried in anti-terrorist courts? The overbearing attitude of the intelligence agencies exhibited in the last two hearings amounts to contempt of court. This is now a question of the judicial system’s prestige because these prisoners were kidnapped from judicial custody. A judiciary restored on the slogan of the rule of law, should not allow a flouting of the law by the law enforcement agencies themselves.

Perhaps the only redeeming feature of Thursday’s hearing was an unconditional admission by the ISI-MI counsel that the intelligence agencies are answerable to the courts and the law. If the military and intelligence agencies are convinced that the detained individuals are indeed involved in various attacks on military targets, they should present evidence in the court. If the existing laws are inadequate and allow terrorists to go scot-free, then perhaps parliament should consider specific legislation aimed at removing the loopholes in the laws concerning terrorist cases. Acting above and beyond the law, and then spinning contradictory stories to get themselves off the hook, as our spooks appear to be doing, is simply unacceptable.

Bomb Attack On CM Raisani Conspiracy To Trigger Pakistani Civil War

Murder attempts conspiracy to trigger civil war: BA

* Raisani says he will discuss CSS issue with prime minister

By Mohammad Zafar

QUETTA: The Balochistan Assembly has condemned the assassination attempts on Balochistan Governor Nawab Zulfiqar Magsi and Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani and termed it part of a conspiracy to push the province towards civil war.

The session met under the chairmanship of Speaker Aslam Bhootani on Friday.

The assembly unanimously adopted the adjournment motion moved by Sheikh Jaffar Mandokhel to condemn the attempt to assassinate Nawab Magsi and Raisani.

Taking part in the debate, Provincial Health Minister Ainullah Shams said that foreign elements were involved in creating serious law and order situation in Balochistan. He said it was necessary that the government should hold talks with ambassadors concerned about their alleged involvement in the internal affairs of Pakistan.

“A committee must be formed, comprising members of the Balochistan Assembly, to hold talks with ambassadors,” he said and also suggested to call an all parties conference in Balochistan to evolve a strategy. Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam will support and take part if any one announces the all parties’ conference. “I do not agree with those who say that law and order is provincial subject because provincial forces have better coordination with federal forces and they must expedite their efforts to maintain law and order situation,” the health minister said.

The legislators also passed an amended criminal procedure code bill and two resolutions on CSS issue. Minister for Prosecution, Rahila Durrani, moved a resolution, which read that 14 candidates, out of 34 from Balochistan, who had passed the CSS exam, had yet to get posting. The resolution recommended to the provincial government to approach the federal government to seek posting for the 14 remaining candidates besides ensuring posting on vacant seats in the Balochistan Police.

The chief minister said he would discuss the CSS issue with the prime minister soon. Minister for Irrigation Sardar Aslam Bezinjo tabled Criminal Procedure Code 1898 (Balochistan Amendment), which was passed into law unanimously.

U.S. Special Envoy Holbrooke in Intensive Care After Falling Ill at Office

U.S. Special Envoy Holbrooke in Intensive Care After Falling Ill at Office

By Indira Lakshmanan and Flavia Krause-Jackson
Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, is in the intensive care unit at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, according to a hospital official who asked not to be identified.

Holbrooke, 69, has spent the last two years traveling to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and seeking support from allies to help promote economic development and stabilize the neighboring countries that have been plagued by terrorism.

Holbrooke felt ill while working today on the seventh floor of the State Department headquarters, where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s office is located, said Philip J. Crowley, the department spokesman.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was also admitted today to George Washington University Hospital in northwest Washington for surgery to remove a kidney stone.

Holbrooke is a veteran diplomat who, as an assistant secretary of state under President Bill Clinton, was the chief architect of the 1995 Dayton accords that ended the war in Bosnia in the 1990s. He later served as the U.S. envoy to the United Nations.

He was a diplomat in President Jimmy Carter’s administration and was in charge of U.S. relations with China when the U.S. normalized ties in December 1978.

Over the last several months, Holbrooke has been preparing a report for President Barack Obama on the current state of governance and development in Afghanistan. The U.S. and allies have a combined force of about 150,000 troops to turn back Taliban advances and train Afghan soldiers and police.

State Department’s Wikipocrisy

State Department’s Wikipocrisy

So Who Exactly is Sowing Strife in Lebanon?

By FRANKLIN LAMB

Beirut

 

On October 24, 1970, during its 25th session, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the  Declaration of Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.

The UN Declaration provides in part:

“No State has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other State. Consequently, armed intervention and all other forms of interference or attempted threats against the personality of the State or against its political, economic and cultural elements, are in violation of international law”.

Perhaps not since the Vietnam War, with the exception of Iraq, has an American Embassy so inextricably inserted, bullied and  entangled itself into the internal affairs of another country. Or so brazenly  targeted a nationalist political party that won the largest number of votes in the most recent election and that likely represents a majority of the country’s population. Not since 1982 has it occurred in Lebanon.

Myriad extra-consular activities by ‘Embassy Beirut’, many of which violate American as well as international laws including the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, present serious problems for Lebanon. They ultimately constitute major  problems for the American people who increasingly seek an even handed American Middle East policy and friendship with all legitimate countries in the region.

The de-facto American Ambassador to Lebanon and Syria remains  Undersecretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman who on December 9 during  a phone conference with Arab reporters in Washington, London and some Arab capitals, complained: “ the Wilkileaks information is being used to sow strife in Lebanon.” He added that he was “afraid that some Lebanese nationalists would be harmed for cooperating with the U.S and for better ties between Washington and Beirut.”   He added, “The release of private conversations calls for disgust and anger.”

Not for the first time, Mr. Feltman has his analysis precisely backwards . For it is not some leaked cables, which to date  have revealed nothing not  already widely known or suspected in Lebanon, but rather it is the internationally banned  and  intense  US interference in Lebanese internal affairs on behalf of Israel that is causing deep distrust and suspicion of American motives—all across the region—as well as among American citizens  living here and at home. These fundamental causes include, what every school child in Lebanon has witnessed in one form or another, directly or through relatives or friends. That is  the  massive  US  weapon supplies delivered to Israel , used to repeatedly  and ferociously  attack  Lebanese civilians,  killing  more than 30,000, wounding more than  200,000, and displacing more than two million, during a quarter century of Israel’s use of American weapons against Lebanon.

In addition to regularly unleashing and green lighting Israeli aggression against Lebanon, there is the continuing   and  ever evolving   ‘Embassy Beirut’ based Welsh Club “ Lebanon Project  List”  (LPL) which lengthened  in early 2005 and endures following  Mr. Welsh’s retirement  in 2009 .  It is from this informal unit that  State Department  lawyers  urged the White House to establish the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (UNSCR 1757) under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

“The duty not to intervene in matters within the domestic jurisdiction of any State, in accordance with the UN Charter.”  UN Declaration Concerning Friendly Relations among States

At various times joint US-Israeli  Welch Club  projects included plans for an airbase to be shared with Israel and NATO  at Kleit near the Sunni area of Akkar as part of ‘Northern Sunni army’  to confront  Southern Shia Hezbollah, moving the US Embassy and its electronic equipment to a hillside overlooking Dahieyh with the capacity to listen in on virtually to all conversations and watch the movements of many Hezbollah officials, setting up Druze leader Walid Jumblatt  as front man to confront  the Resistance over  its secure telecommunications system, and one of  their supporters in charge of aspects of Beirut airport security, to helping bring in Salafists, among others  and implanting  them in certain areas including Nahr al Bared and Ein el Helwe Palestinian Refugee camps, igniting, at every opportunity, sectarian tensions among, Sunni, Shia and various Christian sects, labeling  certain media outlets, and publishing the names of their investors,  and social service organizations as “terrorists’, channeling USAID  projects, to chosen sects rather than  on the basis of equality for all Lebanese and more than a dozen unproven projects to keep Lebanon divided, and  weakened  in its capacity to confront Israeli aggression, or to emerge from its history of domination  by foreign powers.

In addition, ‘Embassy Beirut’ continues to function as  Salon and sounding board for  all many of schemes to re-shape Lebanon to Israel’s liking including this week’s confirmation of the earlier rumored Israeli backed Saudi brainstorm to establish  an  “All Arab Force”  to invade Lebanon and  fight Hezbollah.

According to the 12/10/10 Beirut Daily Star, WikiLeaks cables given exclusively to the newspaper  suggested that Feltman  repeatedly expressed alarm at what he saw as France opening the door to Hezbollah as Lebanon’s  political deadlock deepened in late 2007.  ‘Embassy Beirut’ blamed Paris for succumbing to “shameless fear-mongering” and empowering the opposition party.

Said Feltman:  “Having watched the French badly fumble or [intentionally foul] the presidential elections so far, we assume the Beirut Embassy will need to take on the leadership role in building an international consensus for presidential elections now, without complicating linkages. We recommend starting to point fingers at who is to blame for Lebanon’s presidential vacuum.”

US interference on behalf of Israel, even to the degree of seeming to condone, and sometimes extend,  the  destruction of much of this country including a willingness to cede Lebanese sovereign territory to Israel, allow daily air and sea invasions of Lebanese sovereignty,  has sown strife in Lebanon.  It is that, not some  leaked Embassy cables that prevents “better ties  between Washington and Beirut” which Undersecretary Feltman and no fewer than 43 visiting US officials have bleated  to Lebanese media over  the past several years.

As it is up to the Lebanese themselves to pass judgment on who is a nationalist and who is a collaborator,  it is the right and responsibility of  the   American people to decide if their  ‘Embassy Beirut ‘ serves American or Israeli national interests.

The consequences of  ‘Embassy Beirut’  actions  are increasingly coming under scrutiny and  rejection, as the American public, rather like a huge super-tanker sized sailing ship, sighting danger ahead, adjusts its course,  ever so slowly, yet powerfully, tacking  22 degrees aft.

As American  public opinion confronts the dangerous current some American political analysts are identifying a  harbinger  when  on 12/9/10 the  U.S. House of Representatives  approved more than 205 million dollars to help Israel deploy a short-range anti-missile defense system called “Iron Dome.”  What some find remarkable was the slight margin  of the vote, 212-206, hardly the  392 to 7 or 8 votes that Israeli lobby initiatives regularly command  from the House side of Congress.

It was on April 17, 1983,  after a similar intense period of US Embassy meddling in Lebanese internal affairs and  using its diplomatic compound as a base to support one pro-Israeli Lebanese faction that many innocents were killed because the US Embassy had become a virtual command center and hence a legitimate military target.

While the 1983 tragedy will hopefully not repeat during the immediate intense period, barring new revelations or overt actions by the Embassy that green light another Israeli aggression against Lebanon, some here believe that the US Embassy may well be closed down, and experience an imposed ‘time out’  which in the case of the US Embassy in Tehran has lasted  for 30 years.

Forcing such an eventuality would serve neither Lebanese or American interests.

Franklin Lamb is doing research in Lebanon and is reachable c/o fplamb@gmail.com

Colombian Paramilitary Confirms Collusion with SOA/WHINSEC Graduates

Colombian Paramilitary Confirms Collusion with SOA/WHINSEC Graduates

Salvatore Mancuso, the former Commander of the right wing United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, testified Tuesday that the paramilitaries, branded “foreign terrorist organizations” by the U.S. State Department in 2001, were aided by high ranking Colombian military officers in training and logistics.

Mancuso, testifying in a closed hearing in the city of Medellin, said the Colombian state supported the paramilitaries since their creation in the 1980’s and that “paramilitaries are a state policy”.

Amongst the military and government officials signaled by Mancuso as collaborators are General Rito Alejo del Río, General Martín Carreño Sandoval, General Harold Bedoya Pizarro, General Fernando Landazabal, Colonel Alfonso Manosalva Flores, and the current Minister of Defense, Juan Manuel Santos. The six men received training or served as instructors at the U.S. Army School of the Americas and have been accused by Mancuso of inciting and promoting paramilitary intervention in certain regions of Colombia.

The strategy of using civilian paramilitary groups and death squads to avoid government oversight and accountability has been a common tactic of SOA/WHINSEC graduates throughout Latin America. Salvadoran SOA/WHINSEC graduate and ARENA party founder Roberto D’Aubussoin established the Death Squads that were responsible for much of the violence in El Salvador in the 1980′s. General Manuel B. Lucas Garcia, who attended the school in 1965 and 1970, masterminded the creation of the Civil Defense Patrols in Guatemala. Mexico’s Jose Ruben Rivas Pena, who took the SOA/WHINSEC’s elite Command and Staff Course, called for the “training and support for self-defense forces or other paramilitary organizations in Chiapas” as a response to the Zapatista uprising in 1994.

The Colombian military is the largest recipient of US military funding and training in Latin America and holds over 60% of the seats available to attend courses at WHINSEC.

U.S. Aid and Subsequent Abuse by Colombian Forces

U.S. Aid and Subsequent Abuse by Colombian Forces