SpeakOut is Truthout's treasure chest for bloggy, quirky, personally reflective, or especially activism-focused pieces. SpeakOut articles represent the perspectives of their authors, and not those of Truthout.

Jul 26

Goons Guns and Georgia

By Jim and Jean Anton, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

July 1, 2014. I planned an early morning hike in the woods with the grandkids. That same morning, I read about Georgia's Guns-Everywhere law that allows anyone in Georgia to carry a gun into a church, bar, school, or library, but not into the Statehouse where the politicians who wrote the legislation do their "work."

I wondered why Guns Everywhere didn't include the Georgia Statehouse since the legislation (parading as the Safe Carry Protections Act) was enacted allegedly to increase safety.

Jul 26

A Tale of Strategic Talbanization

By Zulfiqar Shah, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

The recent military campaign "Zarb-e-Azb" by Pakistan Army in Afghanistan bordering tribal areas against Taliban, Al-Qaida and their Pakistani, Central Asian and Arab fugitive recruits continues to occupy news and analysis. Like previous ones, this recent military campaign was of no significant result, thus compelling the United States to drone strategically important "Punjabi Talban Headquarters" on July 19. Due to the changing complexion of religiosity and terrorism in Pakistan, a review of the military move is needed in the perspective of Talibanization in Southern Pakistan.

There are some commonalities in the recent and the previous military campaigns launched in the Pashtun tribal areas. The campaign, like previous ones, has been selective, in which certain terrorists were targeted, meanwhile the rest were given space to flee into adjacent tribal, semi-tribal and provincial areas of Southern Khyber Pakhtunkhuwa, Sindh and Balochistan provinces. A larger part of the terrorists were Punjabi Taliban, hence was deliberately excluded from the campaign through political tactics of negotiations. The campaign also caused a massive human displacement and, like in the past, it was used as a safe passage for establishment's 'blue eyed boys'.

The Win Without War coalition released the following statement by Advocacy Director, Stephen Miles, in response to House passage of H. Con. Res. 105. Introduced by Reps. Jim McGovern (D-MA), Walter Jones (R-NC), and Barbara Lee (D-CA), H. Con. Res. 105 is a strong, clear statement of congressional opposition to US military intervention in Iraq.

"Today the House of Representatives made clear that they stand with the American public, who do not want to go back to war in Iraq. By passing H. Con. Res 105 overwhelmingly, the House also sent a strong message to President Obama that there is no authorization for any escalation of US military involvement in Iraq."

Hand it to President Obama for appointing Eric Holder the first African American Attorney General in US history. Then try to fathom that after generations of civil and human rights work by African Americans -- whom the US Constitution once called "3/5 of a person" -- it is Holder who declared some brown skinned prisoners of war to be "non-persons." The men are held outside the law by the US at Guantánamo Bay.

Attorneys for the POWs have asked for an order that would allow group prayers during the holy month of Ramadan, but Holder's Justice Dept. has formally replied that the men aren't entitled to relief under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) because the Supreme Court has not found that Guantánamo's prisoners "are 'persons' to whom RFRA applies."

Clearly whoever fired that SA 11 BUK (a Soviet 1972 ground to air missile) bears the primary responsibility for shooting down the airliner. Although the Ukrainan army, like the Russian army, has this system, the position of the wreckage and the unhelpful behavior of the leaders of the self-styed Donetsk People's Republic makes it virtually certain that they are responsible. It is not yet clear whether the system used was one of those that once formed part of the Ukrainian army or was recently supplied by Russia.

But Russia's support for the Donetsk separatists is well known and the Donetsk "people's republic" could hardly have been declared had Russia disapproved. But blame falls much wider than this. With warnings in place regarding the dangers of Ukrainian airspace which was therefore avoided by other airlines, how was it that MH 17 entered this airspace from the East? A Malaysian Airlines desire to save fuel costs with the shorter route? And the Captain of MH17 who bore ultimate responsibility for his plane's security – why did he agree to the fly this route? And what is the responsibility of the Ukrainian aviation authorities? Did the plane have their permission to overfly? Was Ukrainian air traffic control in contact with this flight?

The European Court of Human Rights has today ruled that the Polish government was not only aware of but actively assisted the CIA's European "black site" programme, which saw detainees held and tortured in secret prisons across the Continent.

In a judgement handed down today in the case of Abu Zubaydah, a Guantanamo detainee who the US has admitted it mistakenly believed to be a senior member of Al Qaeda, the court concluded that it was "established beyond reasonable doubt" that Abu Zubaydah was flown from a secret site in Thailand to another CIA prison in Stare Kiejkuty in northern Poland.

Jul 25

Seven Arrested at Hancock Air Base in Anti-Drone Protest

By Palina Prasasouk, SpeakOut | Press Release

Earlier today eight Atlantic Life Community activists joined with Upstate Drone Action at the main gate of Hancock Air Base, in Syracuse, New York. Hancock is the home of the 174th Attack Wing of the New York State Air National Guard. The 174th Attack Wing pilots weaponized MQ9 Reaper drones over Afghanistan – killing and terrorizing an uncountable number of civilians.

The eight delivered a People's War Crimes Indictment to the Hancock chain of command by affixing it to the fence after being refused by the base personnel. Also delivered was an Order of Protection on behalf of the children of the world who are subject to U.S. drone surveillance and attack.

Mr. President, Distinguished Members of the Human Rights Council, Excellencies,

The situation in the occupied Gaza Strip is critical for the civilians living there and requires your urgent attention. Since Israel announced its military operation "Protective Edge" on 7 July, Gaza has been subjected to daily intensive bombardment from the air, land and sea, employing well over 2,100 air strikes alone. The hostilities have resulted in the deaths of more than 600 Palestinians, including at least 147 children and 74 women.

This is the third serious escalation of hostilities in my six years as High Commissioner. As we saw during the two previous crises in 2009 and 2012, it is innocent civilians in the Gaza Strip, including children, women, the elderly and persons with disabilities, who are suffering the most.

I can only imagine the horror in Gaza today as Israel intensifies its assault of that overcrowded, impoverished strip. It is a continuing nightmare story of pain and loss, of trauma and devastation. The heartbreaking numbers by themselves tell part of the story— with hundreds killed, thousands wounded, tens of thousands without homes, and now 600,000 without water. But the story of Gaza is more than these numbers and this current assault.

Even in earlier times, Gaza could be a nightmare. In the early 1990's I spent time in Jabalia— a sprawling refugee camp that is home to more than 80,000. During 25 years of Israeli occupation, nothing had been done to improve the infrastructure of the camp. The roads were unpaved, sewage ran into puddles in the streets and flowed directly into the sea, leaving the beaches polluted. The defining characteristic of the place was grinding poverty. In 1994, the then Secretary of Commerce, Ron Brown, visited Gaza after completing a tour of South Africa. Upon his return, he told an audience that what he saw in Jabalia was worse than Soweto.

Jul 24

Whose War Palestine?

By Mike Nuess, Teleologics | Op-Ed

Nation States are not moral agents but centers of power capable of complete ruthlessness in the accumulation and consolidation of power. They are limited only by their own capabilities and their population’s ability to constrain them. The U.S. is certainly no exception.

In 1884, U.S. Army Major William Shepherd observed that, "On the frontier a good Indian means a dead Indian," reflecting a commonly held attitude of the times. It was so broadly held that U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt could reflect upon it in an 1886 speech, "I don't go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe nine out of every ten are..." [1]