Anonymous Are Cowards, Say Lawyers Who Defend Admitted War Criminals

I am a bit high off the news that activist group Anonymous hacked a law firm, Puckett & Faraj, which defends military clients, and leaked 2.6 gigabytes of emails. Principal Neal Puckett successfully defended Frank Wuterich, who led the Marine death squad responsible for the Haditha massacre. In Nov. 2005, as random revenge for the roadside-bombing death of a comrade, the Marines broke into several homes in the Anbar province town of Haditha and slaughtered 24 people, all civilians.

Wuterich received absolutely no jail time whatsoever. Instead, he got a pay cut and demotion for pleading guilty.

Now, everyone accused of even the most violent crimes deserves a lawyer — civil libertarians have unfortunately been forced to stridently argue this in recent years. But only the most brutal, sadistic, mass-murdering criminals seem to get a lawyer these days — at least up until you hit a certain station, and then no lawyer is necessary because no charges will ever be brought. Anyone else accused of applicable crimes is thrown in a hole or extrajudicially executed. This is why Puckett & Faraj seem to be a legitimate and symbolic target.

Having just escaped having to serve on a jury, I can tell you lawyers aren’t always the smartest people in the room. So it’s hardly surprising to see the twisted logic in the following tweet from Puckett & Faraj:

“Puckett Faraj cyber-attacked Friday by cowards for defending Frank Wuterich from the government the hackers seek to destroy – go figure.”

Several problems here. 1) Wuterich *is* the government. 2) Anonymous and other activists — remember Occupy Wall Street? — are angry specifically over the unequal treatment given government actors in government courts versus the rest of us. Glenn Greenwald just wrote an entire book about this. That is precisely what happened in the Wuterich case. 3) As is it literally deadly to fight against the ruling system head-on, it is from a position of self-preservation, not cowardice, that the apparatuses of state are attacked anonymously.

Should law firms who represent war criminals be so attacked? It depends. Let’s call it an iffy means to a just end, exercised on a key pillar of an oppressive system. All things are not equal.

“This may completely destroy the law firm,” admitted Puckett & Faraj’s business manager in an email.

Wuterich and his pals no doubt have a name for this. It’s called “collateral damage.”


SOPA, and Why We’re Not Blacked Out

Today is the day digital activists protest the Internet-censorship bill known as SOPA by symbolically blacking out their websites. SOPA, or the Stop Online Piracy Act, is a megacorporate-written scheme to “protect” entertainment and media conglomerates’ intellectual property, but it could shut down and otherwise disrupt much of the Internet if properly applied. It’s an attack on free speech. backs the blackout protests fully, and we absolutely, unequivocally condemn this hideous bill. But we can’t join in the protest itself. There is simply too much going on in the world to give the War Party a break from our 24/7 scrutiny. And goodness knows they won’t be taking a break.

We will continue providing information on the issue as it progresses.

Gitmo Actually Was a Prison Camp Before

Historian Jonathan M. Hansen has a unique and wonderfully written piece today in the New York Times about Guantánamo — the base itself, not the terror-war prison camp. In it, he reminds us of the century-long imperialist project just a puddle-jumper ride from Miami, planned from the start as an evisceration of Cuban sovereignty. From the time McKinley stole the War for Cuban Independence from the revolutionaries who had almost won against the Spanish (we call it the “Spanish-American War”) the US sought to actually strong-arm Cuba into asking for full annexation — a “choice” Washington didn’t even bother extending to Puerto Rico and many other former Spanish possessions.

Hansen, author of a book on the base, Guantánamo: An American History, makes the argument that the US should finally hand GTMO back to Cuba and be done with it. This might even help relations between our countries — this of course naively assumes Washington operates in good faith in such matters. There’s nothing objectionable, but I do find it odd that neither in this piece nor in all the “Tenth Anniversary” articles on terror-Gitmo I have seen, the base’s immediately previous existence was a de facto prison camp.

I am old enough to remember when Guantánamo was where the Coast Guard held Cuban and Haitian refugees who tried to make the marine dash to Florida, but didn’t quite make it.

Reagan established the refugee center to throw away Haitians after it was decided “too many” were making it to the US and staying. In 1994, when Fidel Castro told Cubans they would not be stopped if they wanted to leave the island, thousands of rafters streamed toward Florida. Clinton ordered those apprehended sent to Guantánamo.

In this 1994 Philadelphia Inquirer piece, the miserable daily life of some forty thousand people, about two-thirds Cuban, the rest Haitian, is detailed. They couldn’t go home; they weren’t allowed in the US despite that many had relatives in Florida willing to help them on this side of the Straits. By 1995, the Haitians had gone home after the US reinstalled Aristide as president; by 1996, the Cubans were allowed into the US after months of lobbying from influential Cuban-Americans.

It’s perfectly consistent that the Bush administration would choose Gitmo as a prison camp for its uniquely limbo-like legal qualities. But it seems equally likely Rumsfeld would have valued the base staff’s previous two decades of practice on refugees.

Video: Elderly Israeli Fighter Talks About 1948 Genocide

Electronic Intifada‘s Benjamin Doherty shared a video from “Nakba”-awareness group Zochrot – “Remembering” – of a former Palmach fighter who participated in the expulsion of unarmed Palestinian Arabs from their villages in Southern Israel. Amnon Neumann casually describes that he helped kill people, burn their villages, and chase off women and children. He regrets his actions but notes he is one of the few to admit his crimes; even so, he is loath to talk about the details of the atrocities.

In one grimace-inducing moment, Neumann talks of the Palestinians who didn’t quite realize they wouldn’t be coming back, who sneaked out of Gaza refugee camps at night to tend their villages’ grapevines. There, says Neumann, they were gunned down.

As late as the 50s, he notes, Arab villages were being evicted wholesale and forced to Gaza. The desert was made to bloom, it seems, only after its villages were ploughed under.

The reason for the Nakba, said Neumann, was “the Zionist ideology.” Like all ultranationalist movements, Zionism requires the murder and expulsion of a people and the destruction of all evidence of their existence. Those not destroyed must be permanently subjugated by the ethnicity in charge. It seems that for many, the tragedy of the Holocaust was that it happened to Jews. That the Nakba happened to Arabs means it’s not worth our attention — or worse, they are revised as aggressors.

“This is very clear. We came to inherit the land. Who do you inherit from? If the land is empty you inherit it from no one. The land was not empty when we inherited it.”

Ethiopia: America’s Model for Civil Liberty?

Remember how the US contracted Ethiopia to “restore order” in Somalia? The East African dictatorship was to help install a UN-backed government of warlords and former communist apparatchiks in order to “free” Somalia. They ended up obliterating the delicate gains the impoverished society had made in the early 2000s.

Ethiopia, whose government purposely starved Its Own People to death in the 80s, such that Americans sang songs about them, was Washington’s light of freedom unto the Somalis. That turned out horrifyingly as we know — Ethiopia could poetically be said to have infected Somalia with famine; many other African despotisms have been roped in to somehow deliver democracy at missile-point, killing and displacing thousands in the process; an insurgency of war-scarred children runs wild.

But the point isn’t to mock yet again the utter, utter failure of US foreign policy with regard to Somalia, but to note that Ethiopia — DC’s go-to for regional freedom delivery — is run by terrible people who monitor and punish journalism they feel threaten them. Two Swedish journalists were just sentenced to 15 years in prison for “terrorism,” i.e., the crime of attempting to report in the Ogaden, an ethnic Somali region ruled brutally by Addis Ababa. Ethiopian journalists have been charged with terrorism as well. Many flee, shuttering their papers, in order to avoid what I imagine are quite inhospitable prisons — all for speaking their minds.

In the US, meanwhile, a sort of terror-fueled guerrilla law has taken hold, which will now soon be properly codified thanks to a few hawks and an ocean of cowards in Congress, plus a power-mad president. One could wonder if Ethiopia might be the model for the US government lately, whose leaders have seen fit to torture, imprison, and murder Americans for their own crimes of speech.

I End the Iraq War Whenever I Feel Blue

Have the Republican debates this year caught up with the number of times Obama has declared the Iraq war over yet? Just wondering.

Oh we love to kid the president about endlessly ending the war in Iraq, which killed possibly over a million, ruined a society, and scattered millions more — and which Panetta says has been “worth it” and Obama says is a “success”. But he really is trying to get away with simultaneously being seen as the opposite of the brash Bush and his embarrassing “Mission Accomplished” aircraft-carrier landing while having ceremony after press conference about how “he” ended the war in Iraq. Many so-somber memorials and paeans to “our men and women in uniform” — now with more gay! — are what statesmen do, see. Only a child acts like those reckless Republicans.

It’s an attitude that says image and demeanor is what’s important, instead of the plain fact that a country was obliterated, men were tortured and murdered, women were humiliated and widowed, children were scarred and irradiated. Obama’s smirk is seen as confident and reassuring, while Bush’s identical smirk was juvenile, needlessly provocative. But it was Obama who evaporated countless families in Pakistan for the crime of being in the way. Only Obama drone-murdered a US citizen who said mean things about America on YouTube and his 16-year-old son. But Obama didn’t talk about it, so it’s somehow statesmanship and not brutality.

Sorry to be such a downer, but in fact the war goes on, not least in Iraq where the prime minister seems to be consolidating Saddam-like power before the last US soldier even heads out, but also because there will be thousands of subcontracted mercenaries who remain. Yes, they’re armed, and Obama is fighting hard to exempt them from Iraqi law in case they commit some kind of mass civilian slaughter, say. And if it heats up too much, we got this — thousands of US troops will remain just across the border and around the Gulf region to pop by if necessary.

But don’t let that stop the ceremonies of choreographed sadness in front of soldiers — and more importantly, television cameras. There’s an election coming.