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Views in brief

November 9, 2007 | Page 4

VIEWS BELOW:
Blackwater cronies on the attack
Boston cops' brutality on display
The man who murdered a city

Blackwater cronies on the attack

"LAWYERS FOR terror." That's how a column in the tabloid New York Post recently described one of the most respected civil liberties groups in the country.

In October, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) announced it was filing a lawsuit against the mercenary firm Blackwater USA on behalf of victims of a September 16 attack on Iraqi civilians in Baghdad's Nisour Square by the firm's forces. The attack left as many as 17 civilians dead and 24 others wounded.

Blackwater claims its employees were fired on, but witnesses--and a report by the Iraqi government--say Blackwater employees opened fire indiscriminately on civilians without provocation.

Writing in the Post, J. Michael Waller, a vice president of the Center for Security Policy--a hard-line neo-conservative think tank devoted to strengthening America's "national security interests"--described CCR as a "legal group with a four-decade record of aiding and abetting terrorists, spies and cop-killers" and claimed that it "seems to specialize in defending the enemies of American society."

CCR "has even litigated on behalf of illegal-combatant detainees at Guantánamo and mounted a spirited moral defense of [attorney[ Lynne Stewart," Waller wrote--as though providing legal representation to detainees, and fighting for the right of an attorney to represent her client were bad things. He went on to attack CCR for its defense of political prisoners like Leonard Peltier and H. Rap Brown.

Waller also singled out CCR President Michael Ratner for having gone "to the U.S. Supreme Court to get constitutional protections extended to captured terrorists and illegal combatants" and filing legal challenges to civil liberties-shredding laws like the USA PATRIOT Act.

"He's also an aggressive propagandist of the Soviet old school...Where he once pushed communist causes, today he's pushing Islamist extremism," Waller sneered. A caption on the accompanying photo of Ratner claimed: "Ratner: Defends the rights of killers."

In reality, it's Waller who is "defending the rights of killers"--in this case, the mercenaries of Blackwater, to kill Iraqi civilians indiscriminately in pursuit of the U.S "war on terror."

That's hardly surprising, given that the Center for Security Policy boasts some of the most noxious names on the right as members, including former Chair of the Defense Policy Board and super-hawk Richard Perle and former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith.

In 2003, Waller personally accused congressional Democrats of ushering in an "age of treason" by questioning the war--and used a fabricated quote supposedly from Abraham Lincoln to support the idea that Congress members who damage military morale in a time of war are "saboteurs who should be arrested, exiled or hanged."

Earlier this year, the Center's associated Web site "Family Security Matters" published an article by Philip Atkinson, a "philosopher" who specialized in the "preservation of Western civilization." Among other things, the article called for the wholesale slaughter and mass expulsion of Arabs from Iraq.

"The wisest course would have been for President Bush to use his nuclear weapons to slaughter Iraqis until they complied with his demands, or until they were all dead," wrote Atkinson, adding that "If President Bush copied Julius Caesar by ordering his army to empty Iraq of Arabs and repopulate the country with Americans, he would achieve immediate results: popularity with his military; enrichment of America by converting an Arabian Iraq into an American Iraq (therefore turning it from a liability to an asset); and boost American prestige while terrifying American enemies."

It's not surprising that the right wing is on the attack against the CCR and Ratner. There are an estimated 130,000 Blackwater employees currently operating inside of Iraq--a number nearly equal to the size of the U.S. military presence in the country.

Despite many claims of abuse and wrongful death at the hands of Blackwater employees, the CCR lawsuit is the first of its kind.

Recently appearing on CNN, Blackwater founder Erik Prince took a similar tactic as Waller when asked to respond to the CCR lawsuit. "[T]he trial lawyers that filed this lawsuit are the same guys that defended the World Trade Center bombings in 1993, the Blind Sheikh, and have defended a bunch of killers of FBI agents and other cops," said Prince. "So this is very much a politically motivated lawsuit for media attention."

But as Ratner recently told Democracy Now's Amy Goodman, such attacks are "a transparent attempt to try and divert attention from Blackwater's actions, particularly in the September killings, where there's many, many witnesses and much evidence that basically says no one fired on Blackwater, Blackwater just fired and killed 17 people. So that's an obvious attempt. It's barely worthy of a response, because that's all that's going on."

As lawyer Susan Burke, who helped file the case, recently told Jeremy Scahill in the Nation, the case is about establishing a pattern wherein "excessive and unnecessary use of deadly force by [Blackwater] employees is not investigated or punished in any way."

"What these Iraqi families are doing is a civil service to all Iraqis because they don't want anyone else to be killed by Blackwater," she added.
Nicole Colson, Chicago

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Boston cops' brutality on display

WHILE THE Red Sox won their second World Series title in four years, fans came out in droves onto the streets of downtown Boston to find themselves in the middle of a police state.

Boston spent over $800,000 in two weeks on hundreds of public and private police, including the local city police, state troopers, transit authority and various college police officers. Plus, the city put in place over 53 surveillance cameras throughout Boston and provided police officers with individual cameras. Their job? To "keep the peace" with their horses, bikes, paddy wagons and wooden batons.

The brutality with which the police forced fans out of public streets after the World Series and American League Championship Series (ACLS) the previous week reminded people of the last time the police tried to keep Boston "safe."

In 2004, after the last Boston World Series win, Victoria Snelgrove, a 21-year-old Emerson College journalism student, was shot dead by a cop with a pellet of pepper spray while she was celebrating with fans near Fenway Park. None of the officers involved were ever prosecuted. Instead the blame was placed on fans for acting like "violent thugs."

This year, it was as if the city of Boston and all the major news channels had forgotten the crime committed against Victoria. No one mentioned the incident as the media broadcasted, justified and even congratulated the cops for pushing into the crowds of fans, and arresting anyone who could not get out of the way fast enough.

While celebrating downtown after the victorious American League championshp, I witnessed cops pushing anyone in their way, telling people to "get out of the way or we'll take you down."

While the media, city officials and local authorities blamed fans for getting out of control, the real source of out-of-hand brutality and rowdiness were the cops and local government that unnecessarily hired them to come out.
Amirah Goldberg, Boston

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The man who murdered a city

I RODE out Hurricane Katrina in the same home in which I rode out Hurricane Betsy 40 years earlier. Then the water started to rise. As a "survivor," I am not so concerned with getting money as I am at getting someone to expose the criminal politician responsible.

I wish I could find someone who would expose the truth behind the flooding of New Orleans, which was caused by graft, not Hurricane Katrina. As a civic activist, I tried to expose the corrupt monster over 10 years before the disaster.

While the Corps of Engineers is certainly culpable, this disaster would never have happened without the help of the greatest terrorist and criminal of our time, former Mayor "Slimy Sidney" Barthelemy, "The Man Who Murdered a City."

Barthelemy, for the sake of graft, did what no previous mayor, however corrupt, had been vile enough to sink to doing. He sabotaged the defenses on which the very existence of the city depended--the levees.

He deliberately gutted the engineering department of the Sewage and Water Board, forcing out the veteran engineers who, through many years of experience, knew the soil conditions and knew that those flimsy, "stage prop" floodwalls the Corps was planning on building were disasters waiting to happen.

But to do the job right would have meant going back to Congress for more money, very likely delaying the project until Slimy Sidney was out of office. And Barthelemy cared absolutely nothing for the good of the city, or public safety. His wrecking of the Regional Transit Authority proved that. All that he cared for was making sure that the money went into his pocket, not some other mayor's. So he replaced the experienced engineers he fired with worthless stooges who would do whatever he told them to do.

These same Barthelemy "engineers," still infesting the Sewage and Water Board to this day, later insanely dredged the drainage canals in such a manner as to remove virtually all of what little foundations those floodwalls had.

The 17th Street canal, which straddles the Orleans-Jefferson Parish line is a glaring example. Jefferson engineers refused to allow that lunatic dredging on their side of the canal, which is why only the Orleans side collapsed.

A year before Katrina, people living along the drainage canals complained of salt water seeping into their yards from the canals, killing plants. When there is little rainfall, the lake becomes more brackish, and salt water from the lake backs up into the canals. To a competent, honest engineer, this would be a clear sign that something was dangerously wrong with the levee foundations. But Barthelemy's "engineers" swept the whole thing under the rug, telling people that they were "imagining things."

This does not mean that the Corps of Engineers is not guilty. Had those sheet pilings been driven to a proper depth, and properly reinforced at the top, even incompetent dredging would not have weakened them enough to collapse.

Not only did the Corps not build real floodwalls--ones that would not fold up and collapse like cheap card tables the first time water rose high enough to put any real pressure on them--they threw away a chance to limit the flooding after the collapse.

Soon after the floodwalls failed, Boh Bros Construction Co., a large and old firm with much experience in levee construction and a good reputation for expertise, went to the Corps and offered to seal off the damaged canals by sinking some of their barges in the mouths, sealing the edges with sandbags. If Boh Bros. said it could be done, it could be done.

Since one canal, the Orleans Avenue one with its pumping station, was still operative, and floating pumps could have been brought in to pump water out of the blocked canals, much of the flooding could have been averted. But the Corps refused to let them try.

By the way, our local "news media"(so called) helped cause this disaster by systematically suppressing all evidence of Barthelemy's criminality.
Edwin D. Weber, Jr., New Orleans

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