Saturday, September 17, 2005

Ignored to Death: A Criminal Execution

Ignored to Death: A Criminal Execution - Dave Lindorff - It is now time for death penalty opponents and the team of appellate defenders who fought for Newton’s life to redouble their efforts to prove her innocence, and to once and for all demonstrate the monstrosity of the sick, racist death penalty in not just Texas but the entire United States.

Katrina Victim: Frances Newton RIP
Dave Lindorff

this can't be
September 15, 2005

Frances Newton died Wednesday for Bush's sins

The 40-year-old black woman, executed by the death-obsessed state of Texas last night following a rejection by the US Supreme Court of her attorneys' last-ditch appeal, and after the state's craven and bloodthirsty "pardons and parole" board refused to recommend a stay to Gov. Rick Perry, hardly merited mention in the nation's media, which are now awash in stories about Bush's disaster in New Orleans. (The story got a 79-word shirt-tail report on page 25 of the New York Times, tucked under a larger story about the House changing rules for hate crimes and child molesters, and next to a story about Hurricane Ophelia.)

Those who are looking for an example of an innocent person's being executed by the state may well find it in the case of this unfortunate woman, who almost certainly was not guilty of killing her husband and child as charged by the state of Texas.

Her guilt was always hard to fathom, with the prosecution claiming that, after killing her alleged victims, Newton somehow left the scene, disposed of the gun, and returned only 30 minutes later with not a trace of blood on her body or clothes, which were all dry--a good trick, as OJ Simpson could attest, given the amount of blood at the scene.

Newton insisted on her innocence of the crime right up to her death, and offered an alternative theory--that her husband and 7-year-old had been killed over a debt to a drug dealer--a theory that her notoriously inept and subsequently suspended attorney Ronald Mock never bothered to investigate. Newton claimed she had removed a gun from the house after hearing her husband and his brother talking about "some trouble," and she thought it better to get the weapon out of the house.

The trial was rife with improprieties and prosecutorial misconduct--the most egregious of which was that investigators had recovered not one but three identical .25 cal. pistols during their investigation of the case, while the prosecution pretended there had been only one pistol recovered and improperly hid information about the other two from the defense. It was also rife with the standard neglect and incompetence we've come to expect from underpaid, unmotivated and incompetent public defenders provided to poor and black defendants in such cases--Mock never even brought in Newton's dead husband's parents, who had volunteered to testify on her behalf, and who have steadfastly opposed her execution!

Ironically, when there was more attention being paid to the case back in December 2004, Gov. Perry granted a 120-day stay from execution because of evidentiary questions in the case that raised some doubt about her guilt. Yet the matter of the multiple guns and the outrageous hiding of important exculpatory evidence from defense--which raised much more serious questions about her guilt and about the fairness of her trial--came up subsequent to that stay. In other words, doubts about Newton's guilt were much greater the day she was executed than they were last year when Perry granted a stay.

So what was different between December '04 and September '05? The lack of public and media attention to the case.

Katrina and the disastrous Bush response to the deadly flooding of New Orleans simply trumped the story of the first execution of a black woman since the Civil War.

Of course, Newton also got less media attention all along because of her race. The execution of an admitted female killer, Karla Faye Tucker, by Texas only seven years ago, was page-one news for weeks leading up to her execution. What was different? Certainly not the depravity of the crime, as her bloodthirstiness was stunning. The real difference was her race--Tucker was white--and the fact that Tucker had “found God” while on death row.

So, in a sense one could say Newton is yet another victim of Hurricane Katrina, though given her race and class, it is quite likely she would have died anyway had the hurricane never hit the Gulf Coast. She is, however, clearly also another notch for chief executioner George Bush. It was while he was governor that her shameful trial unfolded. It was on his watch as governor that her initial efforts to win a new trial were rejected, it was a state pardons and parole board that still bears the marks of Bush's appointments that rejected her plea for her life, and it was in Bush's shadow as the former Governor Death that her latest effort to win a stay or a pardon from Bush's successor, Gov. Perry, that she finally had her date with a lethal injection.

It is now time for death penalty opponents and the team of appellate defenders who fought for Newton’s life to redouble their efforts to prove her innocence, and to once and for all demonstrate the monstrosity of the sick, racist death penalty in not just Texas but the entire United States.

Meanwhile, it should be noted that Judge John Roberts continues to imply in his testimony at the Senate hearing considering his nomination for Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court that he thinks condemned prisoners like Newton have been been given too many chances to challenge their convictions, and that the march to the death chamber needs to be faster,

8:13 am pdt

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Plague Mice

Plague Mice Loosed: Jersey Search for Bubonic Lab Escapees

PEJ News - C. L. Cook - "About" two weeks ago, authorities now admit, three mice infected with the Bubonic Plague went missing from a New Jersey "bioterrorism" lab.

Plague Mice Loosed

C. L. Cook

PEJ News
September 15, 2005

The Public Health Research Institute, which is on the campus of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey say their lost charges are probably dead by now. But they add, the possiblilty the mice were stolen has not been ruled out. The FBI conducted more than two dozen interviews with employees of the lab, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention too has sent investigators to the campus.

The University is not commenting at this time on the investigation.

The PHRI is a prime example of the accelerated corporatization and militarization of America's campuses since George W. Bush's 'War on Terrorism' was launched in 2001. The labs are contracted, through the University, to bioterrorism research for the federal government.

The mice in question were subjects of vaccination experiments. Though there are still cases of Bubonic, the great Plague that ravished Europe four centuries ago, they are few and are usually treated effectively with standard antibiotics. But, left unchecked, it can mutate into a powerfully contagious pneumatic disease.

Investigators didn't have to travel far in reaction to this incident: federal authorities were already reviewing the University's finances, multi-million dollar "no-bid" contracts and suspect political donations.

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, broad/webcast from the University of Victoria, Canada. He also serves as a contributing editor to PEJ News. You can check out the GR Blog here.


Hunt on for Bubonic Plague-mice,,2-10-1462_1771597,00.html

Mice Infected with Plague Missing,0,6676814.story?coll=ny-region-apnewjersey

Just How Big a Hazard are They?

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Bill Graham's Afghanistan "Pre-Body-Bag Tour"

Canadians Made Ready for Afghanistan Death Toll

PEJ News - C. L. Cook - Defence Minister, Bill Graham has again warned Canadians they should expect soldiers serving in Afghanistan to be killed and wounded. Speaking from Germany, Graham says he's about to embark on an extensive tour in Canada to "explain the nature of the mission" to Canadians.

Canadians Made Ready
for Afghanistan Death Toll

C. L. Cook

PEJ News
September 15, 2005

The nature of the Afghanistan mission has transformed somewhat in the past few months, as has the nature of Canada's military. No longer focused primarily on "peacekeeping," Canada's forces are being restructured to more resemble the American model.

Graham recently ordered Canadians out of the north of Afghanistan, where they've operated out of Camp Julien for several years, patrolling the streets and near environs of the capital, Kabul. The bulk of the Canadian contingent, one of more than a dozen international military forces in the country, is to be redeployed to the more volatile south and west of the country.

Military insiders, report Mike Blanchfield and David Pugliese of CanWest News Service, refer to Mr. Graham's travel plans as a "pre-body-bag speaking tour." Though, Mr. Graham would certainly disagree: Nobody calls them "body-bags" anymore; the au courant term in the United States is "Transit Tube." And, Mr. Graham wants nothing more than the complete integration of Canadian and American military terminology, and more.

Seven Canadians have so far officially returned home via transit tubes since the 2002 launch of 'Operation Enduring Freedom.' Four of those perished when bombed by an American warplane that mistook a live-fire practice range exercise for enemy hostility. That pilot was charged, tried, and found guilty of negligence causing death. It was later discovered he was "high" on amphetamines, or "Go Pills" at the time of the bombing. The drug, known on the street as "speed," is routinely issued to U.S. pilots undergoing long missions.

There are reportedly 250 Canadian soldiers, and an unknown number of the secretive JTF2 commandos unit in and around Kandahar presently, but that number will increase to more than 1300 when deployments begin in earnest. Camp Julien is scheduled to be evacuated after this week's general election in Afghanistan.

The Canadian mission shift has not gone unnoticed by Taliban and reputed Al Qaida elements in the country. Just today, a Canadian patrol in the relatively calm capital city, Kabul, came under attack. Two soldiers were reported as being "lightly wounded" when a remote control road-side bomb was detonated as they passed by.

The Defence Minister brushed off growing political pressure to bring troops home, saying "they're well-trained, they're well-equipped, they're ready for this mission, and I think the Canadian public is supporting it on that basis."

How far that imagined support will go when the transit tubes start rolling home is something the minister would rather not discuss, for fear of damaging morale.

Chris Cook
host Gorilla Radio, broad/webcast from the University of Victoria, Canada. He also serves as a contributing editor at PEJ News. You can check out the GR Blog here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

"Will No-One Clean Up My Mess?"

"Will No-One Clean Up My Mess?" Rumsfeld Pushes NATO

PEJ News
- C. L. Cook - While his boss pleads a Mea Culpa (sort of) for his administration's abrogation before, during, and after hurricane Katrina, Donald Rumsfeld fumes indignant that NATO is reluctant to take over responsibility for another Bush disaster.

"Will No-One Clean Up My Mess?"
C. L. Cook

PEJ News
September 13, 2005

In Europe for meetings of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), U.S. Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld expressed frustration at the inability of the 17 nation alliance to operate "effectively" to address a variety of military challenges. The problem according to the secretary is one of national sovereignty, especially when it comes to things like invading foreign countries. Says Rumsfeld: "Different restrictions on national forces makes it enormously difficult for [NATO] commanders to have the flexibility to function."

What Mr. Rumsfeld is saying here is, as long as member nations of the alliance, designed to thwart the threat of Soviet attack following the Second World War, cling to domestic law and bow to political pressure at home, American military "flexibility" will be hampered.

As first among equals in NATO, the U.S. has had a lot of success utilizing the mutli-nation force to achieve American interests; the Balkan campaign being the prime example. But there has been some bitterness on the part of that coalition of the willing. Following the fall of Belgrade and the consequent divvying up of the spoils, the Europeans felt short-changed.

The French, Italians, and to a lesser degree, Germans believed, because the Former Republic of Yugoslavia was in their backyard, and because they faced much greater political fallout from the 78 day NATO bombing campaign that eventually ousted Slobodan Milosevic from power, the choice privatization and reconstruction contracts would go first to European business. But, that didn't happen.

Now, with the U.S. intractably mired in Iraq, and Afghanistan growing more restive as the national election there approaches, "Old Europe" is playing coy with the prospect of further involvement; perhaps hoping to wring out richer "co-operation" deals, but also with an eye to the jaundiced public perception of the Bush administration and its recent history.

For German politicos facing an election of their own at week's end, supporting what's widely seen in Europe as American Imperial ambition, or even appearing to support U.S. foreign policy and its universally reviled president George W. Bush, would be disastrous at the polls.

It's all enough to have Donald Rumsfeld fretting to the press, longing for the "New Europe" that dissipated so quickly. Sounding unlike the cocksure hawk of old, Rumsfeld opined: "Over time it would be nice if NATO would develop counter-terrorist capabilities which don't exist at the current time."

"over time it would be nice...?"

Of course, what the Defense Secretary wants is more European boots on the ground, and more money in the kitty. But, Rumsfeld's got a problem: He's playing a losing hand and everyone knows it. What Americans don't quite get at home, here in Europe is clear to the most obtuse observers: America is in deep doo-doo.

The Europeans see the U.S. army over-stretched and over-stressed; the domestic economy in ruins; the political mood turning against the administration; and now, the disastrous Katrina. How much time Rumsfeld can afford is the stake at this NATO table.

Tomorrow, the ministers will meet. Rumsfeld will push for European relief for the roughly 20,000 U.S. military tied up in Afghanistan. For their part, the Europeans, and lesser Canada, will let the secretary twist a bit before committing more than the current 11,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan.

This weekend's scheduled election in Afghanistan could prove the crucible test for both America's resolve in the region, and the future course of trans-Atlantic relations for at least what remains of the Bush presidency.

Chris Cook
hosts Gorilla Radio, broad/webcast from the University of Victoria, Canada. He also serves as a contributing editor to PEJ News. You can check out the GR Blog here.

Tal Afar Massacre

Tal Afar; crackdown in the Sunni Heartland
By Mike Whitney

09/13/05 "ICH"
-- -- The siege of Tal Afar follows a familiar pattern of brutal American incursions into densely populated areas under the pretense of fighting terrorism. It is a ritual that is repeated endlessly despite the dismal results. The Pentagon seems to prefer these grand displays of military strength to anything that might produce a political solution. It brings to mind the old saw, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again; expecting a different result." This appears to be the guiding principle of the Defense Dept. with Tal Afar serving as the most recent example.

In the present case, a city of 250,000 has been almost entirely evacuated following weeks of artillery bombardment, aerial bombing raids, downed power-lines and water-system, and house-to-house searches.

Ho-hum. Such paltry events never even reach the front page of American newspapers where the ceremony of American suffering is the only topic of interest.

The remaining occupants of the city have reported the killing and maiming of innocent women and children, the use of chemical weapons, and the predictable destruction of Mosques and holy sites. In Tal Afar the Pentagon's "Hearts and Minds" program seems to be running at high-gear.

There was no doubt that Donald Rumsfeld would use the cover of Hurricane Katrina to mount a massive attack in Iraq, and he didn't disappoint. The military conducted a 10,000 man invasion only to find that the city had been abandoned and that the Iraqi resistance had slipped away without incident. Not one foreign fighter was captured during the siege despite claims that the city was a haven for foreign terrorists.

Colonel Greg Reilly told Al Jazeera that the resistance "went into hiding, avoiding us. That's why there's no fighting..They are not putting up a fight".

Did O'Reilly really expect the poorly-armed resistance to march into battle against Abrams tanks, helicopter gun-ships, and F-18s?

The resistance applied classic guerilla tactics and "melted away" before they were confronted by the greater force leaving the Marines with nothing to show for their effort except a few random prisoners. Nevertheless, this hasn't persuaded the Pentagon to modify their plans of savaging the remaining cities in the Sunni heartland. They still cling to the vain hope that increasing the violence will quash the resistance.

Iraq's Prime Minister Al Jaafari has shown a surprising enthusiasm for the Rumsfeld's blitzkrieg against the Sunnis. He gave the siege of Tal Afar his personal blessing and said that the hostilities were being conducted "on his orders". He also announced that he was contributing thousands of newly-graduated Iraqi soldiers to the war-effort, even though his decision is bound to be unpopular among the Iraqi public. Al-Jaafari has now put himself in the same position as his predecessor, Iyad Allawi, who lost all credibility when he authorized the invasion of Falluja.

This shows the shortsightedness of the current plan. If Rumsfeld wants to pass off al-Jaafari as a viable political candidate, he must appear to be independent of American influence. By endorsing the attack on Tal Afar, al-Jaafari looks like just another American stooge carrying water for the occupation. Ultimately, this will undermine his legitimacy and disrupt the plan to create a credible "Arab façade" to disguise the administrations intentions.

There's very little to discuss about the botched siege of Tal Afar. The assault follows the same basic blueprint of jack-boot tactics we've seen in similar acts of American aggression. Tens of thousands of lives were disrupted and possibly ruined through forced evacuation, massive property damage has been sustained throughout the city, the mayor resigned in protest of the invasion, the public is more polarized than ever, 152 people were killed in the bombing with countless others detained indefinitely, the resistance fighters escaped unscathed, and the Red Cross reports that the offensive has created a humanitarian crisis that is beyond their limited resources.

In other words, the entire operation was an utter failure.

The media has kept Tal Afar off the front page and framed the debacle as another crucial step in liberating Iraq from the disparate forces of terrorism.

What nonsense. Apart from the conspicuous immorality of the action, the stupidity is almost too hard to bear. Tar Afar is simply a duplication of the same failed policy we have seen over and over again for the last two years.

Has anyone in the Pentagon ever read Che Guevara or any of the other classic tomes of guerrilla warfare?

Why are the same futile policies being replicated day by day when we already know that they are doomed to failure?

Is the fog of hubris so thick at the Defense Dept that they believe that the assault on Tal Afar accomplished anything?

Rumsfeld's simian theories of warfare have proved to be the greatest boon to the burgeoning Iraqi resistance. Like all headstrong amateurs he soldiers-on; ignoring adversity or experience, determined to demonstrate the wisdom of his own narrow vision. Regrettably, that vision is comprised of nothing more than ever-increasing levels of violence erratically extended across the region.

There's nothing more dangerous than a well-armed dilettante who is convinced of his own genius. Tal Afar leaves no doubt about that.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Meeting Mr. Chertoff: The Other Torture Guy

Another Accomplice to Atrocity (pre-Katrina)

Chris Floyd

Empire Burlesque
Sunday, 11 September 2005

As we all know, FEMA's Michael Brown has been unceremoniously yanked from the front lines of the Bush crony porkfest known as the reconstruction of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. (Yet another Reconstruction Era? The last one was so successful in binding up the nation's wounds and eradicating racism, wasn't it?). We are supposed to be reassured that the whole shebang is now in the capable hands of Michael Chertoff, the El Greco model who heads the Department of Homeland Security.

But who exactly is Chertoff anyway? A capable man, obviously, with impressive credentials -- no need to pad his resume, like the hapless hack Brown (and his hapless boss, Bush). But to paraphrase Barry Goldwater, capability in the service of extremism is no virtue. And it turns out that Chertoff, like Jay Bybee (see earlier post), was also an accomplice to an on-going atrocity: the torture-infested gulag Bush has built for his captives in the "war on terror." (And by the way, a federal appeals court has just upheld Bush's "right" to put ANY American in prison, indefinitely, without charges, if he arbitrary declares the target of his wrath "an enemy combatant." But that's the subject of this week's Global Eye, so there will be more on this anon.)

We first broached the interesting subject of Michael Chertoff when he was plucked from the judicial perch where Bush had recently placed him and named head of the DHS after Bush's first choice, Bernie Kerik, sank into a swamp of sex-mafia-graft allegations and investigations. A Feb. 3 Global Eye column took up the tale. Here's an excerpt:

From Michael Chertoff: Another Accomplice in Bush's Torture Chamber:

Before Bush elevated him to the federal bench, Chertoff headed the Justice Department's criminal division, where he was frequently consulted by the CIA and the White House on ways to weasel around the very clear U.S. laws against torture, the New York Times reports. Bush and his legal staff, then headed by Alberto Gonzales, were openly concerned with "avoiding prosecution for war crimes" under some future administration that might lack the Bushists' finely nuanced view of ramming phosphorous lightsticks up a kidnapped detainee's rectum or other enlightened methods employed in the Administration's crusade to defend civilization from barbarity.

Throughout 2002-2003, the CIA sent Chertoff urgent questions asking whether various "interrogation protocols" could get their agents sent to the hoosegow. The questions themselves are revelatory of the tainted mindset at CIA headquarters -- officially known as the George H.W. Bush Center for Intelligence. Beyond methods we already know were used -- such as "water-boarding" and "rendering" detainees to foreign torturers -- the Bush Center boys sought legal cover for such additional refinements as "threat of imminent death;" "death threats against family members;" the use of "mind-altering drugs or psychological procedures designed to profoundly disrupt a detainee's personality."

...But Chertoff's involvement in Bush's chamber of horrors goes beyond an advisory capacity, however. He was also instrumental in the earliest cover-up of Bush's torture system: the trial of John Walker Lindh, the "American Taliban" captured in Afghanistan, the Nation reports.
In June 2002, Lindh was due to testify about the methods used to extract his confession of terrorist collusion: days of beating, drugging, denial of medical treatment and other abuses. These were of course standard procedures used - by presidential order - from the very beginning of the "war on terror." To stop Lindh from exposing this wide-ranging criminal regimen, Chertoff, overseeing the prosecution, suddenly offered Lindh a deal: the feds would drop all the most serious charges in exchange for a lighter sentence - and a gag order preventing Lindh from telling anyone about his brutal treatment. Lindh, facing life imprisonment or execution, took the deal. Once again, Bush skirts were kept clean. And the torture system was kept safe for its expansion into Iraq, where thousands of innocent people fell into its maw.

That August 2002 memo used by Chertoff and others to absolve the torturers from their state-ordered crimes was authored by Gonzales underling Jay Bybee...The Bush-Bybee torture authorization was in force until January 2005, when it was ostentatiously replaced by a somewhat broader definition of torture just before Gonzales' confirmation hearings in the U.S. Senate. But another Bybee-penned memo - detailing specific, Bush-approved "coercive methods" - remains classified. Is it still in force? Nobody knows.

Extraditing Sovereignty: Canadian Pot Crusader Political Football

The U.S. 'persecution' of Marc Emery leaves the justice minister with few choices, most of them invidious

Peter McKnight
Vancouver Sun

CREDIT: Canadian Press
Vancouver Sun / The legal probelms of B.C. Marijuana party leader Marc Emery (above) are going to become the political problems of Justice Minister Irwin Cotler.

Say what you will about Marc Emery, but in getting himself indicted on marijuana charges by a United States grand jury, the Prince of Pot might well achieve what he's failed to realize through decades of activism -- his life ambition of legalizing marijuana.

This summer, Emery was indicted on charges of conspiring to manufacture and distribute marijuana seeds and to engage in money laundering. He's now on bail awaiting an extradition hearing and, if extradited and convicted, Emery will face anywhere from 10 years to life in a U.S. prison.

Naturally, with the "persecution" of their patron saint, the usually laid-back potheads are anything but mellow, as they take to the streets across the world today to protest Uncle Sam's hapless and hopeless war on drugs.

Even non-smokers are getting into the act: Many condemn the United States for ostensibly violating Canadian sovereignty, while others assail Canada, and Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, for acquiescing to U.S. demands to export the Prince of Pot.

Whether Cotler had any choice in the matter is an open question: Cotler told The Vancouver Sun editorial board that under the Extradition Act and the Treaty on Extradition Between the United States and Canada, he was required to grant authority to proceed with the extradition hearing because the necessary and sufficient conditions were met -- that is, because the conduct with which Emery stands charged constitutes an offence in Canada that is punishable by two years or more in prison.

Now I'm not a specialist in extradition law, and I'm sure Cotler has a legal opinion attesting to his lack of wriggle room, but the extradition experts I've talked to have some doubts. After all, the Extradition Act uses permissive language throughout: It says that if the necessary and sufficient conditions are met, the minister of justice may grant authority to proceed with an extradition hearing, and a person may be extradited. This seems to leave the minister some residual discretion.

However, the Extradition Treaty replaces the act's permissive language with mandatory wording: The Treaty states that persons shall be delivered up for extradition. So Cotler might be right in concluding he had no alternative but to grant authority to proceed with the extradition hearing; I'll leave it to the experts and the courts to sort through this mess.

Once these questions are resolved, though, Cotler might have to step into the fray once again. Assuming the court commits Emery for extradition -- which is likely, since the judge must only be satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to commit Emery to stand trial -- Cotler will then have clear discretion, under both the act and the treaty, to refuse extradition.

Several of the grounds for refusing extradition are well enough known: If, for example, Emery were facing the death penalty, Cotler would be required to refuse extradition. Similarly, the minister would be constrained from surrendering Emery to the U.S. if Emery were facing prosecution for a political offence.

The marijuana lobby believes that Emery is indeed the subject of political persecution, given a statement posted on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency website that suggests a clear political motive for charging Emery. The statement reads, in part:

"Today's arrest of Mark [sic] Scott Emery, publisher of Cannabis Culture magazine and the founder of a marijuana legalization group, is a significant blow not only to the marijuana trafficking trade in the U.S. and Canada, but also to the marijuana legalization movement ... Drug legalization lobbyists now have one less pot of money to rely on."

Despite the folly of issuing such a statement, the political persecution argument is likely to fail since Emery was charged with conspiracy to traffic in drugs, not with promoting marijuana legalization, even if the motivation for charging him seems suspect.

The act also requires Cotler to refuse extradition if it "would be unjust or oppressive having regard to all the relevant circumstances." This wording seems to grant Cotler fairly broad discretion and has led Emery defenders to suggest that the disparity in sentencing between the U.S. and Canada for marijuana-related offences would justify Cotler refusing extradition.

However, courts have said that sentencing disparity need not be a factor in refusing extradition. Further, were Emery charged in Canada with producing marijuana, he would be facing a maximum of seven years in jail, which isn't markedly shorter than the 10-year minimum he faces in the U.S.

That said, Canada has never been particularly supportive of minimum sentences because they don't work. In fact, in 1987, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down as cruel and unusual punishment a section of the former Narcotic Control Act that imposed a minimum seven-year sentence for importing or exporting narcotics.

Consequently, Cotler would seem to be on solid ground in refusing extradition on the grounds that a ten year minimum sentence is unjust or oppressive, since it's not consonant with the Charter of Rights. However, Cotler could alternatively seek an assurance from U.S. authorities that the 10-year minimum not be imposed, much as Canadians can be extradited to the U.S. for capital offences provided the death penalty in not on the table.

That leaves Cotler with one last way to refuse extradition, and it's a way that, for both legal and moral reasons, Cotler ought to take. Whether he wants to admit it or not, selling viable cannabis seeds is de facto legal in Canada, and Cotler can therefore refuse to surrender Emery on the grounds that what he is charged with in the U.S. is not an offence in Canada.

To be sure, the offence of selling cannabis seeds still exists: In R. v. Hunter in 2000, the B.C. Court of Appeal upheld the conviction of Victoria's Ian Hunter for selling seeds. But successive Canadian ministers of justice, from Anne McLellan to Martin Cauchon to Irwin Cotler, have largely ignored those who sell seeds, including Emery, who has been operating his mail-order seed business publicly for almost a decade. In fact, the federal government was referring medical marijuana users to Emery's website until two years ago.

The actions and inaction of the federal government make it abundantly clear that the feds didn't -- and still don't -- consider Emery's operation illegal.

Hence the prospect of sending someone to a country that considers such conduct an offence would appear to violate the principles of fundamental justice. Cotler seems morally and legally obliged to exercise his discretion and refuse extradition.

This would, of course, open an enormous can of worms because it would require the minister of justice to concede that trafficking in viable cannabis seeds is not an offence in Canada. And that would open the door to declaring that the sale of marijuana is also legal since there's little legal difference between selling viable seeds and selling a marijuana plant:

In R. v. Hunter, the B.C. Court of Appeal noted that the sale of viable seeds is neither explicitly permitted nor proscribed in the former Narcotic Control Act (now, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.) However, since the act explicitly permits the sale of non-viable seeds, the court concluded that the act must, by necessary implication, criminalize the sale of viable seeds: The prohibition on the sale of viable seeds is included in the prohibition on the sale of marijuana, which effectively makes viable seeds and marijuana one and the same. Consequently, any declaration that selling viable seeds is legal is tantamount to declaring that selling marijuana itself is legal.

No minister of justice would choose to be in the position of declaring trade in marijuana legal -- legalizing trade would amount to a violation of several international treaties and would provoke the ire of the U.S. -- but thanks to the actions and inaction of his and previous governments, it's a position Cotler seems condemned to occupy.

Emery's lifelong campaign to repeal marijuana laws might therefore come to fruition, and if it does, it will be Cotler who spends the rest of his life in America's doghouse.

© The Vancouver Sun 2005

Unspeakable Truths: CanWest Global Moves to Define "Acceptable Civil Discourse"

In Defence of Michel Chossudovsky
Michael Keefer

September 10, 2005

A Cup of Cool Reason for the Ottawa Citizen’s Fevered Brow:
In Defence of Michel Chossudovsky

Michael Keefer
September 4, 2005

During the past two weeks Professor Michel Chossudovsky, an economist, political analyst and human rights advocate of international reputation who teaches at the University of Ottawa and directs his own Centre for Research on Globalization and its widely-admired website, has become the object of a strange campaign of defamation.

Chossudovsky’s website makes available writings on worldwide political issues by a wide range of academics and journalists. It also offers open forums in which members of the public can discuss and debate the issues raised by the scores of articles published each week.

But that, it seems, can be a risky business.

Discovering recently that anti-semites had managed to insert their noxious drivel into a discussion thread hosted by Chossudovsky’s website, B’nai Brith Canada did not simply alert him to the fact, so that he could take the obvious step of removing the hateful messages. Rather, with the eager assistance of the Ottawa Citizen, this once universally-respected organization made the event a pretext for a campaign of character assassination.

On August 20, the Citizen published an article (Pauline Tam, “U of O Professor accused of hosting anti-Semitic website”) the tone of which can best be described as scurrilous. Conflating the toxic invasion of his website with Chossudovsky’s own editorial work and with his own writings, the article insinuated that anti-semitism and denial of the Shoah feature prominently in both of them. A follow-up article (Alex Hutchinson, “Controversial site ‘not an issue’ for university,” August 21, 2005) wondered at the University of Ottawa’s failure to take disciplinary action.

There are some obvious ironies here. Michel Chossudovsky is widely regarded as a leading interpreter and critic both of globalization and of the structural violence and military aggressions it has entailed. His life’s work as an economist and political analyst has been a finely articulated series of reproaches to injustices of all kinds, including the foulness of racism. And as it happens, members of his immediate family died at Auschwitz.

By a further irony, the best brief introduction to his work is a profile published some years ago by none other than the Ottawa Citizen (Juliet O’Neill, “Battling mainstream economics,” January 5, 1998). This article offered a sympathetic account of Chossudovsky’s “defiance of mainstream economic scholarship in which ‘critical analysis is strongly discouraged’,” and also of his studies of “the purposeful impoverishment of people in dozens of countries” through IMF/World Bank interventions. It mentioned in addition his criticisms of major financial institutions for a “hidden agenda” involving criminal complicity in drug-money laundering as well as in the social and economic collapses prompted by the IMF—criticisms that have since been confirmed by the revelations of former “economic hit-man” John Perkins and of Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz.

But B’nai Brith and the Citizen now want this distinguished public intellectual to carry the leper’s rattle of the anti-semite. The August 20 article quotes Frank Dimant, executive vice-president of B’nai Brith Canada, as complaining that the website’s materials are “full of wild conspiracy theories that go so far as to accuse Israel, America and Britain of being behind the recent terrorist bombings in London. They echo the age-old anti-Semitic expressions that abound in the Arab world….” A second-year University of Ottawa student worries “other students will stumble on to the site,” where they presumably risk contamination by Chossudovsky’s ideas. B’nai Brith’s human rights lawyer Anita Bromberg is quoted as piously hoping that pressure can be exerted on his university “to hold him to a certain standard of acceptable civil discourse.”

And finally, a purportedly sympathetic political scientist who specializes on the use of the internet by terrorists declares himself disturbed by “a conspiratorial element” in Chossudovsky’s writings, and finds “not much that resembles” them in recent work on retail or anti-state terrorism.

This dismissive conclusion is not quite the coup de grâce the author of this article evidently meant it to be. Political scientists who have some acquaintanceship with current scholarship on development economics and on state (as opposed to retail) terrorism might be less likely to think Chossudovsky’s work marginal or eccentric.

And while the weather-beaten axiom that power elites would never dream of engaging in conspiratorial behaviour may still hold a certain faded charm for journalistic Howdy Doodies and pundits of all kinds, the clear function of the taboo against “conspiracy theory” in present-day public discourse is to shut down critical inquiry into matters of what Gore Vidal has called “unspeakable truth.”

What, one wonders, did the seven leaked “Downing Street memos” reveal, if not that the American and British governments conspired between 2001 and 2003 to launch what they knew to be a criminal war of aggression against Iraq? And what did Congressman John Conyers’ minority judiciary committee report on electoral irregularities in Ohio reveal, if not that the Bush Republicans conspired in 2004 to steal the presidential election?

Michel Chossudovsky has shown courageous persistence in exposing zones of unspeakable truth to principled analysis. Ironically again, his chief offense against orthodoxy appears to have been his steadfast refusal to racially delimit his opposition to human rights abuses. Articles published on his website have criticized not just the horrors of the Iraq occupation, and Canada’s and the UN’s grotesquely hypocritical participation in the overthrow of democracy in Haiti, but also the state of Israel’s shameless violations of human rights, international law and common decency in its treatment of the Palestinians.

B’nai Brith and CanWestGlobal (which owns and controls the Ottawa Citizen) would like to enforce “a standard of acceptable civil discourse” that effaces any distinction between criticism of Israel and anti-semitism. But as is made clear by an editorial in which the Citizen returns to the attack (“The right to be wrong,” August 26, 2005), they want not merely to silence critics of Israel, but also to regulate and restrain free critical thought in a much wider sense.

Behind a pallid pretense of defending Chossudovsky’s academic freedom, this editorial sets about ensuring that his exercise of it will, as the Citizen charmingly says, “have consequences.” His “exotic opinions” are mocked as arising from a procedure of “throw[ing] facts into a pot and hop[ing] conspiracies boil out.” The editorial describes as particularly absurd one of his recent articles, which drew attention to parallels between an anti-terrorism exercise run in London on the morning of July 7 that scripted bombings in the same three underground stations that were actually attacked, and CIA and military anti-terrorism exercises in the US that shortly preceded or coincided with the 9/11 attacks. We are told that B’nai Brith shares this view, objecting not just to the discussion-thread postings inserted by anti-semites into Chossudovsky’s website, but also “to the tone of the site more generally. One of the scraps Mr. Chossudovsky’s piece on terrorism exercises throws into the cauldron is that Israel’s former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in London during the July 7 attacks.”

The editorial’s tactic of ridiculing Chossudovsky by attributing to him its own feeble treatment of facts and arguments as disconnected bits and pieces is childishly obvious. But any chain of discourse can be made to seem silly if one snips it into bits and shakes them in a hat. (If I sang it badly enough, I do believe I could make “God Save the Weasel” sound like “Pop Goes the Queen.”)

The Citizen’s editorial urges Chossudovsky’s “colleagues and bosses” to “make a point of explaining why he’s wrong.” Let’s pause for a moment, then, over the article that has aroused such a flurry of contempt (Michel Chossudovsky, “7/7 Mock Terror Drill: What Relationship to the Real Time Terror Attacks?”, August 8, 2005).

Readers of the Citizen who take the trouble to look up this article may be surprised to discover that it is cautious and tentative rather than accusatory in tone. It confines itself to a sober gathering of information from mainstream media sources. And it concludes by recommending against the drawing of “hasty conclusions” and by calling for “an independent public inquiry into the London bomb attacks.”

So why the complaints? Bibi Netanyahu indeed gets a mention: Chossudovsky quotes from that wild and exotic source, the Associated Press, a report from Jerusalem according to which Scotland Yard gave the Israeli Embassy in London advance warning of a bombing attack, thanks to which Netanyahu was able to cancel a meeting scheduled at a venue close to the site of one of the bomb blasts.

Does that sound troubling to you? Do you think Michel Chossudovsky may have been right to suggest that “The issue of foreknowledge raised in the Associated Press report also requires investigation”? Or should we just shoot the messenger and be done with it?

There is, to conclude, one point at which I find myself in agreement with the Ottawa Citizen’s editorial writer: I think a controversy of this sort should indeed “have consequences.”

I believe the Citizen’s editorial team, together with Frank Dimant and Anita Bromberg of B’nai Brith, should bow their heads in shame.

I think they should offer a public apology to Michel Chossudovsky and make a serious effort to avoid disgracing themselves in future by any repetition of this kind of sordid campaign of defamation.

Michael Keefer, who teaches English at the University of Guelph, is a former President of the Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English. His most recent writings include a series of articles on electoral fraud in the 2004 US presidential election published by the Centre for Research on Globalization.

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