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Occupy Ukraine?

Last week NBC news reported that: “Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland told Ukraine’s president early Wednesday that police action against encamped protesters calling for his resignation was ‘absolutely impermissible in a democratic society’.”

If Victoria Nuland believes this, why hasn’t she resigned from our government to protest the similar acts it took against Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protesters in late 2011 and early 2012?

As 2012 came to a close, a partially successful Freedom of Information Act legal action mounted by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) forced the release of heavily redacted FBI documents that outlined our governments’ plan to violently repress a lawful protest movement. The documents revealed that the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, local polices forces, and an array of cooperating governmental and private security firms, initiated a set of actions that dwarfed those taken so far by the police in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev.

A shadowy quasi-Governmental organization entitled the Domestic Security Alliance Council coordinated a national campaign to clear all the OWS encampments and to arrest those who resisted. Although a couple of years have passed, we should not forget that this led to attacks that resulted in thousands of arrests and hundreds of beatings. In the documents the FBI justified this response because, despite the OWS commitment to non-violence, the FBI resolved to treat the movement as a “potential terrorist threat.”

It has been apparent for several years that the post 9/11 “counter-terrorism” laws are now used mostly against domestic dissenters. Preventing terrorism is the justification for everything from ubiquitous NSA spying, to the militarization of small town police forces, while the courts look the other way as civil liberties become anachronisms. The transformation is almost complete. As far as the FBI and its buddies are concerned even those protesting peacefully against the increasingly unequal distribution of wealth and power in our nation should be treated as potential terrorist threats.

Despite the obvious undemocratic nature of our domestic politics, I doubt the Assistant Secretary of State is the only member of our government willing to self-righteously proclaim the police tactics against the protesters in Kiev “totally impermissible in a democratic society.” While I do not condone the Ukrainian police conduct, unlike the OWS protesters, Ukrainian protesters have surrounded the seat of governmental power and are demanding regime change. That presents a more immediate and powerful threat to an elected government than the largely symbolic OWS occupations.

I’m unaware of any member of the Obama Administration complaining about the police in our country attacking the Occupiers for asserting their rights of free speech and assembly. It is hard to fathom how our officials can utter such hypocritical nonsense with straight faces. I’m waiting for them to come clean, and acknowledge that the harsh actions taken to destroy OWS were “totally impermissible in a democratic society.”

I fear I’ll have to wait an awfully long time.  Read More 
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Nelson Mandela in COINTELPRO’s Crosshairs

The mainstream media and our political leaders have been singing Nelson Mandela’s praises now that he is safely dead. Listening to them got me thinking about what would have been Nelson Mandela’s fate had he been a leader of the struggle for African-American rights in the United States.

During the late 1950’s and early 1970’s the FBI mounted a covert counter-intelligence program to combat the anti-war and civil rights movements entitled COINTELPRO. In the name of protecting our national security, COINTELPRO included psychological smear campaigns against leaders like Martin Luther King, and the targeted assassination of members of the Black Panther Party. J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI’s politically powerful director, is reported to have said that a primary purpose of COINTELPRO was to ensure that no “black messiah” would be able to galvanize the “Negroes.” The FBI took this directive very seriously, among other things conspiring with the Chicago Police to murder Chicago Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton. The role they played in the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X is less clear. How would they have responded to Nelson Mandela?

Nelson Mandela was a revolutionary at the head of an armed resistance movement. He was charged with sabotage aimed at overthrowing the existing order, a charge he did not deny. Rather than execute him, the South African Court sentenced him to life imprisonment. Perhaps those in charge of the apartheid regime felt it wiser to break Mandela in prison and use him to their advantage rather than risk martyring him. He was released after serving 27 years, 18 of them in the notorious Robben Island Prison. I doubt our court system would have spared his life. I am equally convinced that if, by some quirk, our courts had dealt Mandela a life sentence, he would never have been released. Leonard Peltier, Mumia abu Jamal and Oscar Lopez Rivera have all been imprisoned for much longer than Nelson Mandela. Our government shows no sign it will ever set them free.

However, if Nelson Mandela had been a domestic radical in the United States, I doubt that he would have gone on trial. The FBI would simply have had him assassinated.

And despite our leaders’ praise for South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation process, our government has never revealed the complete truth of COINTELPRO or punished its perpetrators. Our government has never attempted reconciliation for carpet bombing and poisoning the Vietnamese people and their land. Today our government finds it more convenient to praise Nelson Mandela and South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission than to empanel one here to deal with the war crimes and human rights abuses carried out by our leaders in Iraq, Afghanistan or Guantanamo.

Perhaps this is why our leaders’ lionizing of Nelson Mandela has made me so nauseous.
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Mumia abu Jamal and Leonard Peltier

December 9th will mark the 32nd anniversary of Mumia abu Jamal’s imprisonment. Relentless agitation, coupled with good legal work, saved him from the executioner. Mumia is no longer on death row, but he still faces life in prison.

On a flight home from France in June 2001, after attending the First World Congress to Abolish the Death Penalty, I was seated next to a law student and we talked about Mumia’s case. The student and I were both involved in the movement to save Mumia’s life. At that time Mumia was still on Pennsylvania’s death row, convicted in 1982 of killing a Philadelphia policeman. I had recently read the several thousand-page transcript of his trial, which I found illuminating in light of extensive experience reading trial transcripts while serving two Massachusetts Appeals Court legal clerkships in the 1980’s.

Mumia’s lawyer, the late Leonard Weinglass, had a brilliant record. Weinglass had succeeded in reversing the death sentences of all of his seven previous death-row clients. Despite this, Mumia had lost every round in Pennsylvania State Court, but Weinglass would soon file Mumia’s first Federal District Court appeal.

Weinglass’s ability, coupled with the serious legal questions raised by the transcript I had read, gave me confidence that he would win some part of the Federal case. However, I expressed my concern to the law student that a smart federal judge might vacate the death sentence, but uphold the guilty verdict, leaving Mumia to spend the rest of life in prison. Despite the unfair trial and a mounting body of evidence that Mumia did not commit the crime, the powerful Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), and almost all major Republican and Democratic state office holders were proclaiming his guilt. The FOP was actively lobbying for Mumia’s execution, which rendered it improbable that a Federal Court would overturn a verdict against a radical black male convicted of killing a white policeman. A smart judge also would do this because it would keep Mumia in prison, but make it more difficult for his supporters to continue the massive campaign for his release.

That’s what had happened in American Indian Movement leader Leonard Peltier’s case. Even though he’d been jailed for decades and it was widely known that Peltier did not kill the FBI agents, it had been difficult to maintain a large-scale movement on his behalf, because he did not face execution. Eventually the Federal Judge put Mumia in the same position as Leonard Peltier. He vacated the death sentence, but upheld the verdict.

Leonard Peltier has been jailed for five years longer than Mumia. Wikipedia lists his earliest projected release date as 2040. He’ll be 96 years old. After reading Mumia’s trial transcript I became convinced that after such an unfair trial no one deserved to spend 32 days in prison, let along 32 years, and rather than incarceration, Leonard Peltier should get the Nobel Peace Prize for his service to his people.

We should continue to agitate for the release of both Leonard Peltier and Mumia abu Jamal. The Commander-in-Chief of our global empire, our first African-American President, is unlikely to have the desire or the guts to pardon radical Native or African-American leaders convicted of killing white law enforcement officers. We must, however, continue to struggle on Mumia and Leonard’s behalf not only because they deserve to be free, but also because we are all diminished as long as they are incarcerated.  Read More 
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