Time to fight, not run

This session of Congress faces a multi-tiered crisis that includes George W. Bush’s “war on terrorism” and a declining economy, made worse by the collapse of Enron and the bankruptcy of K-mart that have added hundreds of thousands to the 8.3 million who are already unemployed.

Bush, House Majority Leader Tom Delay and other Republican lawmakers all received huge campaign contributions from Enron proof, if proof is needed, that they and the rest of the GOP ultra-right are bought and paid for.

The problem is that the Democrats received just enough cash from Corporate America so they pull their punches. And that feeding-frenzy explains why they are unable to come up with real alternatives to the right-wing agenda. Only full public funding of elections can block the sewer of corporate money that pollutes the political process.

While Bush, Delay and Trent Lott propose more of the same “steal from the poor, give to the rich” policies that got us into this mess, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) goes, timidly, with hat in hand and many salutes to Bush, begging for an additional 13 weeks of jobless benefits and a $300 tax rebate for low income workers who received nothing in Bush’s $2.6 trillion tax gift to the rich. In the process he leaves behind the demand that the package include payment of health care benefits under COBRA for the unemployed.

Why the retreat when the moment calls for a fight – especially in an election year, with all 435 House seats and one-third of Senate seats are up for grabs and where there is overwhelming public support for cracking down on Enron and other corporate thieves. Polls show that voters will rally behind a program to save the steel industry, to provide jobless benefits and health care for the unemployed. We need a fighting, grass-roots people’s movement to hold these Enron-tainted officials’ feet to the fire!


Abide by the Geneva Accords

The unilateral effort by the United States to re-write the Geneva Convention dealing with prisoners of war has drawn sharp rebukes from European leaders and the International Red Cross.

The U.S. has refused to grant prisoner of war status to Afghan prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Instead, the White House insists that they are “unlawful combatants” or “battlefield detainees” and are thus outside the protections guaranteed under the Geneva Convention dealing with POWs.

Germany, seconded by The Netherlands and the European Union, has said the detainees should be treated as POWs as provided for in the Geneva Convention. Chris Patten, external affairs minister for the 15-member European Union, said the EU was “concerned about justice, not vengeance” and that the detainees should be treated humanely.

In a marked departure from its usual refusal to publicly criticize governments, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said the detainees should be treated as POWs and that it “is not up to the U. S. military” to decide differently.

The outrage followed the Defense Department’s release of a photograph showing several prisoners, their hands and legs restrained, wearing black goggles and forced into a kneeling position as they awaited, what The New York Times described as being “put in their cages” – the six foot by eight foot living quarters with their concrete floors and chain link “walls.”

This refusal to grant the detainees POW status is more than a fight over definitions. Rather, it is a deliberate effort to craft a legal morass where it is not clear what the legal standards are, thus making it possible to side-step international law dealing with the rights of POWs.

The warden at Camp X-Ray boasts that he is determined to maintain “positive control” in dealing with the detainees – of imposing on them a sense of isolation, domination and futility. In other days such treatment would be called what it is – a form of torture. That’s what it is today.