Monday, July 31, 2006

Taking on the Global “Torture Taxi” Hub in North Carolina

Confronting the CIA's International System of Kidnapping and Torture


Last fall a large protest kicked off a national campaign to stop Aero Contractors Ltd., a North Carolina-based company accused of being the leading Central Intelligence Agency front company for the rendition of disappeared, or kidnapped, people.   Extraordinary rendition is the policy of sending captives to other countries where they can be tortured or killed, keeping American hands clean.  According to Robert Baer, a CIA case officer active in the Middle East until 1997, "If you want a good interrogation, you send them to Jordan.  If you want them killed, you send them to Egypt or Syria.   Either way, the US cannot be blamed as it is not doing the heavy work" (Guardian/UK "Afghanistan: 'One Huge US Jail,'" online at  Rendition is happening in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Jordan, Egypt, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Diego Garcia (a British colony in the western Indian Ocean) and elsewhere.   US and UK military sources say there are 10,000 "ghost detainees," people kept secretly, probably along with a larger number who are detained less covertly.   After September 11th, eight secret prisons were created, according to the Washington Post (WP, November 2, 2005).  Increased judicial oversight of the Guantánamo Bay, Cuba prison makes rendition an appealing alternative for the US government. This practice started in the 1970's when South Americans were captured and returned by the CIA to their countries of origin for punishment.   The US isn't alone in practicing rendition. 


The US indirectly uses torture through rendition (which also involves inhumane treatment or torture during the rendition process).   The US also tortures people directly, as a policy, and Aero Contractors is part of this.  In Afghanistan there is ample evidence that torture techniques, including those from Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, are being used:   shackling, hooding, electrical shocks, whipping, mock executions, sexual humiliation, and starvation (according to the Guardian/UK article). November 18, 2005 ABC News (see also reported that the CIA also uses waterboarding, torture in which a wet cloth is used to suffocate a victim or the victim is placed on an inclined board with plastic wrapped over their mouth while water is dumped on them (similar to feudal Europe's method).


The Origins of Aero Contractors


Aero Contractors, Ltd. is an actual company, and allegedly a major part of the rendition network, which includes the Camp Pearl Military Reservation ("The Farm"), in Virginia close to Williamsburg; Florida's Bob Sikes Field (run by CIA associated Tepper Aviation); and Dulles International Airport in Washington.   The Company doesn't advertise and allegedly gets all of its business from the CIA, the military, and maybe from other departments.  Aero told the Global TransPark, a North Carolina state operated airport, that the Company serves Federal "security agencies."   Aero Assistant General Manager Robert W. Blowers told the New York Times (NYT) that "We've been doing business with the government for a long time, and one of the reasons is, we don't talk about it." According to the NYT Aero carried CIA officers who parachuted into Afghanistan in 2001 and it flew a team to Karachi, Pakistan after its American embassy was bombed in 2002.  An Aero plane flew from Libya to Guantánamo in 2004 the day before Libyan detainee Omar Deghayes said he was questioned by four Libyan intelligence officers ( NYT, May 31, 2005).  Aero told a North Carolina CBS station that it has one classified government contract, involving Ft. Bragg, but leases the alleged planes only for domestic flights.   The Company says the activist group Stop Torture Now (STN) is ill-informed, but Aero cannot reveal its work ( and   


Aero's blue main hangar, at the Johnston County Airport (JNX), in eastern North Carolina, is secluded at the end of Charlie Day Street (named for a mechanic who worked on covert flights to Laos during the Vietnam War).   Its business address is 3463 Swift Creek Rd. Smithfield, NC 27577.  The Company has operated at the Airport since leasing eight acres in 1979.   The NYT (May 31, 2005) alleges that Aero operates at this airport because it does not have a tower from which Aero could be spied upon.  Officially Aero provides "aircraft rental with pilot" (NYT, May 31 2005).  Aero is able to modify the a plane's equipment, make repairs, and it provides pilots.   Reportedly it is the main operator of CIA airplanes.  It got the planes in question from five companies that were allegedly CIA fronts.  Aero claims that it no longer leases the planes anti-rendition activists referred to, and those companies no longer exist. 


In 1979 Aero was created by former CIA officer and Air America primary pilot Jim "Peg Leg" Rhyne (he died in 2001).   Rhyne lost his leg to anti-aircraft fire in Laos.  Air America was the CIA's airline during the Vietnam War and was linked to illegal drug transport.   In 1976 Air America was dismantled and replaced by at least 12 companies.  The NYT calls Aero "a direct descendant" of Air America (May 31, 2005).   Aero's president is Stormin' Norman Richardson, who is primarily involved with the Stormin' Norman chicken-and-ribs business in Kelly, North Carolina.  Assistant Manager Blowers is Aero's contact person and appears to be the main operator.  


The Company has actual board members who have meetings.  Former Navy pilot and American Legion national commander William J. Rodgers of Maine is an example.   According to an ex-CIA and Air America employee, "It was very, very easy to find patriotic Americans who were willing to help" by pretending to be in charge of front companies ( NYT, May 31, 2005).    


Aero's role after 9/11    


According to the recent Guardian/UK article (March 19, 2006), Massachusetts based Premier Executive Transport Services (later renamed Bayard Foreign Marketing, LLC) was a Delaware incorporated CIA front operating at the Johnston County Airport.   According to a St. Louis Indymedia article (November 19, 2005), Premier has long been identified as a front.  A Gulf Stream V Turbo Executive jet Aero leased from Premier has flown from Johnston County to pick up and render disappeared persons from Gambia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sweden, Italy, Germany, Ireland, and Spain ( WP, November 16, 2005, and NYT, May 31, 2005).  It is thought that no CIA prisoners are kept in Johnston County.  As of March 2006, the jet had been used at least 75 times, which is known from observations at airports and a senior official in Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate.   According to St. Louis Indymedia the plane's tail has been labeled N44982, N379P, and N8068V at different times.  Its serial number is 581.  


This plane was first noticed October 23, 2001 when it stopped in Karachi, Pakistan at 2:40am to pick up Yemeni microbiologist Jamil Qasim Saeed Mohammed, arrested by the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate for alleged involvement in the attack on the USS Cole.  


December 18, 2001 the plane picked up two men at Bromma Airport in Stockholm, Sweden.  One was Ahmed Agiza, an Egyptian asylum seeker who had been living with his wife and children in Sweden for three years.   The other detainee was Mohammed al-Zeri, also an Egyptian. Agiza was able to tell his family that he had been arrested, but no more than that.  The two men were shackled and blindfolded for the drive to the airport.  There their clothes were cut off and they were handcuffed.  They were given sedative suppositories and put in plastic diapers.   By 3am they were in Cairo where they were kept alone in underground cells.  The Human Rights Center for the Assistance of Prisoners in Cairo says "Agiza was repeatedly shocked, hung upside down, whipped with an electrical flex, and hospitalized" after being forced "to lick his cell floor clean," reports the Guardian/UK. As of March 2006 Agiza was still in an Egyptian prison and al-Zeri was in Egypt under house arrest.  


January 10, 2002 the jet was in Halim Airport in Jakarta, Indonesia to pick up Egyptian Mohammed Saeed Iqbal Madni, allegedly an accomplice of shoe bomber Richard Reid.   The Human Rights Center says he died under interrogation in Cairo.  In June 2002 German citizen Mohammed Zahar was taken from Morocco to Syria, and has not been heard from since.  


The CIA's archipelago of fronts for rendition


Aero also operated a leased a Boeing Business 737 jet (N4476S, serial number 33010), supposedly given up recently.   Nonetheless, Aero still spent $2 million dollars to build a 20,000 square foot hangar at the Kinston Regional Jetport (airport code ISO), which has the 11,500 foot runway needed for the 737 the hangar was built to house, according to the Kinston Free Press and the Goldsboro News Argus newspapers.  The 737 was kept in the open at the Global TransPark, next to Kinston Regional, prior to the construction of the hangar. According to the November 19 St. Louis Indymedia article (see, the jet is probably the one (serial number 33010, N4476S) formerly owned by Keeler and Tate Management, LLC, an alleged front company based in Nevada.   Incidentally, the address and phone number of that company was that of former Senator Paul Laxalt, Reagan "First Friend."  The jet was seen in Prague in 2005 and it left from Spain the day after the Madrid train attacks in March 2005.   STN member Stephanie Eriksen's says that the Boeing has flown 9 times to Kabul, 13 times to Jordan, 3 times to Kuwait, 7 times to Morocco, 5 times to Pakistan, 11 times to Libya, and 10 times to Baghdad.    These and other CIA planes have flown many times from Dulles International Airport in Washington DC to several Middle Eastern locations, for example after the capture of Saddam Hussein and the capture or assassination of al-Qaeda officials ( NYT, May 31, 2005).      


Allegedly the Boeing and the Gulf Stream had been given up by November 2005 (WP).  Reportedly they were leased for about a year in 2002 or 2003 and given up in March 2004, to be replaced by turboprop airplanes.   Aero allegedly has or had about 20 planes, possibly obtained from some 27 CIA owned planes (including the Boston Red Sox's executive jet, which is heavily involved in rendition), and another 26 or so Cessnas - small turboprop airplanes.   In 2005 the NYT said Aero owned at least 26 aircraft, 10 bought since the beginning of the "War on Terror" in 2001 (May 31 article). 


The NYT says the CIA uses seven fronts that apparently have no management or staff, and exist only to own aircraft.   Other planes are chartered from apparently real companies that are CIA connected, such as Aero, Pegasus Technologies, and Tepper Aviation in Florida.  Most of the fronts are permitted to land at military bases and at least eleven of these shady aircraft have landed at Camp Peary, the home of a CIA training facility, the Farm.   Most CIA traffic goes to and from Johnston County.  Allegedly many of the CIA's planes are based in the coastal plain of North Carolina and Virginia.   Alleged front companies Aviation Specialties, Inc, Stevens Express Leasing, Inc, Devon Holding and Leasing, Inc, and CIA contractor Aviation Worldwide Services/Presidential Aviation frequently fly to Johnston County.   For more information see  Aero leased aircraft from Premier, Stevens Express Leasing, Inc., Devon Holding and Leasing, and Keeler & Tate Management, LLC.  Stephanie Eriksen points out that CIA fronts can be tracked by looking an records of companies allowed to land on military bases (see ).  Planes can be tracked by seeing what company buys them before their identification numbers are changed.      


The CIA has apparently been sloppy with some of its apparently non-existent executives.  For example the NYT found that Premier officer Philip P. Quincannon is also an executive of Crowell Aviation Technologies, which shares the same Massachusetts address as Premier, and Stevens Express Leasing, based in Tennessee.   Quincannon's only records are PO boxes in Washington and Dunn Loring, Virginia, and a social security number incongruously created in Washington in the mid-90's, though he was supposedly born in 1949 (May 31, 2005).    


You too can spy on the CIA  


It is possible to observe these planes and listen to their communications with traffic controllers.  It is legal to listen in with a regular receiver, but not to report the contents of the conversations.   The Johnston County Airport radio frequency is 122.8 MHz and the Raleigh controllers are on 125.8 and 125.3 MHz.  Aircraft at the Kinston Jetport might use the 120.6, 122.95, 121.9, 120.6, 127.33, 127.3, 122.15, 135.5, and 272.75 MHz channels (St. Louis Indymedia).  Most airport frequencies are listed at  The N serial numbers on CIA planes are changed often to confuse observers.   A former CIA pilot told the NYT that "Sometimes a plane would go in the hangar with one tail number and come out in the middle of the night with another (May 31, 2005).   Still, these companies apparently can't be kept very secret.  1970's CIA general counsel Lawrence R. Houston said that in the airlines "everybody knows what everybody is doing, and something new coming along is immediately the focus of a thousand eyes and prying questions.  I don't think you can do a real cover operation" (NYT, May 31, 2005).         


Taking on the Global "Torture Taxi" Hub in North Carolina


Friday, November 18, 2005, around 6am more than 60 people gathered for the first protests of the anti-rendition campaign.   There were three protests that day, two around the Johnston County Airport and one at the Johnston County Courthouse.  One group performed street theatre all morning on Business Highway 70 about half a mile from the Airport.   Another group went up to Aero's huge blue hangar and put up a sign reading "Aero Contractors:  CIA Torture Taxis" over Aero's sign.   They wanted to lower its US flag to half staff, but it was locked in place.  Some protesters wore orange prison jump suits with black hoods.  Chapel Hill activist Peggy Misch says "Burma-Shave type" sequential signs were placed along Business 70 to condemn torture.  "This Way To CIA Torture Flights" was another sign.   Protesters came from Selma (in Johnston County), Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Charlotte, Fayetteville, and from St. Louis, Chicago, and elsewhere.   The Aero protests were covered briefly in the Raleigh News & Observer (N&O) and on ABC's local news.     


Fourteen people were arrested for trespassing at the hangar.  Johnston Co. Sheriff's Deputies arrived in force just after the protest began, having been notified of the protest in advance.   Josh McIntyre tried to deliver a nine-page citizen's indictment for international and US law, Geneva Convention, and UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment violations.   He was met at the door by a "jittery" man in a uniform brandishing a taser stun gun (Independent Weekly, November 23, 2005, online at  The man refused to take the indictment, so it was left on Aero's doorstep.  Before being arrested around 6:30am, the protestors sat in a circle and prayed.   The activists also read from social justice texts, mainly religion based, including a quote from Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement: "Our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system."   People outside of the property sang "We Shall Overcome." 


Those arrested included eight from the Triangle (Raleigh and west), five from St. Louis, and one from Chicago and are aged 17 to 66.   Kathleen Kelly (founder of Voices in the Wilderness) of Chicago, Marty King, Mark Chmiel, Bill Ramsey, Andrew Wimmer, and Diane Lee of Missouri, and Scott Langley, Gerald Surh, Josh McIntyre, Dante Strobino, and Stephanie Eriksen of Raleigh, Deborah Biesack of Fuquay-Varina, and Patrick and Bernadette O'Neill of Garner were the defendants.   The bail was set at $500 dollars for local defendants and $1000 dollars for those from outside the State, which Patrick O'Neill calls "absurdly high bonds for second-degree trespass, a very minor charge" (November 23 rd Independent).  Local ACLU lawyer Michael J. Reece, working free of charge, got the bails halved and the Aero 14 were freed by 5pm that day.  


On November 18th citizen's indictments of Aero were also presented to the Johnston County Commissioners.   Chairwoman Cookie Pope said the Commissioners would examine the issue but would probably leave it alone.  She told the N&O that "When you talk about the CIA, I leave that to the CIA" and "I don't try to tell anyone how to run their business."   Sheriff Steve Bizzell and County Manager Rick Hester met with the group, the Sheriff escorting the activists inside the Courthouse. The Sheriff acknowledged that it was a peaceful demonstration - "But I would not sit idly by and let any group intimidate our citizens or trespass on our businesses."   About 50 people took part in that demonstration.   


Some are supportive of Aero because it employs 100 people and pays the airport about $300,000 dollars a year in rent and fuel fees (filling about a third of the airport's budget, though CBS says Aero has an independent fuel source).   Airport manager Ray Blackmon, who was in the military for 27 years and Airport manager for 16 months by the time, said "They're [Aero] good tenants, I hope they're here for a long, long time" ( N&O, November 19, 2005).  Citizen's indictments were also delivered to the Airport Authority and Aero's Board of Directors.  These downtown activists also stayed in solidarity until the arrested "Aero 14" were released.              


According to the N&O (November 19, 2005), locals the reporters spoke to were sympathetic to the CIA.   Reporters spoke to a woman cook, age 50, at a Citgo station near the first vigil, who said "I just think they should keep the media out of the war and let the boys do what they need to do and come home" and a 58 year old man in camouflage who said "I don't think the CIA is doing anything worse than al-Qaida is doing, cutting off heads and putting it on television, walking into hotels with bombs strapped to them."   Aero Assistant General Manager Robert Blowers, on staff since 1994, dismissed the allegations:  "It's an old story, and it's been beat to death" ( N&O).  Surveys conducted this spring by activists found that Johnston County residents are opposed to rendition and torture.        


The action was organized by the Center for Theology and Social Analysis, Stop Torture Now (formed in St. Louis, but now also organized in NC, website:, CodePink, Voices in the Wilderness, the Durham and Orange County Bill of Rights Defense Committees (BORDCs), the NC Council of Churches (NCCC), and others.   It was originally suggested by St. Louis activists at the annual Southern Life Community Retreat, a meeting of religious social activists in North Carolina.  


The protest was planned to be the day before the annual protest of the School of the Americas (now called the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation) at Ft. Benning, Georgia.   WHISC trains Latin American soldiers and many of its graduates have committed human rights violations and crimes against civilians in their home countries (see for more information). 


The Trial of the Aero 14


January 5th the Aero 14 were tried before Judge Robert Ethridge, a black Republican who reportedly rarely acquits.   The defendants appealed to necessity - the concept of breaking the law to prevent a greater crime.   Josh McIntyre said "I entered the property for the sole purpose of preventing a larger and more serious crime.   We were all there to expose to the greater community a violation of international and national law."  Bernadette O'Neill (age 17) said "As a Christian, my faith requires that I take a moral stand when I see injustice happening.   We had to risk arrest in order to expose the crimes of our government and the shameful role that a Johnston County business is playing in this criminal activity."   Stephanie Eriksen said "You have to stand up to voice what the victims of torture are denied.  After all, they are often denied due process.  I am obligated to speak up for them; it is my duty as a citizen.  It would be dishonest and unjust for me not to do so." 


UNC Law School professor emeritus and president of the ACLU in the 60's Daniel Pollitt and civil rights activist, theologian, and the late Baptist Rev. W. W. Finlator testified as experts.   Pollitt has argued a necessity defense before the Supreme Court and lower courts many times.  Eriksen says "The prosecutor was prepared but no match to our two witnesses."   The Judge did not see the applicability to this case of opposition to the segregationist Jim Crow laws.  He said the defendants could have merely written letters in opposition.   Scott Langley, a Catholic Worker who protested at Guantánamo with his wife before the trial, questioned Detective Brandon Harris at the trial:


"In general, as an officer of the law, would you pursue investigations if allegations of a crime were made?"

"Yes sir."

"Is there and investigation underway of Aero Contractors based on our allegations?"

"No sir."

"Are you aware torture is a crime and is illegal under our constitution and international law?"

"Yes sir."


The defense argued in part from the Bible, Rev. Finlator arguing that it "has a bias in favor of justice," but the Judge then cited Scripture in sentencing.   Ethridge said that he believed in the Bible and Jesus, but that the Bible says to obey the law and does not "excuse criminal activity" (November 25 Independent).   Eriksen said Ethridge seemed to consider finding them innocent but instead repeated his points and found the fourteen guilty under State law. He said it was not a crime of necessity.   Eriksen reports that the Judge said "I am not going to tell you what this means, you are going to have to ask, I am going to continue your judgment and assess your court cost."    


All were sentenced to suspended sentences, 10 days probation and fined $50 dollars and $110 dollars for court costs, but their appeal vacates their sentences.   Patrick O'Neill has more than 5 prior convictions (level three, more than four prior arrests), so he also received a 20-day prison term, a fine, and a year on probation.   Eriksen was sentenced to a 10 day jail sentence and one year probation (level two, more than one prior arrest).  O'Neill and Eriksen risked incarcerating if the 14 had lost their appeal.   A new jury trial, possibly before the Superior Court, was scheduled for July 31st, but it has been cancelled, so the protestors will not be punished.   The State might not have wanted to pay for it or give the defendants further publicity.


Eriksen calls the action "a truly rewarding and enlightening experience" and is hopeful that Aero can be stopped.   She says police were all "cordial and respectful" and "They were fascinated with our charges.  They were so different from anything they had seen, a far cry from the drunks and murderers that they are used to. The prosecutor dragged this out more than it needed to be."  


Protesting Aero at the State Owned Global TransPark


The day after the trial many of the same people and others (about 30) protested at the Aero hangar in the Global TransPark, part of the Kinston Regional Jetport.   The hangar was roped off with yellow crime scene tape and the sheriff's deputies were asked to investigate.  Activists examined the area, leafleted, and tried to deliver an indictment to the Airport's director.   The director was in his office alone, but supposedly in a meeting. No one was arrested, since the Sheriffs Department was given notice beforehand and Aero allowed the protest.   There were sharpshooters on the Airport roof and in the parking lot.  Eriksen was interviewed for the 6pm news on the local NBC station.  The Global TransPark is a State owned airport that was built to facilitate economic development, but has not lived up to expectations.  Indictments were also presented to the Governor's office ( Independent, January 25, 2006).     


The NC Stop Torture Now group met April 5th for about 45 minutes with (Democratic) Governor Mike Easley's Chief of Staff, Franklin Freeman.   They were reportedly stonewalled, though it was a "polite" meeting, according to Joan Walsh, of the Durham BORDC.  The Executive Director of the NCCC, George Reed; Walsh; Johnston County activist Allyson Caison; Bill Towe and Christina Cowger, of Peace Action; and lawyers Steve Edelstein and Vanessa Lucas, of the firm Edelstein & Payne were at the meeting for the anti-torture group.   This meeting was arranged after many calls from STN members and with the help of State House member Paul Luebke.  STN asked that the State Bureau of Investigation examine the allegations against Aero Contractors and that Aero's lease be cancelled if the allegations were proven.   Freeman said Aero has a lease for at least twenty years, which the State might not be able to cancel, and that Aero owns its hangar.  The group suggested that the contract might be voided if Aero is acting illegally or immorally.   Freeman again tried to divert the issue to the Federal government, saying that Congress could stop funding the project.  He was asked to place Aero on the GTP Board's agenda, but said it might not be possible since Gov. Easley is only formally on the Board and does not participate.   The person in charge seems to be Vice-Director Eugene Conti.  Freeman did not comment on STN's assertion that this could be bad for the Governor's poll numbers.   The following Friday, April 7th, there was a protest by about 15 people from 4-6pm at the Governor's Mansion in Raleigh. 


May 1st five members of the Durham and Orange BORDCs met with Rep. David Price (Democrat) regarding Aero.   Price is the only representative from North Carolina to have co-sponsored Rep. Edward Mackey's February 2005 House Resolution 952, outlawing rendition "to countries where torture or otherwise inhuman treatment of persons occurs."   Last year six NC representatives voted against torture: Democratic Reps Butterfield, Etheridge, McIntyre, Miller, Price, Watt, and Walter Jones, a Republican.   This is despite Etheridge's role in the fall of 2005 in getting the Federal government to provide $650,000 dollars to help pay the $9 million dollar cost of expanding the Johnston County Airport.   STN is also speaking to State legislators.  


May 2 there was a daytime Global TransPark Board of Directors meeting, which about 23 activists attended.  Protesters carried signs such as "Stop Torture.  Investigate Aero" and "Stop CIA Torture Flights." A press conference was held outside.  Cowger said that "Our tax dollars are being used to support an infrastructure that is providing for activities that are not supported by most of the American people."   Marine Iraq War vet Jacek Teller said that the majority of soldiers want to act legally, can handle alleged terrorists lawfully, and that the soldiers are endangered by US support for torture.   Demonstrators were allowed into the meeting, where they unfurled a sign, which had to be put away.  They then revealed t-shirts against Aero worn under business clothes (  After being refused early in the meeting, three people were allowed to make a very short presentation to the Board before being stopped.  No one answered the demand that the Board end Aero's lease if it is found to be acting illegally.   Vice Director Conti stated to the Kinston Free Press diplomatically that: "We are not investigators but we do appreciate the concern and comments of these citizens."   During the Clinton Administration Conti was a Department of Transportation Assistant Secretary and he was director of Erskine Bowles' Senate campaign in 2000.  Reportedly some Board members looked uncomfortable being confronted with these allegations.   GTP Authority Director and former Kinston City Council member told the paper that: "I didn't like the way they disrupted our meeting. They didn't come before us with any facts" ( Kinston Free Press, May 3, 2006).  STN urges people to contact Governor Easley and the Board members (see below or for information; the Governor's information is listed after the State workers article in this issue).  At a later meeting, TransPark Executive Director Darlene Waddell argued that those protesting Aero would reduce employment in eastern North Carolina.             


STN has begun a "listening project," in which Johnston County residents are asked what they think about rendition, torture, and the alleged local connection.   The main purpose is to learn residents' attitudes in order to lobby the County government.  The first survey was April 17th and STN members interviewed 103 people, 10 of whom wanted further information.   Another 33 people were approached but refused to comment.  Another survey was May 20. Fewer people were questioned, but the results were similar.   In both cases, about 2/3rds of the people surveyed, once they understood the questions, were against rendition and torture and felt that the County should not allow Aero to lease space if the charges are true.  


Recently the State Democratic Party passed, without needing debate, a resolution against US torture, which mentioned Aero Contractors.   Previously anti-torture resolutions were passed by several Democratic bodies in the State, including the Demoratic Party branches in Durham, Orange, and Wake Counties.    


About 15-20 STN activists, mostly from the Triangle and Johnston County, have been demonstrating against Aero every second Saturday of the month since December.   The site is high-profile, at the wedge where US Highway 70 and Business 70 split, about four miles south of Clayton.  The vigil attracts a lot of attention and many drivers honk in support.   On one rainy Saturday this spring a woman stopped and gave the vigilers an umbrella.  She thanked them for drawing attention to the issue and said that she had relatives in the military.   There were about 15 people at the February vigil, 22 in March, and 13 in April because many regulars were out of town.  


European investigation of, and complicity in, US rendition


Spain, Germany, and Italy are examining whether their airports are used in torture rendition.  Sweden, Norway, and the European Parliament began investigating allegations of torture after public pressure ( WP, November 16, 2005; on the European Parliament investigation see ). 


Germany is investigating the case of citizen Khaled el-Masri, who was allegedly disappeared while vacationing in Macedonia and tortured for five months in Afghanistan.   el-Masri was taken from a bus at the Serbia-Macedonia border December 31, 2003 and held for 23 days before being drugged and beaten for a flight to Afghanistan. The day before his passport was given a Macedonian exit stamp Aero's Boeing Business Jet landed in the Macedonian capital of Skopje, before flying on to Baghdad and Kabul.   It was parked a kilometer form the airport terminal and Macedonian security personnel were not allowed onboard the plane, which was considered US territory.   At the time the jet was numbered N313P, but later it was sold to Keeler and Tate Management and is now numbered N44765.  el-Masri was let go in the mountains of Albania, on the order of then national security Adviser Condolezza Rize because he was not the person wanted by the US.  This was after he started a hunger strike and was force-fed nasally, and after being told by his captors that they knew he was innocent but that only high officials could order his release.   George Tenet, then CIA Director, was aware of his detention.  Reportedly the German government, if not others, knew what was going on and did nothing (Reuters article online at


Italy tried twenty-two alleged CIA agents for the February 2003 kidnapping and torture in Egypt of fundamentalist Muslim cleric Abu Omar (Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr), of Milan.   Germany is investigating this same case because the cleric was brought to German's Ramstein Air Base for transport to Egypt.  It was seen as unlikely that the CIA would be forthcoming, so convictions were unlikely.   Prosecutor Ebehard Bayer told the Post that "If it is true that these are CIA people, I can hardly imagine that the CIA would allow its people to be extradited" (WP, November 16, 2005).   The Berlusconi government most likely knew about the kidnapping, and later excused it, although it hurt an Italian investigation (Los Angeles Times, online at 


Omar was abducted off the street by unknown men according to an eyewitness.  He was then interrogated at an Italian air force base in Aviano before being flown to Egypt where he was tortured.  


He was flown to Egypt on a Gulfstream model 4 jet, which is also used by the Boston Red Sox's manager.  The jet is owned by Albany, New York based Assembly Point Aviation and possibly based in Johnston County, NC (according to Stephanie Eriksen).  Its serial number is 1172 and it has been identified as N85VM and N227SV.  It has also flown to Germany, Afghanistan, Ireland, Morocco, Dubai, Jordan, Japan, Switzerland, Azerbaijan, the Czech Republic, and 51 times to Guantánamo Bay (see Knight-Ridder Tribune Newspapers article online at   


After public pressure, Spain is trying to find out why CIA planes landed more than twelve times in the Canary Islands and Majorca.   A previous finding that no prisoners were involved in the Majorcan flights is being re-examined.  Interior Minister Jose Antonio Alonso said that "If it is confirmed that this is true, we would be facing very serious acts that would break the rules concerning the treatment of people in any democratic system.   They would be very serious and intolerable acts" (Washington Post, November 16, 2005).  


Human Rights Watch says that countries such as Austria, Canada, Germany, Georgia, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the UK also attempt to send suspects to countries where they could be tortured.  


Denmark (also Ireland) protested use of their airspace by the CIA.  In March 2004 a CIA plane stopped for 23 hours at Copenhagen's airport for an unknown reason, leading the Foreign Ministry to ask that the CIA not use Danish airspace for secret renditions or "purposes that are not compatible with international conventions" ( WP, November 16, 2005). 


Swiss prosecutor Dick Marty reported to the Council of Europe January 22, 2006 that his investigation found that six CIA aircraft made 800 rendition trips (see ).  Amnesty International counts almost 1000 rendition flights plus another 600 using planes that are officially acknowledged as having been used by the CIA at some point (, April 7, 2006).  The CIA told the Post (November 16, 2006) that rendition only occurs in friendly countries and with the permission of the host country's intelligence officials.            


The Bush Administration and torture  


It is illegal to torture and rendered detainees often disappear permanently (see also the Alliance! article on Guantánamo, at  Some people have apparently died while being tortured with American involvement.  Rendered detainees are not able to contest their arrests in court and their whereabouts are unknown to the public.   It has been proven that many of these detainees are innocent of involvement in terrorism.  American use of torture and rendition make the new revelation of the use of the CIA's secret prison network an important issue.   It has already been revealed that the US operates several Guantánamo sized prisons for detainees, for example in Haripur and Kohat in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province.  


Only low ranking US soldiers have been tried and punished for torture, while forms of torture and inhumane practices are official policy.   Army Chief Warrant Officer Lewis E. Welshofer, Jr. was let off lightly after torturing Iraqi Major General Abed Hamed Mowhoush to death.  In April, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that since late 2001 more than 600 soldiers and civilians have been accused of involvement in the mistreatment or torture of more than 460 prisoners.    HRW says that apparently only about half of the charges have been fully investigated.  Only 40 have been sentenced to prison, and all but 10 to less than a year, which HRW calls light punishment for at least some of the crimes.   Only three officers have been convicted for prisoner abuse.  Of about 20 civilians, including CIA agents, reported to the Department of Justice, only a contractor has been indicted ( 


The McCain "Torture Ban" does not ban all torture and actually encourages it in some ways.  Even so, Bush in signing it claimed that he is not bound by Congress on this issue, under the "unitary executive" theory (see the above article).  Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has also opined that the Constitution does not apply to US personnel operating outside of the country, so treaties and laws are moot.


Local Information:      


The Aero vigils at the split of US 70 and Business 70 are held at 2pm the second Saturday of every month.  There are carpools at 1pm from Brightleaf Square in Durham, following the weekly anti-war vigil, and from Falconbridge in Chapel Hill.  .


NC Stop Torture Now meets in Raleigh every two to four weeks, usually on a Sunday afternoon. 


For STN phone contacts about the above events and contact information for the GTP Board email southplumb at gmail dot com.  

Undermining the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

Wednesday the House overwhelmingly supported Bush's nuclear deal with India, rewarding it after it developed and tested nuclear weapons (House Resolution 5682, online at / ).  The agreement has provisions against proliferation, but discarding the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and increasing India's nuclear capacity encourage proliferation.  I think India, Pakistan, and Isreal have not signed the NPT.  This again shows how hypocritical it is for the US to threaten north Korea over the development of nuclear weapons.  Brad Miller, Bob Etheridge, and Price co-sponsored this bill and approved it, while Walter Jones and Charles Taylor, Republicans, were the only NC Representatives to oppose it.  
Price, Etheridge, Watt, Butterfield, Jones, Coble, and McIntyre voted for a bill that I can't find online that would have blocked the above bill until India voices support for US anti-Iran actions in the UN.  This is more hypocrisy and hard politics.  Iran is probably also a potential enemy of India, so it would be threatened by India's nuclear weapons.    
In the Senate, our illustrious senators voted against sex education to reduce teen pregnancies, possibly because it would have included education about contraceptives and birth control pills.        

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Price on a Lebanon ceasefire

I received the message below from Rep. Price's office Friday.  After that is a news release from his office about the effort and a copy of the letter to Bush advocating an immediate ceasefire, an international force in southern Lebanon, and the disarmament of Hezbollah.  The call for a ceasefire is a good step, although Israel apparently can't defeat Hezbollah with its current forces.  An international force will be aimed against Hezbollah I expect (it is "to prevent the re-emergence of Hezbollah," says the letter to Bush), instead of acting to protect the Lebanese from Israel and Israelis from their government's poor foreign policy.  If Hezbollah doesn't agree to it, it would face fierce resistance I expect.  The Herald-Sun today reported that a settlement is being worked out that sounds slightly better than Price's proposal.  This settlement could involve an exchange of prisoners (but only three Lebanese) and Israel would agree to "consider" relinquishing the Shebaa Farms territory.  
Again Price blames all of this on Hezbollah and argues for a ceasefire more to protect Israel and the "pro-reform" Lebanese government than to protect Lebanon and its citizens from Israeli aggression.  I wonder what the letter's third paragraph means.  If Israel looked like it could defeat Hezbollah, would Israel's actions be okay and a ceasefire unnecesary?  And what about Israel's actions in Gaza?  Will they get a ceasefire?    
Obviously Price and I fundamentally disagree.  I could be wrong, but I see Israel as the problem here.  It could have been illegal for Hezbollah to cross the border, but this is in the context of Israel's aggression against the Palestinians and continued disputes with Lebanon (or at least with Hezbollah, over Lebanese sovereignty).  It is illegal to attack civilians, but I've seen reports that Hezbollah is also targeting Israeli military sites (and the missiles are probably not very accurate anyway).  Hezbollah is shooting off inaccurate small rockets while Israel is leveling Beirut with more accurate weapons.  If Israel is a civilized, democratic country, why does it act like a terrorist?  I think I heard on the BBC or Democracy Now! that an Israeli military officer said Israel would level 10 buildings in Beirut for every missile into Israel.  This is like Nazi Germany's policies in eastern Europe.  I see Price and most of Congress as condemning Hezbollah for opposing Israeli aggression against Lebanon and Palestine.  What has the US done in the past decades to really control Israel and ask it to obey international law?  There is no reason for the US to be abetting Israeli crimes and we wouldn't have terrorism problems if we weren't supporting Israel and oppressing Middle Eastern countries.  The US could make demands of Hezbollah if it weren't excusing and facilitating similar actions by Israel.  
Price did vote against the Iraq War in some fashion (maybe it was the war authorization bill), but the issue of Lebanon shows how anti-war he is.  I think he also refuses to vote against appropriations for the Iraq War or do much more than ask Bush to outline a plan to end the Iraq occupation.  Since even many left Democrats voted for the Afghan War, I would expect Price did too.  Can we trust him to reign in Israel and restore Iraq's sovereignty, or oppose attacks on Syria, Iran, north Korea (after all, mean Democrats blame Bush for dealing with Iraq instead of the DPRK), Venezuela, or wherever Bush or his successor will start a war?  And I doubt this is only a foreign policy problem (though what we do in the world fuels al-Qaida, which then attacks us here, and wars eat up tax funds).  If Price doesn't oppose wars that are bad for the vast majority of Americans (this is what "national security" should really be judged by), than what else might he be too soft on?  I will probably be writing on this sooner or later.               
Dear [southplumb]:
Knowing of your concern about the current conflict
involving Israel and Hezbollah militants, I want to
let you know of my efforts to urge President Bush to
take a leadership role in resolving the situation.
Today, I led several of my colleagues in sending a
letter to the President calling upon him to seek an
immediate cease fire and to pursue a major diplomatic
effort to establish a robust international security
force in southern Lebanon, disarm Hezbollah, and
support pro-democracy reformers in the Lebanese
government. For your review, a copy of our letter is

It is my deep hope that President Bush will heed our
words and seek an immediate ceasefire, for the
situation is deteriorating every day we fail to act.
You can be sure that I will continue to urge him to
engage with our allies and leaders in the region to
work for a resolution that will stop the tragic loss
of innocent civilian lives on both sides of the border
and lay the foundations for long-term peace in the



Member of Congress
Price Calls for Ceasefire, International Force
Argues for Broader U.S. Role in Diplomacy

Washington, Jul 29 - Rep. David Price (NC-04) yesterday led a bipartisan group of his colleagues in calling on the Bush Administration to join with America's allies in seeking an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah, accompanied by intensive diplomacy to produce a just and lasting resolution to the conflict. In a letter sent to the President yesterday, the four members of Congress called the Administration's failure to support an immediate ceasefire "strategically naïve," and expressed worries that the continuing conflict is galvanizing anti-Israel sentiment in the region and undermining pro-democracy reformers in the Lebanese government. Price was joined by Reps. James Leach (R-IA-02), Lois Capps (D-CA-23), and Bob Filner (D-CA-51) in sending the letter Friday.

Price and his colleagues placed the blame for the conflict squarely on the unprovoked aggression of Hezbollah, and they affirmed Israel's right to defend its citizens. The letter also urges the Administration to combine the negotiated ceasefire with intensive diplomacy to establish an international military force in southern Lebanon, dismantle Hezbollah's military capabilities, facilitate the return of kidnapped Israeli soldiers, and support a strengthened reform government in Lebanon.

Price recently returned from Lebanon where, as ranking Democrat on the House Democracy Assistance Commission, he was working with the recently elected pro-reform majority to make the parliament a more effective representative institution. He said his experience with the Lebanese reformers gives him hope that, with ongoing support from the international community, Lebanon's government will be able to exercise control over all its territory and join with Israel as a peaceful, democratic nation in a troubled region.

The text of the letter follows.

July 28, 2006

The Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President;

We write to urge you to join our allies in seeking an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah, with the understanding that such a ceasefire must be followed by intensive diplomacy to establish an international military force in southern Lebanon, dismantle Hezbollah's military capabilities, facilitate the return of kidnapped Israeli soldiers, and support the ongoing development of an autonomous, democratic government in Lebanon.

This crisis was precipitated by neither Israel nor Lebanon. Hezbollah's unprovoked raid across the internationally recognized border between the two nations, and its subsequent rocket attacks – explicitly aimed at civilian targets – left Israel no choice but to defend itself. But the continuing conflict is costing the lives of innocent civilians on both sides of the border, is destroying Lebanon's infrastructure nationwide, and has the potential to escalate beyond the immediate theater. For these reasons, we cannot allow the current violence to continue.

Press reports have indicated that your Administration would not support a ceasefire agreement until Hezbollah is entirely disabled. We believe this to be strategically naive. All indications suggest that Israel's campaign to root out Hezbollah from southern Lebanon faces far greater challenges than anticipated, and that even several additional weeks of fighting may make little difference in the terms of a ceasefire arrangement. As the New York Times recently reported, "Israeli Army officers are saying that it is probably unrealistic to expect that the military can wipe out Hezbollah's well-hidden and widespread arsenal," even with a prolonged campaign. Moreover, as the conflict drags on, anti-Israel sentiment in Lebanon and in the region is drastically escalating, a development that clearly works against Israel's long-term interests and our own national security interests.

Achieving a ceasefire agreement must be the first step in our diplomatic effort to achieve a just and lasting resolution to the conflict, not the end result. Once a ceasefire is achieved, it is essential that your Administration work with our allies to achieve a settlement that protects the people of both Israel and Lebanon from threats posed by Hezbollah and external forces. At a minimum, such a settlement should include the return of kidnapped Israeli soldiers and a process for fully dismantling Hezbollah's military capabilities in accordance with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559. Our diplomatic efforts must also include a significant U.S. support for the pro-democracy forces that captured the majority in the Lebanese government in the wake of the Cedar Revolution.

It is also clear that a long-term, multi-national security force will be required in Southern Lebanon to monitor a ceasefire and prevent a re-emergence of Hezbollah. Such a force must have significantly greater capabilities and stronger international backing than the current UNIFIL mission. The establishment of a security force, which will be needed in the region until a lasting peace is secured, cannot be accomplished without the assertive leadership, and the strong financial backing, of the United States. Israel has made clear it would welcome a strong multi-national force in southern Lebanon, and we should begin the hard work of assembling it now.

We are acutely aware that the lives of many thousands of Israeli and Lebanese civilians are under constant threat as a result of this conflict, and we mourn the lives that have already been lost. We urge you to act now to prevent the unnecessary loss of additional lives by committing to a long-term U.S. diplomatic engagement in the region, beginning with a call for an immediate ceasefire. We also urge you to give favorable consideration to Rep. Leach's proposal for appointment of a special Middle East peace envoy.


    s/                                     s/
David Price                 Lois Capps

    s/                                     s/
Bob Filner                 James Leach

Friday, July 28, 2006

Another update

The next meeting of the Marxist Forum could be at Durham's Southwest Library, which is the closest one to Chapel Hill, at 2pm on Saturday, August 26th, or at 2pm on the 19th at the Chapel Hill Public Library, but I think that date won't work for me.  Can people meet on a weekday evening or on September 2nd if the 26th in Durham doesn't work? 
I heard that an agreement might be close on Scott Mill, in southern Durham.  It would include extra erosion control measures and some light pollution controls. 

Reportback from the Durham teach-in

Thursday evening GRIM hosting a showing of the Center for
Constitutional Rights' "How to Impeach A President" and discussion
(the CCR campaign is online at The
video was very general and referred to a new book by the CCR. I
missed the name of the first section of the show, but others were 2.
Focus your arguments, 3. Make a strong case (here or in a section
called Article 2 the video outlined some major grounds for
impeachment: lying about Iraq having a connection to 9/11 and having
weapons of mass destruction, torture of prisoners, rendition to third
countries for torture, and signing statements saying that Bush does
not have to follow laws passed by Comgress and ratified by Bush. Next
was 4. Don't be deterred, which argued that we should start with Bush
but that his whole administration is tainted. It also pointed out
that Nixon "crushed McGovern" in the 1972 presidential election, with
61% of the vote, yet he was later impeached by a House that was only
55% Democratic. 5. Take action outlined several steps citizens can
take for impeachment: write to your representatives, pass resolutions
in civic groups and governments, which works best concurrently with
petitioning, take the CCR up on its offer to send a free copy of its
impeachment book to your representative, host video showings and
discussions, write to your newspaper, etc.

Next we had a very good discussion, although I have some concerns
about some of what was said. The first question was about people judt
not wanting to hear this and avoiding hearing about the Bush
Administration's crimes. The conversation then turned to the issue of
complicity of the Administration in 9/11, with some people believing
that is relevant and others wanting that discussion to be separate
from reasons for impeachment. I think more people might have believed
it was relevant that that it wasn't, but I'm not sure. Next there was
some talk of our resolutions. I wanted to point out that Mayor Bell
appears not to have contacted Price on this, that the Durham County
Commissioners might bee more receptive, and I wanted to ask what our
chances might be with the State Legislature.

It shouldn't be surprising, but is very disappointing, that it seems
like elected Democrats are more opposed to impeachment than
Republicans! Rep. Miller told people who came from Greensboro that
the Democrats should be more noble than the Republicans and this seems
to be the consensus! I think he also told them (or was it Mel Watt,
who had almost the same line?) that the impeachment of Clinton was a
terrible crisis that should not be repeated (people here mentioned the
fact that the House only spent 3 days on it and the Senate spent 1
month and that Gingrich did worse). This is terrible reasoning,
showing that they excuse the crimes and offenses that the Bush
Administration appears to be committing. Some defenders of democracy!
They also could be afraid of impeachment being used against them (but
Andy said look at the polls) and it was suggested that some were being
quiet since the Voting Rights Act was up for renewal.

There was some talk of other impeachment methods. Fitzgerald was
mentioned, but pundits say he is not political. A special prosecutor
would have to be appointed by Bush (see his response to the letter
Price co-sponsored on the NSA spying). Many people seemed to think
there would be investigations and subpoenas if the Democrats win a
majority this fall. Someone said it was all over if the Democrats
didn't win. In a way this is true, but I felt like pointing out that
grassroots pressure works regardless of what party is in power.
People power has caused many governments to fall (for example,
Bolivia, the Philippines, Ukraine, etc.). It would be easier with the
Democrats in control, but it is defeatism to pin our hopes on them and
I think the Democrats will still avoid it, and when they do it, they
will avoid the big issues. That is what happened in some ways with
the Nixon and since Congress now is as guilty as the Bush
Administration on some things, they will want to disturb things as
little as possible (at which point I think it will be our role to
build the grassroots pressure).

There was a question about how to unify our efforts. I think holding
a Piedmont wide or State conference at some point would be a good
idea. There are supposed to be lots of groups, but I've only heard of
GRIM, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Kernersville, and Charlotte efforts
dedicated to impeachment.

We discussed the possibility of election fraud. Our state is well off
with voter verified paper balloting, but it is one of only 12 states,
and they aren't the most important ones. There are problems in Ohio,
Florida, Pennsylvania, and California. On the other hand, people said
the Republicans would accuse the Democrats of cheating if the
Democrats win this year. It was said that special elections and local
politics point to Democratic gains.

We ended returning to the issue of how to bring up these issues with
people. It was suggested that we focus on things like the costs of
Bush's crimes (it could like to gas costs too I think). At some point
someone said, 'Do you want a liar in office?' As scheduled at 8:30
the meeting ended, but most people stayed to continue discussion over

In all there were 14 people, including 5 who carpooled from Greensboro
(through three dangerous downpours). The Indy publicity brought out
three new people (though the website mentioned in the ad is a .org,
not .com). There is a range of opinion within the impeachment
movement, from Democratic Party-centered to non-centered, as can be
seen above. We collected some more petition signatures and
strategized some.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Price's reply to my concerns about H. Res. 921

Surprisingly, I received the response email below from Rep. Price's office Wednesday evening, after having emailed him Tuesday.  Attached were Price's remarks to Congress on H. Res. 921, which are posted on his website.  I think Israel does have a right to defend itself and a responsibility to its citizens, but its existence as a colonial, chauvinist, and aggressive state means that what could be legitimate self defense easily becomes an excuse for aggression, as I believe it has in this case.  You have to ask, what is Israel defending?  Does it have a right to defend land that is clearly occupied and stolen.  What is self defense and what is only retaliation?  It is good that Price seems to care about the Lebanese and supports negotiating with Syria.  The problem is he glosses over what Israel has done to cause and worsen this situation and then he portrays this as a case of barbarism by Hezbollah.  Hezbollah possibly did act stupidly and illegally, but it has legitimate grievances and it is not as wrong in this war as Price and H. Res. 921 portray it.  It could be a reactionary fundamentalist party, but in this case it seems to have acted for legitimate if not just reasons.  Price also makes it seem like war was Israel's only possible response, but war is what caused the massive missile attacks, if I remember correctly.          
Dear [southplumb]:
Thank you for contacting me about the current conflict between Israel and Hezbollah militants. I appreciate hearing your thoughts on this troubling situation.

I share your concern about this conflict, which has already caused the deaths of hundreds of civilians and displaced tens of thousands more. The conflict will have a tremendous and broad impact on U.S. national security interests throughout the region, including in Iraq. Moreover, this emotionally charged situation has a deep personal impact for many of us, especially the dozens of Triangle residents with family or friends in the region, or who have been trapped in the region themselves.

As you may know, Lebanon was embroiled in a civil war for decades, until the 1990 Taifa accords brought peace through a political settlement that balanced power between the warring factions. During this civil war, Lebanon was occupied by both Syria and Israel. Israel completed the withdrawal of its forces in 2000. Last year, U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559 called upon Syria to withdraw its forces, and required all remaining militias in Lebanon - including Hezbollah - to disarm. After massive popular demonstrations following the assassination of reformist Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Syria did withdraw. Among Lebanese militias, only Hezbollah has defied the international community by continuing to amass arms.
It is clear that the current situation, in which Hezbollah is firing a daily barrage of rockets at civilian targets across Northern Israel, including in its third-largest city, is unacceptable. Israel cannot tolerate such a threat to its very existence as a sovereign nation; it has no choice but to act to disable and disarm Hezbollah. The United States and the international community must support Israel's right to defend its citizens and its security.

On the other hand, actions that could undermine anti-Syrian, pro-democracy reformers in the Lebanese government or radicalize the Lebanese people against Israel serve no one's interests, including Israel's. Our ultimate need is for a stronger, not weaker, Lebanese government, and widespread destruction of infrastructure and Lebanese military facilities are counterproductive in terms of that objective. Moreover, we must not lose sight of the human costs of this conflict. Innocent civilians have paid a high price in both Lebanon and Israel, but especially in Lebanon, where reportedly over three hundred civilians have been killed and over half a million civilians have been displaced from their homes.

Our goal must be a swift and just resolution to this conflict that guarantees that Hezbollah will no longer threaten Israel while, at the same time, preserving the promise of Lebanon's pro-democracy reform government. To reach this goal, it is imperative that the United States be intensely engaged with the governments of Israel and Lebanon, as well as key interlocutors in Syria, Jordan, and elsewhere in the region. For far too long now, the Bush Administration has sat on the sidelines.

As you know, the House recently considered legislation, H. Res. 921, condemning the attacks by Hezbollah and terrorists in Gaza against Israel and expressing support for Israel's right to defend itself. The resolution was significantly flawed, failing to recognize the human toll suffered by the Lebanese people and failing to call upon the Bush Administration to more actively work for peace. Despite these flaws, I felt it important to strongly condemn the unprovoked attacks that launched this conflict, and I voted for the legislation. During House debate, however, I made known my reservations and strongly urged the Administration to play a proactive role by engaging leaders in the region and working for peace. I have attached a copy of an extended version of my remarks for your information.

While I am encouraged by Secretary Rice's recent visit to Beirut, it must serve as a beginning to far more intensive engagement. You can be sure that I will continue to urge the Bush Administration to work for a resolution to the conflict, while also calling upon all sides to respect the lives of the innocent civilians who have already suffered so much.

Again, I appreciate hearing from you. I hope you will stay in touch.


Member of Congress

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Rep. Price votes for war in the Middle East! + updates

First some updates.  The Marxist Forum meeting on imperialism will be moved to some Saturday in August.  Some of the regular people weren't able to come and there didn't seem to be any new people.  I was 15 minutes late and I feel very bad if anyone came but thought the meeting had been cancelled.  Moving the meeting might be good anyway, since the suggested readings are pretty long. 
There will be a video showing and discussion this Thursday, the 27th, at the Peace Covenant Church in southern Durham at 601 E. Highway 54, just east of the Fayetteville Rd. intersection.  A notice is below, after the main part of this post.   
Rep. Price position on the US-backed Israeli war on Lebanon
I should have expected, but can't believe, that Rep. David Price voted for the defense of Israel bill last week!  This bill, House Resolution 921 (the bill is online at in two versions that seem to be parts of what the Congress endorsed) supports Israeli aggression and occupation, and provides a pretext for war with Syria or Iran.  It does this through double standards, glossing over, excusing, or even approving of, Israeli actions that would be called aggressive or terrorist if Arabs did them.  Background on the conflict since the Palestinian elections is provided by Sharat G. Lin in his "A Chronology of the Latest Chrisis in the Middle East" at, showing that Israel provoked and wanted this conflict.  On a longer time scale, the conflict is explainable by seeing that Israel is a theocratic colony created on stolen and ethnically cleansed land.  Every day there are reports of Israeli crimes in this war - it has killed about 400 Lebanese civilians, most not part of Hezbollah, targeted powerplants, bridges, all of Lebanon's ports and airports, and other infrastructure, attacked Red Cross and UN personnel, and is alleged to be using cluster bombs, chemical weapons (white phosphorus), depleted uranium and (I think I heard this on Democracy Now!) hyperbaric bombs that cause suffocation.  I don't see how bombing Lebanon will encourage it to disarm Hezbollah, or do anything but decrease the government's powrer to do so.  I would expect that it would encourage the opposite, but Lebanon is a poorly armed country, but for Hezbollah it seems (the Herald-Sun had a table saying Hezbollah has something like 10-20,000 missiles and Lebanon has...10.    
It is tragic that people are dying in this conflict and both sides should follow international law.  At the same time, it is just to fight oppression and colonization.  National liberation movements, Syria, and Iran, flawed as they are (they have oppressive governments and are not resolutely anti-imperialist, but they aren't great imperialists), are the primary blocks to the US controlling the Middle East.  Al-Qaida taps into just anger at foreign oppression, but al-Qaida is a reactionary creation of imperialism, and might still be connected to the Saudis and the CIA.  Because of this, it won't win, and is hurting the struggle against imperialism and for progress.  Control of the region would allow the US to dominate the world by denying energy to its enemies, since so much of the world's hydrocarbons are in the Middle East and Central Asia.  It is obvious that the US government wants this war, rushing to provide more weapons and diplomatic cover, as well as sickening bipartisan verbal support.  We already provide billions in aid to Israel.  They probably want Hezbollah taken care of, and they might be seeking pretexts for war with Syria or Iran (Ashraf Isma'il suggests this in his article, "Why Israel is Losing," posted online at  Even if they don't want war, they might be led into it by the unfolding of this conflict.            
Price justifies his vote in his July 19th remarks to Congress, posted online at .  He totally blames Hezbollah for this conflict, and says it is acting for Syria and Iran.  He defends Israel's actions and makes it seem like Hezbollah is the only and major killer of civilians in this conflict (shown to be false by articles on Counterpunch and Electronic Intifada's Lebanon site).  Price seems to be content with lip service about Israel needing to show restraint, but letting Israel do our dirty work in Lebanon, and perpetuating arguments that could eventually be used for new US wars, if we aren't drawn directly into this one.  Therefore I see this as advocating aggression and laying the basis for a US war.  Price voted against the Iraq War, but now he is voting for a Syria or Iran War.  Price's liberal position on the conflict is similar to the EU's I think.  We can't count on imperialists to completely stand up for justice in the UN. 
We, the public, need to expose Price's role and apply mass pressure for him to end his support of aggression, impeach Bush and Cheney to prevent future wars (and not support pro-war Democrats), end US aid to Israel, advocate honest negotiation to end Israel's occupation of Arab land, end the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, stop interfering in the internal affairs of other countries, and stop supporting undemocratic governments.  I've publicized my viewpoint and written to Price.  I will take this message to anti-war vigils and GRIM.       
Below is a copy of H. Res 921 EH, with a few annotations where it has omissions, lies, and bourgeois arguments. 
Whereas on September 12, 2005, Israel completed its unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, demonstrating its willingness to make sacrifices for the sake of peace; (Engrossed as Agreed to or Passed by House)


H . Res . 921

In the House of Representatives, U. S.,

July 20, 2006.

Whereas on September 12, 2005, Israel completed its unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, demonstrating its willingness to make sacrifices for the sake of peace [there was some sacrifice, but Israel consolidated its hold on the West Bank and under international law it is still recognized as occupying Gaza];

Whereas more than 1,000 rockets have been launched from Gaza into Israel since Israel's disengagement [Israel has attacked the Palestinians];

Whereas in a completely unprovoked attack [see Lin's article] that occurred in undisputed Israeli territory on June 25, 2006, Israeli Defense Forces Corporal Gilad Shalit was kidnapped and is being held hostage in Gaza by a Palestinian terrorist group which includes members of Hamas;

Whereas Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal, in Damascus, Syria, has acknowledged the role of Hamas in holding Corporal Shalit hostage;

Whereas in a completely unprovoked attack that occurred in undisputed Israeli territory on July 12, 2006, operatives of the terrorist group Hezbollah operating out of southern Lebanon killed three Israeli soldiers and took two others hostage [see Lin's article];

Whereas Israel fully complied with United Nations Security Council Resolution 425 (1978) by completely withdrawing its forces from Lebanon [the Sheba Farms seem to be an issue and I thought Israel was forced out], as certified by the United Nations Security Council and affirmed by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan on June 16, 2000, when he said, `Israel has withdrawn from [Lebanon] in full compliance with Security Council Resolution 425.';

Whereas United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559 (2004) calls for the complete withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon and the dismantlement of all independent militias in Lebanon;

Whereas despite the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559, the Government of Lebanon has failed to disband and disarm Hezbollah, allowing Hezbollah instead to amass 13,000 rockets, including rockets that are more destructive, longer-range and more accurate than rockets previously used by Hezbollah, and has integrated Hezbollah into the Lebanese Government;

Whereas the Government of Israel has previously shown great restraint despite the fact that Hezbollah has launched at least four separate attacks into Israel using rockets and ground forces over the past year;

Whereas the failure of the Government of Lebanon to implement all aspects of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559 and to extend its authority throughout its territory has enabled Hezbollah to launch armed attacks against Israel and recently to kidnap Israeli soldiers;

Whereas Hezbollah's strength derives significantly from the direct financial, military, and political support it receives from Syria and Iran [I think this is disputed], and Hezbollah also receives important support from sources within Lebanon;

Whereas Iranian Revolutionary Guards continue to operate in southern Lebanon, providing support to Hezbollah and reportedly controlling its operational activities;

Whereas the Government of the United States has enacted several laws, including the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003 (Public Law 108-175) and the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-172), which call for the imposition of sanctions on Syria and Iran for, among other things, their support for terrorism and terrorist organizations;

Whereas the House of Representatives has repeatedly called for full implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559;

Whereas section 1224 of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Year 2003 (Public Law 107-228) withholds certain assistance to Lebanon contingent on the deployment of the Lebanese armed forces to the internationally recognized border between Lebanon and Israel and its effective assertion of authority in the border area in order, among other reasons, to prevent cross-border infiltration by terrorists, precisely the criminal activity that has provoked the current crisis;

Whereas President George W. Bush stated on July 12, 2006, `Hezbollah's terrorist operations threaten Lebanon's security and are an affront to the sovereignty of the Lebanese Government. Hezbollah's actions are not in the interest of the Lebanese people, whose welfare should not be held hostage to the interests of the Syrian and Iranian regimes.', and has repeatedly affirmed that Syria and Iran must be held to account for their shared responsibility in the recent attacks;

Whereas the United States recognizes that some members of the democratically-elected Lebanese parliament are working to build an autonomous and sovereign Lebanon and supports their efforts; and

Whereas both Hezbollah and Hamas refuse to recognize Israel's right to exist and call for the destruction of Israel [this isn't completely true of Hamas at least]: Now, therefore, be it

    Resolved, That the House of Representatives--

      (1) reaffirms its steadfast support for the State of Israel;

      (2) condemns Hamas and Hezbollah for engaging in unprovoked and reprehensible armed attacks against Israel on undisputed Israeli territory, for taking hostages, for killing Israeli soldiers, and for continuing to indiscriminately target Israeli civilian populations with their rockets and missiles;

      (3) further condemns Hamas and Hezbollah for cynically exploiting civilian populations as shields, locating their equipment and bases of operation, including their rockets and other armaments, amidst civilian populations, including in homes and mosques [it might not be intentional];

      (4) recognizes Israel's longstanding commitment to minimizing civilian loss and welcomes Israel's continued efforts to prevent civilian casualties [some effort!];

      (5) demands the Governments of Iran and Syria to direct Hamas and Hezbollah to immediately and unconditionally release Israeli soldiers which they hold captive;

      (6) affirms that all governments that have provided continued support to Hamas or Hezbollah share responsibility for the hostage-taking and attacks against Israel and, as such, should be held accountable for their actions [here is the call for aggression];

      (7) condemns the Governments of Iran and Syria for their continued support for Hezbollah and Hamas in their armed attacks against Israelis and their other terrorist activities;

      (8) supports Israel's right to take appropriate action to defend itself, including to conduct operations both in Israel and in the territory of nations which pose a threat to it, which is in accordance with international law, including Article 51 of the United Nations Charter;

      (9) commends the President of the United States for fully supporting Israel as it responds to these armed attacks by terrorist organizations and their state sponsors;

      (10) urges the President of the United States to bring the full force of political, diplomatic, and economic sanctions available to the Government of the United States against the Governments of Syria and Iran;

      (11) demands the Government of Lebanon to do everything in its power to find and free the kidnapped Israeli soldiers being held in the territory of Lebanon;

      (12) calls on the United Nations Security Council to condemn these unprovoked acts and to take action to ensure full and immediate implementation of United Nations Security Council 1559 (2004), which requires Hezbollah to be dismantled and the departure of all Syrian personnel and Iranian Revolutionary Guards from Lebanon;

      (13) expresses its condolences to all families of innocent victims of recent violence; and

      (14) declares its continued commitment to working with Israel and other United States allies in combating terrorism worldwide [the bourgeoisie's terrorist is often the working class' objectively allied national liberation fighter, such as in this case].



Teach-in on Impeachment this Thursday
The Grass Roots Impeachment Movement (GRIM)
( is hosting a video
showing and discussion, Thursday, July 27th, 7-8:30pm,
at the Peace Covenant Church in Durham on Highway 54
just east of Fayetteville Rd. (601 E. Highway 54).
The video, "How to Impeach a President" is by the
Center for Constitutional Rights.

You can sign a petition for impeachment online at or at
the Durham Food Co-op or Internationalist Books
(updates at  The
new signatures will probably be presented to Price or
his staff in September.  Allegedly the Durham City Council
doesn't want to vote on this because it won't pass unanimously. 
Maybe petitioning could help sway some Councilors. 

Some other ways to encourage impeaching Bush and
Cheney are by asking local governments to pass
resolutions, asking the State Legislature to submit
articles of impeachment, getting civic groups to pass
resolutions, writing to newspapers, attending upcoming
events, and wearing orange for impeachment on Fridays