compiled by Jessica Maxwell
US Undermines International Criminal Court
On November 3, Under Secretary of State John Bolton announced that the US had reached agreements with 70 countries to guarantee immunity for US citizens from prosecution by the new International Criminal Court (ICC). Such arrangements are referred to as Article 98 exemption agreements. He further suggested that the administrations primary objection to the court is the risk that top figures in US government, past and present, might be prosecuted for war crimes. As an example, he cited recent attempts in Belgium to charge Bush and various high level Pentagon leaders with war crimes for their illegal invasion of Iraq.
According to a report in the Independent (UK), Washington has severed military aid to countries that are refusing to grant Article 98 exemptions. This policy has been rigidly applied by the Bush administration, even to close allies who have supported the American-led occupation of Iraq.
$87 billion Iraq Bill Includes Millions for Miami FTAA Meeting
Bushs controversial spending bill to fund continued operations in Iraq and Afghanistan included $8.5 million to subsidize the meeting of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) held in Miami November 17-21. This fact received little attention until an article was published in the Palm Beach Post on November 4 the day after the Senate passed Bushs spending bill, and a week after it received House approval.
High-level ministers from every country in the Western Hemisphere (except Cuba) will participate in the conference. With tens of thousands of protesters expected, the majority of the $8.5 million will be used for security at the meeting, including covering the cost of bringing in an additional 6,000 police officers from outside.
Since the recent collapse of the World Trade Organization meetings in Cancun, there has been enormous pressure from the Bush administration for a successful FTAA conference. Miami is also vying to be the permanent headquarters of the FTAA, and is therefore particularly concerned about proving its ability to control demonstrations.
Ashcroft Targets Greenpeace
In April 2002, two Green-peace activists climbed onto a commercial ship off the coast of Florida carrying a banner that read, President Bush, Stop Illegal Logging. The ship was bringing illegal mahogany from the Amazon rainforest into the US.
The individuals involved in the protest settled charges against them last year. However, the Justice Department filed criminal charges against Greenpeace as a corporate entity in July 2003, citing an obscure 19th century law prohibiting unauthorized ship boarding. Greenpeace contends that this prosecution - the first indictment of its kind in US history - is politically motivated because of the environmental groups opposition to Bush Administration policies.
On October 27, the Port of Miami refused dock space to the Greenpeace ship M.Y. Esperanza, which was passing through on its way to Europe. During the Esperanzas stay in Miami, Greenpeace had planned to invite the public on board to learn more about the groups work. However, the ship was forced to anchor three miles out at sea, and authorities refused efforts to allow media and supporters on board to visit the ship.
For more information, visit <www.greenpeaceusa.org/trial>.
Fighting Big Media
Over 1500 activists gathered in Madison, Wisconsin from November 7-9 for the National Conference of Media Reform. Organizers originally expected about 200 to register when they envisioned the event several months ago. The massive turnout has been attributed to activists frustration with mainstream medias coverage of the Iraq war as well as this summers controversial rule changes by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that drastically reduced media ownership regulations.
Although a federal appeals court ruling in September has prevented the rules from going into effect, a wide range of individuals and organizations have come together to take action to counter the increasing conglomeration and corporate control of the media. Among the many speakers at the conference were Ralph Nader, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!), John Sweeney (AFL-CIO President), and US Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wis). A letter asking for a vote in Congress to overturn the recent FCC action has already been signed by more than 200 members of the House of Representatives.
Talk of a Draft Grows Despite Denials by White House
In early November, the Defense Department placed a notice on its website asking for men and women in the community who might be willing to serve as members of a local draft board. The notice explained: If a military draft becomes necessary, approximately 2,000 Local and Appeal Boards throughout America would decide which young men, who submit a claim, receive deferments, postponements or exemptions from military service, based on Federal guidelines. Positions are available in many communities across the Nation.
By November 7, as it drew media attention, it had been pulled from the web site without explanation. Federal officials say there are no specific plans to bring back the draft, but that its important to be prepared if it does become necessary. The public notice by the Pentagon was the first formal request to re-establish a draft board since the draft was abolished in 1973.
The US has more than 130,000 soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, reserves are stretched thin, and troops are serving the longest unbroken war tours since Viet Nam. With Turkeys recent decision not to send troops to Iraq and US allies such as Australia and Spain pulling out of Baghdad, the prospect for international help is rapidly disappearing.
A return to the draft would require a vote by Congress and a presidential signature.