Author Archives: Glenn Dukes at civilrightskiosk.com

About Glenn Dukes at civilrightskiosk.com

My name is Glenn Dukes. I'm an attorney (since 1993), with a background focused on indigent criminal defense and constitutional law. I was a Public Defender for 8 years and also represented, at state level, the department of corrections in administrative actions against correctional officers. I am now practicing as a criminal defense lawyer in Nashville, Tennessee and writing on civil rights issues here, at civilrightskiosk.com. (Also on tumblr and facebook) Email: civilrightskiosk@Gmail.com

The Reckless and Dangerous Path to Syria

U.S. officials say they expect an attack to begin at night with missiles launched from sea and air in an operation that could last up to three days – LA Times August 28, 2013

China has now joined Russia in publicly opposing US military action in Syria without Security Council Approval.  Military action there would subject our country to economic threats certainly, and possibly much more.  The actions being breathlessly lobbied for by Obama are extremely reckless and expose the nation unnecessarily.  We can’t continue to act as if this is 1946 and we have the world’s only functioning economy and intact manufacturing centers.

Limited strikes in Syria will not accomplish regime change, are nearly guaranteed to kill many civilians, will generate more jihadist antipathy, and will not be enough to change the course of the war, if indeed they are limited.  They also have the serious potential to explode the scope of the current conflict.

What do we hope to accomplish at what cost?  The notion that the nation who installed and supported the Shah, Pinochet, Trujillo, Rios Montt, Somoza, Suharto, the repressive Saudi regime, invaded Iraq illegally, killed 4+ million southeast Asians and so on and so on, is operating purely out of humanitarian motivation is historically naive to the point of comedy or willful blindness.  If our concern were humanitarian, why did we not get involved as Assad was killing 100,000+ and counting with conventional means?  If our concern is that Assad violated the rules of the civilized world by using chemical weapons, why do we sit here contemplating aggression outside of the UN Security Council, which is literally a war crime?

Enough warmongering in the Middle East.  Contact your congressional representatives and demand an end to this reckless and dangerous path to Syria.

The Most Odious Legislation in the World?

beard-tax token from the reign of Tsar Peter I

Today marks the anniversary of a truly abhorrent piece of legislation…a tax on beards.

Tsar Peter I (who should never, ever be called “Peter the Great”), in a craven, sycophantic, Leonard Zelig-like frenzy, outlawed beards on all but priests and peasants.  He allegedly did this so his countrymen would appear more modern and western, but I see only the work of a madman.

Bearded folk could pay the tax and wear the bronze token pictured above as a way to show they were not only gorgeously plumed, but also in full compliance with the most odious legislation in the world.

Viva the beard!

Who Used Sarin?

In our very recent congressional discussions and our major media, it seems all but settled fact that Assad is the sole party responsible for the use of nerve gas.  The reported facts are disturbingly not as clear.

The UN said in May that initial evidence suggested the Syrian rebels, not Assad, were responsible for the use of sarin.  This was prior to the large death toll of 1500 + from gas that occurred in August.  The UN delegate was careful to say that incontrovertible proof did not exist that the rebels deployed the weapons and also acknowledged that Assad may have used them as well, but, the UN’s initial post-preliminary investigation opinion was that the rebels had used the gas.

The New York Times covered the UN conclusions by reprinting a Reuters news story.  Clearly, “Who used the sarin” is an important issue.  Possibly the most critical issue of the day, as it appears military strikes will be made based on the use of chemical weapons.  I found it odd and perhaps telling that the Times just reprinted a Reuters article instead of devoting at least one unpaid intern to call the UN and get an interview.  They also printed the story on A-9…hardly neon-highlighted.

They have not run any similar articles since that one, that I can find.  No more curiosity about who used the sarin.  In fact, on August 27, 2013, they ran a story called “Crisis in Syria – Key Questions on the Conflict in Syria”.  The story completely leaves out the fact that the UN investigation, the only presumably impartial investigation done, determined that the Rebels appear to have been the one to have used sarin.

How does the NYT leave the issue of “who used the sarin” out of an article about key questions in Syria?  The issue has not been resolved and is critical.

All across the country, In nearly every major paper, the headlines mirror the USA Today’s storyline of September 1, “Kerry Cites Evidence Syria Used Sarin Gas“.  The “new evidence” Syria used sarin consists of “…samples that were provided to the United States and that have now been tested from first responders in East Damascus, and hair samples and blood samples have tested positive for signatures of sarin,” Kerry said on NBC’s Meet the Press.  The evidence sounds like proof sarin was used, but it is certainly not proof of who used it.

The samples relied upon to come to the conclusion in Secretary of State Kerry’s new evidence did not come from the UN.  Rather, the samples we relied upon came from unnamed and unknown “independent sources”.

Groups linked with Syrian rebels (the al-Nusra front) were busted in Turkey very recently, in possession of sarin.  Reuters carried the story, which can be read here.  Try finding this story in our major media.  Why is the fact that rebels have been busted with sarin recently not being written about?  It strikes me as highly relevant at a minimum.  I can not find any American major media carrying this Reuters article.  Amazingly, just yesterday, Secretary Kerry, while being questioned by the Senate committee and discussing “boots on the ground”, stated

In the event that Syria imploded, for instance, or in the event there was a threat of a chemical weapons cache falling into the hands of al-Nusra or someone else, and it was clearly in the interests of our allies, all of us, the British, the French and others, to prevent those weapons of mass destruction [falling into their hands],” Kerry said, “I don’t want to take off the table an option that might or might not be available to be available to the president.  [My emphasis]

Well..we KNOW that the al-Nusra Front very recently had chemical weapons because of the remarkably under-reported Reuters story linked above relating how the group was caught with sarin.

As I finished typing this article, I just came across a CBS story that addresses some of the points seen here.  I am happy to see I am not a complete nut or at least, maybe a nut in good company.  Some of the issues herein were highlighted for me by a provocative video on a wonderful blog, High-Grade Discourse.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has already approved action by a 10-7 vote.  The Senate gave a much more limited authorization of force than was requested, installing a temporal limit of 60 + possible 30 more days.  Obama requested a temporally unlimited use of force.  The Senate committee authorization of force does not, critically, appear to limit the use of force to Syria, geographically.  Although we are being told as a nation that the strikes would be of a scope only to send a signal against the use of chemical weapons, the actual resolution put forward tonight by the Senate panel states “…it is the policy of the United States to change the momentum on the battlefield in Syria”.  Watch the mission creep and creep and creep.

I am personally against intervention for many reasons, but whatever your stance, the issue of who used sarin is a critical fact to our world leaders, and it has not been established.  We should speak out and demand more facts before the country is sucked into a black hole in Syria and beyond.

Low Hanging but Forbidden Fruit

Bernard Picart (1673-1733)-‘Tantalus’

The carnage in Syria is awful to watch.  In the name of “fighting terrorism”, Assad seems perfectly happy to slaughter his citizens to hold onto control.  Now he appears to have gassed about 1,500 people, crossing a publicly painted line President Obama laid down.

but…

American military intervention, without a UN Security Council resolution, is illegal.  The term we coined after World War II for illegal, military, state-to-state aggression is “war crime”.

This inconvenient fact is barely worth discussion in our mainstream media.  Miles and miles of column inches have been devoted to Miley Cyrus’ twerking, but you hardly ever read that US military involvement in Syria would be a war crime.  Does that matter anymore?

Does it matter if what we want to do is a war crime?

One of the first discussions of this issue I saw was in the latest edition of Foreign Affairs.  David Kaye wrote “The Legal Consequences of Illegal Wars“.  The article is far from an in-depth discussion, but it does at least plainly state that military action in Syria, without claims of self-defense and without a UN Security Council ruling, is illegal.  You could watch network news all night without hearing a mention of this issue.  Noam Chomsky (who should wear a superman’s suit & cape as far as I am concerned) came out today calling any US military intervention in Syria a war crime, but you can only find this quoted on Huffington Post.

During President Obama’s speech Saturday night (full transcript and recording are at the link), he handled the issue of the legality of any military strike in Syria by completely ignoring it.  Rather, he simply stated “I’m comfortable going forward without the approval of a United Nations Security Council that, so far, has been completely paralyzed and unwilling to hold Assad accountable.”

“Paralyzed” in this instance means not doing what Obama told us, just Saturday, that he wants to do.  The Council was also apparently “paralyzed” when America funded Saddam Hussein before, during, and after his use of chemical weapons against the Kurdish people.  It is amazing to me that we do not hear more about the fact we funded and supported the last middle eastern leader who gassed his own people.  You can already see the historical white-washing.  Do you think kids will learn from their textbooks in 25 years that America danced with the “Butcher of Baghdad” as we knew he dropped mustard gas on kurdish men, women, and children?

The general lack of international reaction to President Obama’s declaration that America is essentially just not subject to international law has been interesting.  Madeline Albright apparently got the international community accustomed to America’s being beyond the pale of the law when she said of Iraq in 1994, as our UN Ambassador, “We recognize this area [Iraq] as vital to U.S. national interests, and we will behave, with others, multilaterally when we can and unilaterally when we must.”   

Let’s assume that committing war crimes is not really a speed bump for America anymore.  Can we work with another tool besides our military?  It might seem old-fashioned, but does diplomacy still have a place in the world?  Why are we not heading up talks now with Assad and the various factions of rebel forces?  If we are not the party best suited for that role, and we are probably not, why are we not trying to assemble talks moderated by any mutually suitable nation?  Diplomacy does not tend to kill people, collaterally or otherwise.  Diplomacy is free.  Diplomacy finally has the benefit of not making others want to kill you.  In at least these respects, diplomacy is generally preferable to military action.  Why are we failing to pursue serious diplomacy other than trying to get others to commit militarily with us?

Additionally, why are we not taking lead in easing the truly epic suffering of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, and Egypt?  The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates the Syrian civil war has caused over 2 million displaced persons and a projected funding gap of about a billion dollars.

Why are we not making headlines world-wide for building temporary but safe mosques, schools, hospitals, tent-cities for refugees?  Would this not be an insanely cheap and effective way to change the violent, islamaphobic face of America?  One F-35 costs around 150 million dollars.  For the price of a handful, we could singlehandedly close the refugee funding gap and change the world for so many hundreds of thousands of refugees.  We could also elevate our world standing in a volatile yet important region of the world.

What would meaningful humanitarian expenditures pay us in goodwill dividends over the next quarter century?  What would yet another military quagmire cost us?

Why isn’t all of this low hanging fruit being gobbled up?

August 28th and The Last Laugh

On August 28th, 1957 Strom Thurmond, deceased long-serving Senator from South Carolina, began the longest filibuster in the nation’s history…against the Civil Rights Act of 1957.

Although Senator Thurmond bravely denied being a racist, he also saidall the laws of Washington and all the bayonets of the Army cannot force the Negro into our homes, into our schools, our churches and our places of recreation and amusement.

We should get a petition together to have good ol’ Strom exhumed and reburied under the loudest gospel church in his hometown of Edgefield, South Carolina.

Despite Strom’s exhausting and hate-filled efforts, no one really remembers what he actually said during this filibuster he began on August 28th.

But we all remember the words of another man who spoke out on August 28th.

On August 28th, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King gave his “I have a dream” speech and changed the world.

Poor Strom…showed up by an African-American of all things.

 

p.s. 

History continued playing with Strom as you look through its tattered book of dates & anniversaries.  On August 29th, 1957 the Civil Rights Act was passed.  On August 30th, 1967, history snickers as it tells us that Justice Thurgood Marshall was sworn in.

I am back from an unplugged summer.

Being a stay-at-home Dad with young kids means that summer is on-the-go, lake-swimming, zombie-killing, hike-taking time.  I spent the summer pretty unplugged from news and grateful for any sleep that came my way.

As the world seems about the same as when I “left” it, (Howard Zinn, Gandhi, MLK, & Che Guevara all remain tragically uncloned, with so much work still to do, no pack of gods has thrown Goldman, Sachs out of the temple, and Kissinger is still only an unindicted war criminal), I must report that I am back to my rants and looking forward to reconnecting with my fellow ranters.  

Rants are important. 

Howling into the digital wilderness is important… as I think Henry Jeckyll wrote, who knows which drop of water breaks the dam? 

 

How to Start a Movement…in 3+ minutes

Diego Rivera’s “The Organization of the Agrarian Movement”

Tonight, I saw this wonderful TED Talk video.  The 3+ minute video is a good condensation of how to start any movement.

The movement had a brave, if not completely sober leader.  A critical second person joined the leader, transforming him “…from a lone nut to a leader…”, instantly.  The second guy waves to his friends.  A third joins, a fourth, and then a general sprint to the movement.

We are herd animals, at heart.  We all like our quiet time, but in the end, our better moments are shared with our herd.

Let’s take our herd somewhere herdtastic.