The Guardian blog from the protests is updated every minute. See this link:

The following email received from Bruce Gagnon today seems very important for those working in peace movements worldwide. I’m therefore re-publishing it here in full. See also this U.K. Stop the War Coalition analysis. Gagnon’s copy follows:

DECEPTIVE PROGRESSIVES CALL FOR SUPPORT OF OBAMA’S WAR

This morning I got an email from a friend who tipped me off to a conference call for “progressives” to discuss Obama’s Afghanistan speech last night.

The call announcement included this: “The narrative so far is that the left is against sending more troops and the right is for it,” said Jim Arkedis, Director of the National Security Project at the Progressive Policy Institute. “But that’s not the reality of the situation. There are reasons for progressives to take heart from much of the President’s new strategy, as well as reasons to tread carefully. We want to make sure all those voices are heard.”

This made me quite interested so I dialed in. The call began with everyone in the audience on mute as the following people make opening statements.

* Rachel Kleinfeld, CEO, Truman National Security Project
* Jim Arkedis, Director of the National Security Project, Progressive Policy
Institute
* Gen. Paul Eaton (Ret.), Senior Adviser, National Security Network
* Andy Johnson, Director, Third Way National Security Program
* Lorelei Kelly, Director, New Strategic Security Initiative
* Brian Katulis, Center for American Progress
* Frankie Sturm, Communications Director, Truman National Security Project (Moderator)

Frankly I had never heard of any of these people before and I’ve been working in the “progressive movement” for the past 30 years. A couple of the organizations they work for I had heard a bit about – they are DC-based “think tanks” that usually are heavily funded by corporations to project their message.

Here is a bit of what some of them said in the opening:

Rachel Kleinfeld: “Thrilled by last night’s speech….it’s a realistic goal we have been given…dismayed that progressives don’t see that his will reduce the violence of this war.”

Jim Arkedis: Described himself as a former counter-terrorism analyst at the Pentagon…..”Think of the US like an NFL defense….by adopting this counter-insurgency strategy it essentially takes the other sides offense off the field…..this is about peace and stability.” He slammed Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) who was on the news this morning criticizing the plan as being from the “far left.”

Lorelei Kelly: “Progressives need to abandon the old talking points from Iraq and Vietnam….progressives need to get inside this debate, President Obama is trying to create a new way….these policies need support….The American military is probably the most progressive agency we have today.”

One of them brought up CodePink’s recent visit to Afghanistan and subsequent statements made by Media Benjamin to say that some peace groups understand that we need to stay there and stabilize the country. Another called Obama’s plan the “full spectrum approach” that progressives must support – we “need the military” to get to a positive conclusion.

Finally they unmuted the listeners and then opened it up for “questions”. I didn’t ask a question but instead read a quote from the Robert Scheer article which came from former Marine captain Matthew Hoh where he said, “In the course of my five months of service in Afghanistan … I have lost understanding and confidence in the strategic purpose of the United States’ presence in Afghanistan. … I have observed that the bulk of the insurgency fights not for the white banner of the Taliban, but rather against the presence of foreign soldiers and taxes imposed by an unrepresentative government in Kabul.”

A woman listener from West Virginia (CodePink) said she had family killed in these wars and they need to stop. A woman from Georgia said we need to end the wars. A man from upstate New York said they were organizing protests and that Obama had betrayed us.

Next they put us on mute again and told us that we could only ask questions and that we’d better be good. When they unmuted I accused them of trying to silence the voices of the people as it was clear that they only wanted us on the call to listen to the talking points put out by the White House.

I know this is true because last spring I did a couple blogs about the Obama administration daily sending out talking points to groups like these that today hosted this “conference call”. You can see one such story about this by Jermey Scahill here

One of the groups mentioned by Scahill in his article is the Center for American Progress which was represented on the call today as one of the “expert” speakers.

While on the call I quickly did an Internet search on the Truman National Security Project just to see what I could learn about them. Their advisory board stands out like a sore thumb:

Advisory Board
Madeleine K. Albright
Principal, The Albright Group LLC

Leslie H. Gelb
President Emeritus, Council on Foreign Relations

William Marshall
President, Progressive Policy Institute

William J. Perry (former Clinton Secretary of Defense)
Senior Fellow, Hoover Institute

John D. Podesta (former Clinton operative)
President and CEO, Center for American Progress

Wendy R. Sherman
Principal, The Albright Group LLC

First chance I got I read the list off and commented that it was now abundantly clear to me that this call was intended to deliver Obama team talking points to us and that they were not in the least interested in what we had to say…..these folks organizing this call came from the right-wing of the Democratic Party I said…… earlier I had strongly challenged one of them who stated that the peace movement should stop protesting and support Obama’s plan!

They couldn’t wait to finish the call and I am happy to say that it did not go as well as they had hoped. I thank Mark Roman for tipping me off and I want to warn everyone to be on the lookout for these “pseudo progressives” who will now be coming out of the woodwork to tell the public and the media that only the far-left is against Obama’s war in Afghanistan. Good “progressives” they will say are going to support Obama’s war surge.

In the old days they used to call these folks “Scoop Jackson Democrats” after the senator from Washington state who was a pro-war leader. They have wised up and now call themselves progressives and will steal the rug out from under our feet if we are not watching closely.

Bruce K. Gagnon
Coordinator
Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
PO Box 652
Brunswick, ME 04011
(207) 443-9502
globalnet@mindspring.com
http://www.space4peace.org
http://space4peace.blogspot.com/ (blog)

Riazat Butt, the Guardian’s religious affairs correspondent, and Simon Woolley, director of Operation Black Vote analyse what happened in yesterday’s BBC Question Time. The Guardian asks: “Did the panel and the audience expose the weaknesses of his argument and the hatred behind (Nick Griffin’s) ideology?”

Follow this link to access the Guardian podcast.

A new website has been launched which lays bare unethical employment practices in Britain’s prisons. Prisoners are being paid as little as 30p an hour. The work undertaken includes sorting book returns and printing holiday brochures for well known brands.

In 2006 freelance journalists Richard Cookson and Phil Chamberlain placed a Freedom of Information Act query requesting information on contracts between 10 and 8 named prisons, Young Offender Institutions and Immigration Removal Centres in England and Wales and the names of the companies using prison labour in the prison workshops; namely the nature of the work and how much the contracts were worth.

The Ministry of Justice initially refused to give out the information arguing there were ‘commercial’ interests involved. The journalists appealed. Two years later the Information Commissioner found in their favour and the ‘Investigating Prison Labour’ website was created see: www.prisonlabour.org.uk .

The Miscarriages of Justice News Service (MOJUK) said this week:

“This has been a significant victory for the Campaign Against Prison Slavery as it now opens up Contract Services to scrutiny and Prison Service outsiders will finally be able to examine more fully whether the quality of training provided in Contract Services workshops is as poor as prisoners are constantly telling us it is.

This is doubly important as the Conservative Party plan to double the number of Contract Service workshops placed in England and Wales if elected next year”.

Rafah Border Opens

August 4, 2009

The border at Rafah has been open this week. First reports from the International Movement to Open the Rafah Border are coming in. Access to broadband, bathrooms and proper sanitary facilities is often limited. This report is short – and for a truer picture – I have not edited the copy. The peace camp set up by IMORB and other international Palestine solidarity groups at Rafah has had a presence at the Rafah gate for more than thirty days now (see previous posts). IMORB report (from yesterday – Monday) follows:

* the border opened at about 10am

* the operation was messy, and the condition very exhausting for every body involved, but it was significantly better than last time (27th june).

* more than 2000 wanted to inter (enter?F.L.)Gaza, most went through.

* we were told that approximativly 5000 in Gaza waited to pass to Egypt, most were turned back, while only about 500 passed.

*the border was open for a long time, possibly 12 or more hours, till late hour at night.

* there was a lot of activity at our camp, with members monitoring the days action, and facilitating where possible.

* in the same time the camp itself was full of Palestinians as visitors, for a glass of water, or few minutes resting, some even spent the day with us. (report from IMORB)

Update: October 2011 paragraph deleted.

On a European level debates continue. For more read yesterday’s Guardian article by Timothy Garton Ash:

“Cameron may have helped the Polish right, but he has not served Britain” –  Garton Ash analyses new political groupings in the European parliament. His comment:

 “A dubious rightwinger now heads conservatives in Europe. What on earth does the Tory leader think that he’s doing?…What service has the Conservative leader done to his own party? Or to Britain?…” (Quote from The Guardian Thursday 30th. July, 2009).

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has called on the Palestinian Authority to rescind its decision to close down the office the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera television in the West Bank. The network had been accused of broadcasting “incitement and false information”.

According to the IFJ: This decision (to close the network.F.L.) is a serious violation of press freedom,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. ” It shows intolerance on the part of the Palestinian Authority and suggests that it is trying to control media by suppressing reporting which it does not like. The ban should be lifted immediately.”

The Palestinian Authority yesterday (Wednesday the 15th.) ordered the office of Al-Jazeera to close down after allegations that the network, which is very popular in Palestine, was displaying bias against the Palestinian Authority. Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, who is also in charge of the Ministry of Information, has according to reports signed the order to close the office until the court decides on the case against Al Jazeera filed by the Ministry.

 The move against the network is believed to have been triggered by comments made by a senior member of the Fatah movement on the satellite channel about the alleged involvement of President Abbas in a plot to poison Yasser Arafat, former Chairman of the Palestinian Authority. The IFJ says the use of the courts in a case like this will intimidate all media and the Authority should find other ways of challenging the comments that have been made.

“If the authorities want to counter these statements they should do so in a professional and transparent manner,” said White. “Then journalists can report their position and provide the balance they say is needed.” The IFJ says public figures and political leaders must show tolerance of adverse reporting and respond to it in the context of continuing support for independent media and democratic pluralism. (Text in bold: IFJ press release).

According to the Guardian newspaper (breaking news) “The Palestinian Authority said today it was suspending the West Bank operations of al-Jazeera, alleging incitement and unbalanced reporting by the Arab news station from the Palestinian territories“.

For further information on this story click here.