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11.15  The long read:  The plastic backlash: what's behind our sudden rage – and will it make a difference? [the world wants to throw-up...]

11.15 Claws out: crab fishermen sue 30 oil firms over climate change [workers are waking-up...]

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11.14 Backed by Ocasio-Cortez, Youth Climate Activists Arrested in Pelosi's Office Demanding Democrats Embrace 'Green New Deal'

11.13 What would a smog-free city look like?

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11.13 Interior department whistleblower: Ryan Zinke hollowed out the agency

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11.12 Planned Parenthood's new president warns of 'state of emergency' for women's health

11.11 Trump responds to worst fires in California’s history by threatening to withhold federal aid [behaving ignorantly again...]

11.11 Interior department sued for ‘secretive process’ in at-risk species assessment [behaving ignorantly again...]

11.11 Keystone XL pipeline: judge rules government 'jumped the gun' and orders halt [behaving ignorantly again...]

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11.16 As 'Green New Deal' Demand Grows, Democrats Have Choice: Confront and Defeat Fossil Fuel Industry or Take Credit for 'Doomed' Planet [Two choices: Save life-on-Earth or help Republicans let it die?]

11.16 Trump’s latest interview shows a president who’s in way over his head

11.16 Why the political fight in Georgia is far from over

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11.15 Pentagon Officials Forced to Make Fewer Public Appearances to Avoid Provoking Trump [...by revealing Trump's huuuge ignorance]

11.15 REPUBLICANS USED A BILL ABOUT WOLVES TO AVOID A VOTE ON YEMEN WAR [if there are 'defense industry' profits to be made—including congress-critter insider-trading—and political 'donations' to be had, we mustn't stop killing innocent civilians!]

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11.16 Trump doesn’t want to punish Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi. His new sanctions prove it. [George W. Bush made a similar immoral decision for the same oily reasons after 9-11, protecting Saudi defense contracts while facilitating the slaughter of poorer Arab "terrorists" in the region.]

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  Criminalizing Dissent: Obama Pot Calls Iranian Kettle Black
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VIEWPOINT:

Criminalizing Dissent: Obama Pot Calls Iranian Kettle Black

by Dave Lindorff
Originally published on Wednesday, 17 June 2009

If the Pentagon is teaching its people to equate protest with “low-level terrorism,” how different, really, is Washington from Tehran?

President Barack Obama, referring to the violent attacks on protesters against the controversial election results in Iran’s just-completed presidential election, this week lectured Iran’s government, saying, “Peaceful dissent should never be subject to violence.”

Referring to the tens and hundreds of thousands of frustrated and angry Iranians who have taken to the streets accusing Iranian authorities of rigging the election in favor of incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Obama said that “the Iranian people and their voices should be heard and respected."

But there is a certain hypocrisy going on here.

Pick which is the terrorist activity and which is legitimate dissent:

US protest
US protest


Iran Protest
Iran Protest

Just days ago, the ACLU of Northern California issued a press release announcing that it had filed a complaint over a Pentagon anti-terrorism training manual. That training manual, aimed at Pentagon personnel, describes domestic protests as “low-level terrorist activity.”

As Staff Attorney Ann Brick and ACLU Washington National Security Policy Council member Michael German write in their complaint letter to the Department of Defense, “For the DoD to instruct its employees that lawful protest activities should be treated as ‘low-level terrorism’ is deeply disturbing in and of itself. It is an even more egregious insult to constitutional values, however, when viewed in the context of a long-term pattern of domestic security initiatives that have attempted to equate lawful dissent with terrorism.”

The ACLU has documented that the government has been and continues a policy of spying on legitimate peaceful protest organizations—particularly those that have been opposing America’s wars and its military policies, and the new president has said nothing and done nothing about terminating this egregious assault on First Amendment freedom of speech and assembly. Given that President Obama has also done nothing since taking office to undo the USA PATRIOT Act, which codifies much activity that traditionally would have been called dissent as a crime, or to publicly reverse the policy of the last eight years during which non-violent protest organizations have been spied on and infiltrated by agents of the military and by the FBI, and during which actual protesters have been harassed, penned into fenced-off “free speech zones,” assaulted by armed police and arrested, his pontificating to Iran about the sanctity of dissent rings particularly hollow.

Imagine, if you will, what this government’s response would be to having hundreds of thousands of American protesters gather in the center of Washington, DC without a permit, to protest the policies of the national government. There would be riot police in the thousands, some mounted on horseback. There would be federal troops. There would be police charges against demonstrators. There would be tear gas and arrests.

How do we know this? It happens every time there are major protests in Washington—even when protests are granted permits.

This writer spent three days in the Federal Detention Center at Occoquan, VA, back in 1967 for participating in a peaceful anti-war protest at the Pentagon that year. I was one of hundreds at that event who found himself, as a peaceful demonstrator, confronting armed federal troops with fixed bayonets at that event. Not much has changed since ‘67, as others have met the same fate over the years in Washington and around the country. Certainly there is every reason to assume that, if the public finally loses patience over the current administration’s continuation of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, its failure to really tackle the health care crisis, and its limp response to the economic crisis, and if people descend on Washington or perhaps New York City en masse to protest, those people will be met with the same kind of draconian, police-state style response that protesters have met in the past--or that protesters are being met with in Iran today.

If the Pentagon is teaching its people to equate protest with “low-level terrorism,” how different, really, is Washington from Tehran?


Dave Lindorff in Washington

About the author: Philadelphia journalist Dave Lindorff is a 34-year veteran, an award-winning journalist, a former New York Times contributor, a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, a two-time Journalism Fulbright Scholar, and the co-author, with Barbara Olshansky, of a well-regarded book on impeachment, The Case for Impeachment. His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net.



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This story was published on June 19, 2009.
 

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