Category Archives: Political Prisoners

Assange and the Cowardice of Power

Donald Trump has never heard of WikiLeaks, the publishing organization whose work he repeatedly and unequivocally touted during the 2016 election campaign. “I know nothing about WikiLeaks,” he told reporters after Julian Assange was illegally arrested, after being illegally detained for seven years, in London. “It’s not my thing and I know there is something having to do with Julian Assange.”

Moving past the Trumpian paradox (he knows both “nothing” and “something” about WikiLeaks”), here’s a question for our dear leader: is your own Justice Department “your thing”? Because it was your Justice Department that filed the charges against a man who risked his liberty, and his life, to tell the truth about the most powerful criminal syndicate in the world—the American empire.

Is Trump’s cabinet “his thing”? Was he out golfing when his erstwhile attorney general, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, told the press that arresting Assange was “a priority”? How about when his secretary of state called WikiLeaks “a non-state hostile intelligence service”? Trump’s regime appears to have a remarkable level of interest in an organization about which he knows nothing.

“The weakness of the US charge against Assange is shocking.” That was Edward Snowden’s reaction to the Justice Department’s indictment against Assange. He adds that one of the government’s principal allegations—that Assange attempted to help Manning crack a password in the interest of protecting her identity—has been public knowledge for nearly ten years. Also that Obama, no friend to whistle-blowers, refused to act on it, citing dangers to press freedom.

For those who haven’t read the indictment, please do. It won’t take ten minutes, and it will give you an idea of how far the US government is willing to go to punish those brave enough to expose its sins.

The case against Assange (for now) boils down to this: he allegedly took measures to protect the identity of his source and allegedly encouraged his source to find and pass along more information about American criminality in Iraq and Afghanistan. This, as various journalists have pointed out, is standard journalistic practice. Would Nixon have been nailed by Watergate if Woodward and Bernstein hadn’t repeatedly gone back to their source for further evidence of the president’s malfeasance?

Speaking of Woodward, Snowden reminds us that he (Woodward) “stated publicly he would have advised me to remain in place and act as a mole.” If only Assange had done that—maybe the indictment would carry a little more drama. But all he allegedly did was say, in response to Manning’s claim that she didn’t have any more documents to share, that “curious eyes never run dry in my experience.” The horror!

The allegation that Assange conspired with Manning to gain unauthorized access to a government computer is equally underwhelming and misleading. Manning had authorized access to the secret documents she leaked: what Assange did was try to help her access them from a different username. If successful (it apparently wasn’t), this effort would not have given Manning access to any additional files—it merely would have ensured, or at least enhanced, her anonymity.

FYI: Manning has been locked up in Alexandria, Virginia for more than a month now, spending most of that time in solitary confinement, for refusing to testify against WikiLeaks and Assange in front of a secret grand jury.

Chiming in from her ivory tower, Hillary Clinton joined Democratic and Republican lawmakers in gloating about Assange’s unlawful arrest: “The bottom line is he has to answer for what he has done, at least as it’s been charged.”

We know what he’s been charged with; now let’s recall what he has actually done. Using time-honored journalistic methods, he shone a hard light on crimes routinely committed by the American empire in the name of the American people—crimes that would otherwise have remained concealed behind an iron curtain of government deception and media complicity.

“On the morning of July 12, 2007, two Apache helicopters using 30mm cannon fire killed about a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad. Two children were also wounded. Although some of the men appear to have been armed, the behavior of nearly everyone was relaxed. The US military initially claimed that all the dead were ‘anti-Iraqi forces’ or ‘insurgents.’”

That’s the preface to Collateral Murder, the notorious video published by WikiLeaks showing American troops firing on a group of people standing around in the street. Two of them were Reuters journalists; both of them were killed. “Ha ha ha, I hit ‘em,” one soldier chuckles after the first round of fire. “Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards,” another says, to which another responds, “Nice. Good shootin’.”

The video, more disturbing to your average person than a sterile civilian casualties report, illustrates why the Military Tribunal at Nuremberg named “military aggression,” not genocide, as the “supreme international crime”: because it establishes a context in which murder becomes not only commonplace, but banal. At the end of that road lies Auschwitz.

Crimes like the one depicted in Collateral Murder are facilitated and rendered acceptable by crimes of a much greater magnitude, like Bush’s invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

What Julian Assange did—what Hillary Clinton says “he has to answer for”—is show people the consequences of their governments’ actions, so that maybe one day individuals like Hillary Clinton will be stripped of their impunity and made to answer for what they have done. That is the quintessence of journalism and, according to the United States, an intolerable crime. Behold the cowardice of power.

As for the UK’s role in this charade, while it has long been clear that London is a faithful servant of the American empire, extraditing Assange to the US—whereupon new and more serious charges will almost certainly be leveled against him—would mark a new depth of national disgrace.

At the time of his arrest Assange was reportedly clutching in his hand a book by Gore Vidal. In a 2009 interview with The Independent, an octogenarian Vidal was asked for his thoughts on modern England. “This isn’t a country,” he said, “it’s an American aircraft carrier.” Indeed.

UK Media, MPs Unveil Latest Assange Deception

In my last blog post, I warned that the media and political class would continue with their long-running deceptions about Julian Assange now that he has been dragged from the Ecuadorean embassy. They have wasted no time in proving me right.

The first thrust in their campaign of deceit was set out on the Guardian’s front page today.

There should have been wall-to-wall outrage from public figures in the UK at the United States creating a new crime of “doing journalism” and a new means of arrest for those committing this “crime” overseas, what I have termed “media rendition”.

Remember that all of the information contained in the US charge sheet against Assange – the supposed grounds for his extradition – were known to the previous Obama administration as far back as 2010. But Barack Obama never dared approve the current charges against Assange because legally there was no way to stop them being turned against “respectable” journalists, like those at the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Guardian.

This was the same Obama administration that had the worst record ever for prosecuting whistleblowers. Obama was no friend to investigative journalism but he understood that it would be unwise to so overtly subvert the notion of a free western press.

That the Trump administration has cast all this aside to get Assange behind bars should have every journalist in the world quaking in their boots, and loudly decrying what the US is seeking to do.

And yet the reaction has been either quiet acceptance of the US extradition request as a simple law enforcement measure or gentle mockery of Assange – that the scruffy outlaw dragged from the embassy was looking even scruffier after seven years of extreme house arrest and “arbitrary detention”. What a laugh!

Now we can see how the media is going to collude in a narrative crafted by the political class to legitimise what the Trump administration is doing.

Rather than focus on the gross violation of Assange’s fundamental human rights, the wider assault on press freedoms and the attack on Americans’ First Amendment Rights, UK politicians are “debating” whether the US extradition claim on Assange should take priority over earlier Swedish extradition proceedings for a sexual assault investigation that were publicly dropped back in 2017.

In other words, the public conversation in the UK, sympathetically reported by the Guardian, supposedly Britain’s only major liberal news outlet, is going to be about who has first dibs on Assange.

Here’s the first paragraph of the Guardian front-page article:

Political pressure is mounting on [Home Secretary] Sajid Javid to prioritise action that would allow Julian Assange to be extradited to Sweden, amid concerns that US charges relating to Wikileaks’ activities risked overshadowing longstanding allegations of rape.

So the concern is not that Assange is facing rendition to the US, it is that the US claim might “overshadow” an outstanding legal case in Sweden.

The 70 MPs who signed the letter to Javid hope to kill two birds with one stone.

First, they are legitimising the discourse of the Trump administration. This is no longer about an illegitimate US extradition request on Assange we should all be loudly protesting. It is a competition between two legal claims, and a debate about which one should find legal remedy first.

It weighs a woman’s sexual assault allegation against Assange and Wikileaks’ exposure of war crimes committed by the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan. It suggests that both are in the same category, that they are similar potential crimes.

But there should only be one response to the US extradition claim on Assange. That it is entirely illegitimate. No debate. Anything less, any equivocation is to collude in the Trump administration’s narrative.

The Swedish claim, if it is revived, is an entirely separate matter.

That the Guardian and the MPs are connecting the two should come as no surprise.

In another article on Assange on Friday, the Guardian – echoing a common media refrain – reported as fact a demonstrably false claim: “Assange initially took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden.”

There could be no possible reason for its reporters to make this elementary mistake other than that the Guardian is still waging its long-running campaign against Assange, the information revolution he represents and the challenge he poses to the corporate media of which the Guardian is a key part.

Assange and Wikileaks always said that he entered the embassy to claim political asylum so as to avoid extradition on to the US.

For seven years the political and media establishments have been deriding the suggestion that Assange faced any threat from the US, despite the mounting private and public evidence that he did. Assange again has been proved conclusively right by current events, and they decisively wrong.

The Guardian knows that Assange did not need political asylum to avoid a sex case. So reporting this not as a claim by his detractors but as an indisputable fact is simple, Trump-supporting propaganda meant to discredit Assange – propaganda that happily treats any damage to the cause of journalism as collateral damage.

Second, the only major politicians prepared to highlight the threats to Assange’s personal rights and wider press freedoms posed by the US extradition request are opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his ally, Diane Abbott, the Labour shadow home secretary.

They have rightly noted that the US is using the extradition demand to silence Assange and intimidate any other journalists who might think about digging up evidence of the crimes committed by the US national security state.

Abbott commented on Friday that Assange’s current arrest was not about “the rape charges, serious as they are, it is about WikiLeaks and all of that embarrassing information about the activities of the American military and security services that was made public.”

Abbott has faced a storm of criticism for her statement, accused of not giving enough weight to the Swedish case. In fact, her only mistake was to give it more weight than it currently deserves. She spoke of “rape charges”, but there are, in fact, no such charges. (Additionally, although the case is classed broadly as a rape allegation in Sweden, in the UK it would be classed at most as sexual assault. Forgotten too is that the evidence was considered too weak by the original prosecutor to bring any charges, Assange was allowed to leave Sweden and the investigation was dropped.)

Rather, Assange was previously wanted for questioning, and has never been charged with anything. If the Swedish extradition request is revived, it will be so that he can be questioned about those allegations. I should also point out, as almost no one else is, that Assange did not “flee” questioning. He offered Swedish prosecutors to question him at the embassy.

Even though questioning overseas in extradition cases is common – Sweden has done it dozens of times – Sweden repeatedly refused in Assange’s case, leading the Swedish appeal court to criticise the prosecutors. When he was finally questioned after four years of delays, Swedish prosecutors violated his rights by refusing access to his Swedish lawyer.

Further, the MPs and media getting exercised that Assange “took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden” are forgetting that he did not object to extradition as long as he received a promise that he would not then be extradited on to the US. Sweden refused to offer such assurances. We can now see only too clearly that Assange had every reason to insist on such assurances.

I don’t have space here to analyse the Swedish case on this occasion (that’s maybe for another time), though it is worth briefly noting that most of the problematic details of the case have been disappeared down the memory hole.

Given that the political and media class are still speaking in terms of “charges”, rather than questions about allegations, we should recall that there were glaring problems with the evidence in the Swedish case. Not least, the key piece of evidence against Assange – a torn condom produced by the woman – was found to contain not a trace of DNA from either Assange or from her.

Those at the forefront of the attacks on Abbott and Corbyn, echoed by the Guardian, are the same Blairite Labour MPs who have been trying to oust Corbyn as Labour party leader, despite his twice being elected overwhelmingly by the membership.

These MPs, who dominate the Labour parliamentary party, have spent the past four years focusing on smears that Labour is “institutionally anti-semitic” in an obvious effort to terminally wound Corbyn. Now they have found another possible route to achieve the same end.

They are suggesting that Corbyn and Abbott are disregarding the Swedish woman’s right to justice. The clear subtext of their arguments is that the pair are rape apologists.

As I have pointed out, Abbott has actually overstated the current status of the Swedish case, not sidelined it at all.

But what Corbyn and Abbott have done is to make a clear political, legal and moral demarcation between the Swedish case, which must be resolved according to accepted legal principles, and the US extradition, which has no legal or moral merit whatsoever.

What these UK MPs and the Guardian have done in this front-page story is muddy the waters yet further, with enthusiastic disregard for the damage it might do to Assange’s rights, to Corbyn’s leadership and to the future of truth-telling journalism.

The Unfinished Gaza War: What Netanyahu Hopes to Gain from Attacking Palestinian Prisoners

The current violence targeting Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails dates back to January 2. It was then that Israel’s Public Security Minister, Gilad Erdan declared that the “party is over.”

“Every so often, infuriating pictures appear of cooking in the terrorist wings. This party is coming to an end,” Erdan was quoted in the Jerusalem Post.

Then, the so-called Erdan’s Committee recommended various measures aimed at ending the alleged “party”, which included placing limits on prisoners’ use of water, banning food preparations in cells, and installing jamming devices to block the alleged use of smuggled cell phones.

The last measure, in particular, caused outrage among prisoners, for such devices have been linked to severe headaches, fainting and other long-term ailments.

Erdan followed his decision with a promise of the “use of all means in (Israel’s) disposal” to control any prisoners’ protests in response to the new restrictions.

The Israel Prison Service (IPS) “will continue to act with full force” against prison “riots”, he said, as reported by the Times of Israel.

That “full force” was carried out on January 20 at the Ofer Military Prison near Ramallah, in the West Bank, where a series of Israeli raids resulted in the wounding of more than 100 prisoners, many of whom sustaining bullet wounds.

The Nafha and Gilboa prisons were also targeted with the same violent pattern.

The raids continued, leading to more violence in the Naqab Prison on March 24, this time conducted by the IPS force, known as the Metzada unit.

Metzada is IPS’ ‘hostage rescue special operation’ force and is known for its very violent tactics against prisoners. Its attack on Naqab resulted in the wounding of many prisoners, leaving two in critical condition. Palestinian prisoners fought back, reportedly stabbing two prison guards with sharp objects.

On March 25, more such raids were conducted, also by Metzada, which targeted Ramon, Gilboa, Nafha and Eshel prisons.

In response, the leadership of Palestinian prisoners adopted several measures including the dismantling of the regulatory committees and any other form of representation of prisoners inside Israeli jails.

The decentralization of Palestinian action inside Israeli prisons would make it much more difficult for Israel to control the situation and would allow prisoners to use whichever form of resistance they may deem fit.

But why is Israel provoking such confrontations when Palestinian prisoners are already subjected to a most horrid existence and numerous violations of international law?

Equally important, why now?

On December 24, embattled Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu and other leaders of Israel’s right-wing government dissolved the Knesset (parliament) and declared early elections on April 9.

A most winning strategy for Israeli politicians during such times is usually increasing their hostility against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, including the besieged Gaza Strip.

Indeed, a hate-fest, involving many of Israel’s top candidates kicked in, some calling for war on Gaza, others for teaching Palestinians a lesson, annexing the West Bank, and so on.

Merely a week after the election date announcement was made, raids of prisons began in earnest.

For Israel, it seemed like a fairly safe and controlled political experiment. Video footage of Israeli forces beating up hapless prisoners, accompanied by angry statements made by top Israeli officials captured the imaginations of a decidedly right-wing, militant society.

And that’s precisely what took place, at first. However, on March 25, a flare in violence in Gaza led to a limited, undeclared war.

A full-fledged Israeli war on Gaza would be a big gamble during an election season, especially as recent events suggest that the time of easy wars is over. While Netanyahu adopted the role of the decisive leader, so determined to crush the Gaza resistance, his options on the ground are actually quite limited.

Even after Israel accepted Egyptian-mediated ceasefire terms with the Gaza factions, Netanyahu continued to talk tough.

“I can tell you we are prepared to do a lot more,” Netanyahu said in reference to the Israeli attack on Gaza during a video speech beamed to his supporters in Washington on March 26.

But, for once, he couldn’t, and that failure, from an Israeli viewpoint, intensified verbal attacks by his political rivals.

Netanyahu has “lost his grip on security,” the Blue and White party leader, Benny Gantz proclaimed.

Gantz’s accusation was just another insult in an edifice of similar blistering attacks questioning Netanyahu’s ability to control Gaza.

In fact, a poll, conducted by the Israeli TV channel, Kan, on March 27, found that 53% of Israelis believe that Netanyahu’s response to the Gaza resistance is “too weak.”

Unable to counter with more violence, at least for now, the Netanyahu government responded by opening another battlefront, this time in Israeli prisons.

By targeting prisoners, especially those affiliated with certain Gaza factions, Netanyahu is hoping to send a message of strength, and to assure his nervous constituency of his prowess.

Aware of the Israeli strategy, Hamas’ political leader, Ismail Haniyeh linked the ceasefire to the issue of prisoners.

We “are ready for all scenarios,” Haniyeh said in a statement.

In truth, the Netanyahu-Erdan war on Palestinian prisoners is foolish and unwinnable. It has been launched with the assumption that a war of this nature will have limited risks, since prisoners are, by definition, isolated and unable to fight back.

To the contrary, Palestinian prisoners have, without question, demonstrated their tenacity and ability to devise ways to resist the Israeli occupier throughout the years. But more importantly, these prisoners are far from being isolated.

In fact, the nearly 6,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails represent whatever semblance of unity among Palestinians that transcends factions, politics and ideology.

Considering the direct impact of the situation in Israeli prisons on the collective psyche of all Palestinians, any more reckless steps by Netanyahu, Erdan and their IPS goons will soon result in greater collective resistance, a struggle that Israel cannot easily suppress.

An Open Letter to Chelsea Manning: A Free Woman in An American Prison

We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity.

— Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Beyond Vietnam.” Riverside Church, April 4, 1967

Dear Chelsea,

Do not lose heart, for as a prisoner of conscience, your inspirational witness sustains so many of your less free brothers and sisters on the outside.  Our hearts and hands reach out to you with love and thanksgiving.  Your courage is contagious, or so I hope, for it resonates in the soul of every person who senses the meaning of the power of individual conscience to oppose state violence and the beauty of those who will not betray a comrade, who will not deliver the Judas kiss demanded by the killers, as you will not betray your brave brother, Julian Assange, also held under lock and key for the “crime” of revealing the truth.

You remind me of another young woman from long ago and far away whose bravery in the face of radical evil is celebrated today as a sign of hope in dark times.  She is Sophie Scholl, the young German college student who, like you, was arrested for releasing documents exposing state atrocities, who, like you, was prompted by a higher power, by her conscience, who, like you, was arrested for releasing documents exposing such crimes against humanity, in her case those of Hitler.

Little seems to change over the years, doesn’t it?  The killers go on killing, from Golgotha in ancient Jerusalem to Hitler’s Germany to Vietnam and Iraq and on to Palestine and Syria today.  Why bother with the list.  History is a litany of bloodbaths.  Where does it all go, this blood?  Does the good earth soak it up?

But in all the darkness, certain lonely voices of resistance have kept the lighted chain of faith alive.  You stand in that line, a living embodiment of a faithful non-violent warrior.  So does Julian.

I am writing this epistle to you on 4 April, the day in 1967 that our brother Dr. Martin Luther King stood tall in the pulpit of Riverside Church in New York City and followed his conscience by breaking with those who urged him to ignore the truth eating at his soul.  The truth that he must not remain silent about the U.S. obscene war against Vietnam.  “A time comes when silence is betrayal,” he said.  Then he added:

The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world… This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation’s self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation, for those it calls “enemy,” for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers…. A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring…. When I speak of love, I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: “Let us love one another (Yes), for love is God. (Yes) And every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love. . . . If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and his love is perfected in us.” Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day.

Chelsea, you have heeded Dr. King’s message and you have put to shame those of us who profess faith in “the living God” that informed Martin’s call for a non-violent revolution.

You, like Sophie and Julian, have released documents that tell the truth about the savage actions of our government.

You have suffered for us many times over.  You have stood strong and tall, like Jesus in front of Pilate, and you have shown the road we must all travel out of the darkness that threatens to consume us.

You have shown us by your actions “that silence is betrayal” when it comes to one’s government’s immoral and illegal actions.

And you have shown us by your sacred silence in Caesar’s court that is a U.S. grand jury, that your conscience will never allow you to betray another truth-teller.

You are, Chelsea, the embodiment of faith, hope, and courage.

You are America’s conscience.

While you are in prison, none of us is free.

We demand your freedom and that of brother Assange.

Here is a song of love to boost your spirits.  I hope you can hear it.  Maybe I send it to boost my own,  to help me carry on as you have done.  Maybe it will help us all.

You keep teaching us what it means to be free and walk in faith.

Blessings for carrying it on.

Long Live the Armed Struggle!

Murdering Truthsayers 

I am thinking of Karen Silkwood for some odd reason. Murdered November 13, 1974 as a twenty-eight-year-old labor union activist and chemical technician working for a nuclear power plant, Kerr-McGee Cimarron River nuclear facility in Crescent, Oklahoma. The industry was supplying nuclear fission rods for reactors. She found violations of health and safety regulations, and well, the story of this ordinary woman with an ordinary life has turned into a cause celebre with Meryl Streep playing her in a 1984 movie.

Karen was pursued by some dark figures on a cold night, and the manila envelope she was carrying with the evidence of safety violations bound for the New York Times inside her crashed Honda car mysteriously disappeared. She lay there dying.

Run off the road of protest and combating injustices and war. So go the lives of political prisoners, but in a much more tortuous and protracted way as Linda G. Ford develops in her spot-on book, Women Politicals in America: Jailed Dissenters from Mother Jones to Lynne Stewart.

One such hero is Marilyn Buck, who was serving an 80-year sentence for aiding and abetting Assata Shakur’s escape, for a Brinks robbery and the bombing of the Capitol in protest of US role in Grenada and Lebanon. She was on the FBI’s “shoot to kill” list.

Women engaged in serious struggle with ties to Puerto Rican and Black liberation movements were given harsh sentences, and imprisoned where gulag-like, tortuous and isolating conditions were ramped up because of these political prisoners’ gender identity.

Exclusion and isolation are the tools of a fascist society, as these female politicals’ lives as activists, both peaceful and militantly violent, demonstrate over the course of four hundred years of this country’s white history.

“The women politicals jailed in the 80s would face a situation designed to destroy them as political activists, and as women,” Ford writes in the section of the book she tags as, “The Threat of Armed Struggle Against American Imperialism Posed by Defiant Revolutionaries Laura Whitehorn, Susan Rosenberg and Their Comrades Has The Facing Authoritarian Measures Designed to Destroy, 1960-1990.”

Jailers who willingly neglect the health of prisoners. Prison medical experts denying basic life saving treatment. Massive censorship of prisoners’ reading and writing. Male nurses ramming fingers up a political’s anus and vagina. Locked in High Security Units in what Silvia Baraldini called “a living tomb . . . a white sepulcher.” She was part of the May 19th Communist group and Black Liberation Army. She was charged with BLA robberies – however, she was in Zimbabwe when one of them took place.

I was arrested in 1982 on RICO (Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations, laws mean for the Mafia) charges accused of having aided members of the Black Liberation Army in a conspiracy against the United States. In reality I participated in the escape of Black revolutionary Assata Shakur who now lives in Cuba.

Rosenberg was sentenced to 43 years in prison, three for refusing to testify before the grand jury or give the names of members of the May 19th Communist Organization group.

These are bombings against imperialist targets:  a federal building on Staten Island (January 1983), the National War College at Fort McNair (April 1983), the US Senate in November 1982, the Israeli Aircraft Industries Building in April 1984, the South African Consulate in September 1984, and the NYC Policemen’s Benevolent Association in February 1985.

Laura Whitehorn stated the last action (no person was targeted or hurt) was done because the NYC association supported cops “who had killed innocent civilians.” Whitehorn stated she readily participated in the bombings as an underground warrior as protest of US imperialism in Lebanon, El Salvador and Grenada.

“If you live in a country doing illegal acts, you have to take steps, or you’re complicit.” The author Ford follows up Whitehorn’s strongly put if you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the problem rejoinder with …

And if you break a law doing that, you become a political prisoner. 

Susan Rosenberg is another hero of resistance Linda forges as a real icon of the revolution: she was charged with involvement in the Senate, War College and NY Police bombings, but those were eventually dropped. She would later be tried in a FISA court – foreign intelligence surveillance act.

Judge Frederick B. Lacey didn’t consider she and her co-defendant, Tim Blunk, were part of an organized illegal resistance movement acting out of conscience against US actions in Central America, racism in South Africa and the oppressive COINTELPRO, according to Ford.

Rosenberg and Blunk were hit with possession of guns and dynamite charges, although there was no link they used them. She got 58 years in the federal penitentiary, twice as long as for the average first degree murderer. Bail was $5 million and no parole recommendation was provided.  Ford:

To US authorities, she represented the absolute worst of the 60s rebels: she was a BLA, Independista and Weather Underground sympathizer/activist, and she was a female and a lesbian.

No food for two days, no time to wash up, and she was beaten and left in a cold cell, in solitary confinement. The entire process of the fascist police state in this country is a psychological hell, designed to strip people of who they are, to erase their identity.

There was absolutely nowhere to go; it felt like death. All that lay in front of me were the ruins of my life. I was losing even my favorite color, favorite food, favorite season.

There is something so compelling in Ford’s unleashing of the floodgates of truth in this book, and the tides have shifted even more dramatically against revolt, against resistance, against simple discontents. Imagine, this faux pacifism of the bourgeoisie, peering through their looking glass designed by Hollywood and a fine Merlot, even barely entertaining the idea that armed revolt and violent overthrow are necessary components in righting all the wrongs in this country. Those middle and upper middle classers look for total destruction in countries their tax dollars and sometimes their direct employment support, but when it comes to the assault of everyday structural violence meted out on their fellow citizens, these middlings — who take their marching orders from the elites who pull out the Clinton America Must Have 100,000 More Police card every single time Hillary Clinton declares we are in super predator country – do not question the complexities of cause and effect when a society is over-policed, under organized, and flooded with privatizing all things American.

The tough times for prisoners like Rosenberg always get worse in America. The High Security Unit at Lexington is a doozy – a maximum security hell-hole – a chamber of horrors —  and set up by the best and the brightest of American corporal technocrats who show their love of the macabre Russian prisoner gulag or Nazi concentration camp techniques.

Historian Laura Flanders called the HSU an example of punishment “designed to experiment with the effects of physical deprivation on female inmates.” The myth (lie) that the US doesn’t use torture to coerce people to give up their politics is busted every time in Ford’s recounting of the fascism deployed by the American political/policing corporate Mafioso. Spending your entire sentence in solitary confinement “unless one renounces her beliefs” is against the laws of international conventions on torture and against the US Constitution’s first amendment.

The day before Slick Willy Clinton left office, in January 2001 Rosenberg was granted clemency after 16 years and three months inside. She worked for a human rights organization — American Jewish World Service — and fought to reform prison. She taught literature at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York until the college caved and did not rehire her. In her 2011 memoir, American Radical, she is defiant, proving she was not destroyed by American fascism, but conversely overcame the illegal and unethical torture and censoring with her political beliefs intact.

I tried not to weep. If I did I was afraid I would drown in the waters of my soul . . . The government’s goal was to destroy us through isolation, through exile, life sentences, medical negligence, and horrible physical conditions. In that they failed.

In May 1994, Marilyn Buck, the remaining female member of the May 19th Communist Organization,  talked about why she was a political prisoner, then locked up at the Shawnee HSU at Marianna prison.

I am a white woman from the middle class who has refused to accept the great American social contract: democracy for the white few, unmitigated oppression for the colonized and exploited many. I am despised because I have rejected and betrayed the bonds of white privilege, have defended Black people’s rights, and have engaged in the struggle to defeat U.S. imperialism, to support national liberation struggles and the right of all peoples to self-determination. I am censored, locked behind walls, and watched.

After starting her second prison stint, Buck talked of the repression orchestrated in Capitalist America, after earning a degree in psychology, working for fellow political Abu-Jamal and thrown into solitary after September 11 as a potential terrorist. She served 33 years of her 80-year sentence. “The exclusion from society is their weapon”, she writes. “Isolation silences voices of resistance and reverberates into society to stave off action. Destroying one’s political identify renders them as un-beings, but more destructive is that police fascism of America stifles the context from which to organize social opposition and organized resistance within the society.”

Think of the isolation and torture of a Nelson Mandela and African National Congress in South Africa. This need in the US to repress/destroy revolutionary movements goes way back against those dissidents and others who refuse this imperialist state, as Mary K. O’Melveney opined: punishing “those who resist racism, genocide, colonialism and imperialism.”

It is a legacy of an existential nightmare, and endless justice denied to politicals because the US expunges the very fact (history of) it has pursued relentlessly political dissidents they have then caught, prosecuted, persecuted, tortured, and many times disappeared. The lives of these women individually and collectively have been resuscitated by Linda G. Ford, and her book serves as testimony and a testament of the great harm done by our government in the name of capitalism/imperialism utilizing the most crude and sophisticated methods of anti-democratic repression.

Buck wrote in 2000 that more women political prisoners will emerge, and with Code Pink rabble-rousers, the Native American water protectors around facing federal charges and decades of incarceration, and the many women who have drawn and quartered the racist and misogynistic history of modern America in the Black Lives Movement, she was right. She implored that we all have a duty to resist and buck “the rapacious, anti-human system.” One will not see this call to action in today’s political leaders and intellectuals; in fact, this country is about protecting the trans-financial, military and global corporatist forces that make up the police state that denies equality and justice.

Over the course of the past 19 years, America has turned on itself, thrown the gates of freedom into the scrap pile of gauntlets and barricades built to prevent or forestall unfettered access by both the government/police state and corporations/trans-finance to not only pry into our lives, but to exact more than a pound of flesh from us as citizens, a term now code-switched to “consumers,” and on a larger gradient of more applicable descriptors for we, by, for, because of the people tethered to this non-democratic morass of penury and punishment:  suspects, persons of interest, pre-accused, targets, marks, inmates, disenfranchised, dispossessed, the other, the accused, evicted, foreclosed upon, fined, levied, sterilized, patients, the sick, mentally infirm, audiences, focus groups, and the taxed and damned!

In this book, Ford exposes the Post 9/11 systemic sickness of oppression and disappearing all administrations on both aisles of the political heap have green-lighted. Here, a chilling account from Moazzam Begg, 2012, about another political, female, we go hand-in-hand with in Ford’s book:

Of all the abuses [prisoner Abu Yahya al-Libi] describes in his account, the presence of a woman and her humiliation and degradation were the most inflammatory to all the prisoners [at Bagram] – would never forget it. He describes how she was regularly stripped naked and manhandled by guards, and how she used to scream incessantly in isolation for two years. He said prisoners protested her treatment, going on hunger strikes, feeling ashamed they could do nothing to help. He described her in detail: a Pakistani mother – torn away from her children – in her mid-thirties, who had begun to lose her mind. Her number, he said, was 650.

So, little known Aafia Siddiqui is highlighted in this book as a victim of “American white supremacy and imperialism; enduring the consequences of an extreme anti-terrorist/anti-Muslim era which began with the September 11, 2001 bombings of the World Trade Center.”

She was educated at MIT as a neuroscientist and worked in the US for years. Her Muslim activism got the fascist Attorney General John Ashcroft interested, and he put her on his watch-list. All the accusations of terrorism proved baseless, yet the FBI, CIA and American military tribunals held on like a rabid dog. She was kidnapped by Pakistani bounty hunters on the payroll of the Americans, with her three children snatched up too.

The youngest was immediately killed, and the other two imprisoned separately for years. Dr. Siddiqui was beaten, raped, tortured and kept in solitary in black site prisons of the American empire.

Oh, the irony! January 15, 2019 and the Pedophile President Trump has nominated William Barr for attorney general. Barr served (sic) as George H.W. Bush’s AG from 1991 to 1993. That was a short time but enough to pardon six Reagan officials for the Iran-Contra scandal and then oversee Guantánamo Bay military prison opening up. Mass incarceration at home and designing a secret National Security Agency mass phone surveillance blueprint were two of his fingerprints that have followed us all into 2019. What would those women politicals say today about the Islamophobia?

What would they say about the limp, weak, conniving questioning by both sides of the political dung heap during this fascist Barr’s confirmation hearings? Barr sounds like the quintessential white supremacist, privileged, Ivy-League educated (sic)  elite that an Obama or Clinton or Trump or Bush presses the flesh with on a daily basis.

Ford puts a lot into context in her chapter titled: “The Empire Strikes Back: American Imperial Authorities Disappear, Torture and Destroy Aafia Siddiqui; and Routinely Jail Female Anti-Imperialist Dissenters, Muslim Women and Whistleblowers, 1990-Present.”

The three presidents in charge from 1990s until 2018, have had somewhat different doctrines of global empire: Clinton prepared the way, Bush implemented the 9/11 unleashing of new military adventures, and Obama (continued somewhat clumsily by Trump) streamlined, codified and expanded Bush’s new global warmongering.

A world of smart bombs, Bin Laden, Al Qaeda, Taliban, collateral damage. Invasions of Iraq. A world of 300 nuclear bombs in Israel, Saudi Arabia aligned with the Zionists, Israel First pledges by US elected politicians. A world of Exxon more powerful than most nation states. This new spasm of fascism was codified with the Bush Doctrine. Chalmers Johnson stated this concept of World Domination by the USA  was laid out in 2002 at a West Point Academy gathering: Bush stated that “. . . our policy would be to dominate the world through absolute military superiority and to wage preventive war against any possible competitor.”

Things from the ‘60s through the ‘90s are dramatically different in terms of how the police state operates and how far-reaching now the American project to dominate, steal, harass, kill and contain has grown. Let’s look at Chalmers Johnson in an article for the Nation September 27, 2001 and then from his 2004 book, The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic, which Ford includes in her book:

The suicidal assassins of September 11, 2001, did not “attack America,” as our political leaders and the news media like to maintain; they attacked American foreign policy. Employing the strategy of the weak, they killed innocent bystanders who then became enemies only because they had already become victims. Terrorism by definition strikes at the innocent in order to draw attention to the sins of the invulnerable. The United States deploys such overwhelming military force globally that for its militarized opponents only an “asymmetric strategy,” in the jargon of the Pentagon, has any chance of success. When it does succeed, as it did spectacularly on September 11, it renders our massive military machine worthless: The terrorists offer it no targets. On the day of the disaster, President George W. Bush told the American people that we were attacked because we are “a beacon for freedom” and because the attackers were “evil.” In his address to Congress on September 20, he said, “This is civilization’s fight.” This attempt to define difficult-to-grasp events as only a conflict over abstract values–as a “clash of civilizations,” in current post-cold war American jargon–is not only disingenuous but also a way of evading responsibility for the “blowback” that America’s imperial projects have generated.

The Nation, Johnson

Americans like to say that the world changed as a result of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. It would be more accurate to say that the attacks produced a dangerous change in the thinking of some of our leaders, who began to see our republic as a genuine empire, a new Rome, the greatest colossus in history, no longer bound by international law, the concerns of allies, or any constraints on its use of military force. The American people were still largely in the dark about why they had been attacked or why their State Department began warning them against tourism in an every-growing list of foreign countries . . . . But a growing number finally began to grasp what most non-Americans already knew and had experienced over the last half century – namely, that the United States was something other than what it professed to be,, that it was, in fact, a military juggernaut intent on world domination.

Blowback, Johnson

We are all terrorists, that is, those of us who use words, placards, hacking, bodies, grouped protests, and two-by-fours in an attempt to stop the juggernaut of corporate power and collusion with their government. Little Eichmann’s and henchmen and henchwomen in the Military-Pharma-Ag-Energy-Legal-Edu-IT-AI-Chem-Finance-Insurance-Med Industrial Complex. The new red scare is green, as in eco-terrorists. The anti-Boycott-Divest-Sanction movement is the new terror against the American Israel way of life. Anyone questioning Zionism or the Israeli policy of apartheid and genocide is the new-old-future enemy of the State of Fascist America.

You get arrested and prosecuted for setting up camps in public places, for throwing stage blood on the gates of Air Force installations that are harbingers of death missiles. You get thrown in jail/prison for torching a few internal combustion SUV’s. Jail-and-hard-time for protecting your Native American holy places. Jail time for putting water and food in the Arizona desert for migrating undocumented immigrants.

Jail-jail-jail, felonies-felonies-felonies, misdemeanors-misdemeanors-misdemeanors, eviction-eviction-eviction, bad credit reports-terminations from jobs, failure to pay taxes.

Americans are the enemy of the state, and when that American is a woman political activist – that can be a woman against death squads trained-supplied-abetted by USA, or someone wanting to expose the death camps of concentrated animal feeding operations, even a woman in a tree protesting the cutting of old growth forests, especially a woman on the streets proclaiming the end of violence against Black men, women, children. The enemy of this state is anyone, slipping into board rooms at college campuses fighting the rape culture, or getting into city hall meetings and decrying gentrification, or women building homeless camps or distributing clean needles.

You can be Sisters Ardeth Platte and Carol Gilbert, 78 and 68 years old respectively (in 2015), who committed themselves to nonviolent protests. Eric Schlosser interviewed them, and the two told of being “shackled and chained, strip-searched in front of male guards, locked in filthy cells with clogged toilets and vermin.”

That global war on terror hit these sisters broadside, including Sister Jackie Hudson, for coming onto the grounds of a Minuteman II silo in Colorado.

They wore white jump suits embossed with Citizen Weapon Inspection Team; hammered railroad tracks, drew a cross in their blood, banged on the silo, and prayed. After their arrest, they were left on the ground for three hours. (Ford)

The strongest bond of human sympathy outside the family relation should be one uniting working people of all nations and tongues and kindreds.

Abraham Lincoln, “Reply to a Committee from the Workingmen’s Association of New York,” March 21, 1864

I am now thinking about Maura Clarke and Ita Ford, Ursuline Dorothy Kazel, and Jean Donovan, three Maryknoll sisters and a lay missionary murdered in El Salvador. Thirty-eight years ago this past December 2, 1980, beaten, raped and murdered. They were working on international humanitarian aid projects, which were counter to the USA’s project of terror in Central America, under Jimmy Carter, who suspended aid to the Salvadoran Army, for a brief moment, and then reinstated it. The women were murdered by and with the collusion with US trained thugs who attended Fort Benning’s notorious School of the Americas.

Under Reagan and Bush Senior, the civilian murders in Salvador and Guatemala, to name two, continued with US backing, both material aid/advisers, and political and diplomatic (sic). In El Salvador’s Decade of Terror: Human Rights Since the Assassination of Archbishop Romero, Human Rights Watch reports:

During the Reagan years in particular, not only did the United States fail to press for improvements … but, in an effort to maintain backing for U.S. policy, it misrepresented the record of the Salvadoran government, and smeared critics who challenged that record. In so doing, the Administration needlessly polarized the debate in the United States, and did a grave injustice to the thousands of civilian victims of government terror in El Salvador. [23] Despite the El Mozote Massacre that year, Reagan continued certifying (per the 1974 amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act) that the Salvadoran government was progressing in respecting and guaranteeing the human rights of its people, and in reducing National Guard abuses against them.

I was in Central America then, and throughout the ’80s. The blasphemy of America then, and the outright denigration of those nuns by many in America, to include the media and politicos, was telling to me in my formative years as a newspaper reporter along the US-Mexico border. One can’t go back or turn one’s back on the act of bearing witness to crimes against humanity. For me going on 45 years of journalism and activism, America has lived up to its Murder Incorporated moniker.

The work of people like Linda G. Ford give some sustenance for me to continue fighting the oppressive and repressive mindset of the American individual and the system protecting those individuals.

I’m now thinking about Elizabeth Gurley Flynn.  I ended up in Spokane, May 2001, and quickly found out that Spokane, Washington, was where free speech was officially banned by the city fathers and thug cops. She was there, as a 19-year-old in December 1909, and arrested and jailed. She went to lumber camps in Montana and Washington, speaking at IWW meetings. She stated she fell in love with her country, calling it,

… a rich, fertile, beautiful land, capable of satisfying all the needs of its people – It could be paradise on earth if it belonged to the people, not to a small owning class.

She wrote about the experience in Spokane in the Industrial Worker and The Socialist, two journal articles that inspired other protests to the authorities.  She wrote about being safer with others locked up, rather than being alone. In Spokane, a jailer approached her at night, and while all the other mostly prostitute women had complied, Flynn told him to take his hands off her and he left her alone. Her article  “resulted in matrons for women prisoners in Spokane.” She was acquitted after two trials of “conspiracy to incite men to disobey the law.”

By the age of 15, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was a committed socialist and was arrested, with her father, for public speaking without a permit. They were finally released on bail at 2 am. At their trial, the judge advised Elizabeth to go back to school for a while longer before she became a teacher. (Ford)

Defiant, she read the theories of socialists Upton Sinclair and Edward Bellamy and of anarchist Peter Kropotkin, as well as delving deeply into Marx and Engels.

Here’s what Flynn said at age 73 in 1963:

I was a convict, a prisoner without rights, writing a censored letter. But my head was unbowed. Come what may, I was a political prisoner and proud of it, at one with some of the noblest of humanity, who had suffered for conscience’s sake. I felt no shame, no humiliation, no consciousness of guilt. To me my number 11710 was a badge of honor.

Being a member of the Communist Party of America (CPUSA), for Flynn and others was about following through with American roots and American ideals. Defending constitutional rights made them good Americans. It was Flynn who supported her constitutional right to political belief and free speech, yet these arguments were for naught, as she said: “in the United States – boasted citadel of democracy – we were prisoners for opinion under a fascist-like thought control act.” Ethel Rosenberg was not defended by the CP, until after her death row orders were imminent. The CP defendants were “arguing their Americanness, when the Rosenbergs were in jail after being convicted of being totally un-American and dedicated to the downfall of the USA.”

Ford goes into great detail about the Ethel Rosenberg case, but the final argument against her American assassination vis-à-vis a death sentence comes from many scholars, including the 2010 book, Final Verdict, written by Miriam Schneir and Walter Schneir:

The evidence against Ethel “was so weak that it seems incredible today that she was even indicted, much less convicted and executed.”

It is clear there are fractures in the American “left,” whatever that is, and to this day, many leftists distance themselves from Ethel Rosenberg, which Ford finds counter to what her book on Political Prisoners is attempting to do:

To me, it is essential to include her as a woman political prisoner, and the only woman executed by the federal government since Mary Surratt was hanged for allegedly being part of the conspiracy to assassinate Lincoln. Rosenberg was a victim of a terrible, extreme, and wholly antifeminist time, which saw women in stereotypical ways, ways which often contradicted each other, making it difficult for women to achieve any acceptable balance. Ethel Rosenberg had been a young activist, a worker and union leader, an aspiring singer/actress, and like a good 5os woman, gave it all up to be a (nervous and anxious) wife and mother. As it turned out, she never came up with the right combination of certified female traits to convince her jailers that she was worthy of any sort of fair treatment.

Reading about Lynne Stewart and Assata Shakur in Ford’s book is both insightful and complimentary, even though their lives are divergent, and the time periods of their incarceration and prosecution are separated by more than four decades.

Ford does both women justice in their own lives plagued with injustice. Shakur still is alive in Cuba; Lynn Stewart died of breast cancer.

Here, in her own words, Shakur:

My name is Assata Shakur, and I am a 20th century escaped slave. Because of government persecution, I was left with no other choice than to flee from the political repression, racism and violence that dominate the US government’s policy towards people of color. I am an ex-political prisoner, and I have been living in exile in Cuba since 1984.

— “I am a 20th Century Escaped Slave”, Counterpunch, December 30, 2014

I first introduced myself to Linda Ford when I read her work at Dissident Voice on Red Fawn Fallis. I wanted to interview her about the stories of women Native Americans prosecuted and imprisoned for their valiant and righteous stand against the energy thugs and US government goons protecting the illegal interests of the big energy purveyors.

Here’s what Ford wrote in her intro paragraph about Red Fawn Fallis:

What happened to Standing Rock water protector Red Fawn Fallis is what has happened to many women political dissenters who go up against Big Government/Corporate power.  After she was viciously tackled by several police officers (caught on video), she was brought up on serious charges of harming those who harmed her.  Fallis, after months of intense corporate/military surveillance and handy informant reports, was targeted as a coordinator and a leader, a symbol and an inspiration.  For daring to make a stand for her people against the encroaching poison and destruction brought by the Dakota Access gas pipeline, she became a political prisoner.

— “Red Fawn Fallis and the Felony of Being Attacked by Cops“, Dissident Voice, July 17, 2018

She was kind enough to submit to some lengthy questions by yours truly after the first part of this discussion/book review went live at Dissident Voice last week (January 13): “In The Eye of the Beholder: USA History of Imprisoning Women Politicals.”

Here is that Q and A:

Paul Haeder: Great book, great histories revealed. What one or two women you discovered in your research have inspired you to continue your own dissident writing? Why?

Linda Ford: There are many, many but I guess I would choose Assata Shakur and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn as the biggest inspirations.  Assata Shakur is my cover photo because that image represents a perfectly lovely woman, shackled by her countrymen, and dragged to a murder trial for a murder she never committed, which the authorities knew, all because she dared to be part of a real resistance movement in the 60s.  She had tremendous courage and the courage of having and living consistent principles.  She never gave in.  She fought back against white supremacist oppression—and also against sexism in the Black Panther Party.  Plus she got away!  She was one of the very few to get out and away from very possible execution in jail, helped by her comrades, including sister politicals. Go Assata!  Exiled in Cuba, she’s still considered an enemy of the US.  She’s an inspiration to me to reveal the oppression and racism that is American society.  I framed a quote from her:  “I just have to be myself, stay as strong as I can and do my best.”

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was a political prisoner and proud of it and the reason I wrote the book, curious to see how many other women were political prisoners throughout America’s history.  Turned out there were a lot and it took me about 10 years to find out how many and how that evolved.  What I identified with as far as Flynn was concerned was that she was always, throughout her very long career, for the workers and always fighting against the horrible inequities of capitalism.  Coming from a rural working class background, and having come up against elitism disdain because of it, especially in my academic career, I share her politics.  I also like the way she insisted that socialism, especially Debs-style socialism, was American–and had a proud history in the worker and farmer rebellions starting in the late 19th century, against capitalist American authority, repression and violence.  At her trial in the 50s, she used the arguments of Lincoln to show how steeped Communists were in American political philosophy.  Good luck there, of course.  And I admire her for staying with her socialist convictions, her work for unions and fairness, in spite of unreliable (male) relationships.  She reminds me of what real socialism is and what real feminism is and how what purports to pass for them now—is not it.  She reminds me of how important it is to continue to challenge the pseudo socialists and feminists of today.

PH: Women political prisoners is a fact most Americans have a tough time squaring with their own delusional educations, magical thinking and exceptionalist crap. How do you talk to the average person about what you have found to be a massive, concerted and systematic system of our police state, going on 400 years?

LF: Talking to “average person”?  Well, they think I’m crazy.  That’s why I read CJ Hopkins, John Steppling, Glenn Ford—and Paul Haeder!  I read people who let me know that I’m not crazy—that being what Lynne Stewart called a “left-wing wingnut” is okay.  Especially since the Russia hysteria, and my stubborn refuting of it, people shake their heads and some recommend I read certain articles or attend certain lectures to put me on the right path. Others avoid me. It really is like the 50s!  Some people I talk to about women as political prisoners and what they fought identify with parts of it.  In rural New York you do have strong anti-capitalist/banker sentiment.  And some are willing to believe my huge amount of research probably did uncover some truth.  But the book presents way too much bad news for most people—whether rural small town neighbors or academics or liberal Democrats who don’t want to deal.  In order to accept the entirety of what I’m arguing—that an authoritarian American government with its police, military, and corporate-led structure has systematically worked to destroy political dissent—people have to deny an entire corporate media/education/government authority as they know it.  You would have to understand that NBC’s Lester Holt is lying.  So it’s a tough sell.

PH: There is a deep chill in this country that has solidified in the past 25 years, and especially after US Patriot Act and the Obama Administration’s move to curtail our freedoms, that stems from a country that is so fixed on giving corporations ALL the power to strip our Constitutional Rights as workers. How do we inspire young people to be dissidents and to risk a lifetime of penury and imprisonment (both in the carcel state as well as in their lives as workers, renters, precarious citizens)?

LF: Inspire youth to dissent—there’s another REALLY tough sell.  My last teaching job was at Colgate, so not a lot of worker activism for sure; they weren’t buying all the Native American or female tribulations I told them about for the most part.  They weren’t necessarily buying my relentless socialist feminist history.  But there were some pretty strong feminist students.  Some youth can identify with dissident heroism.  Some can see the reality of the job world, and the evils of war and racism.  I see groups of students who have lived through mass murders at their schools, doing rallies, going to legislatures and Congress.  And I see them turned away for their efforts.  That is a hard but very true lesson of what it might take to change the violence- as- fabric of this culture.  They need to decide to be in it for the long haul.  But it starts with a dose of reality eye-opening.

PH: Many Americans, unfortunately, relish the American police state and the war state, largely because of brainwashing and shifting baseline syndrome. Where do you see some of these heroic women of the past fitting in today in this Homeland Security loving populous?

LF: There’s a good question.  How about all those TV shows with cops, FBI, CIA, homeland goons?!  Wow, talk about brainwashing.  I think Mother Jones, Ma Bloor, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn—would be so appalled today.  These are socialist union people in a world where capitalism has gone completely insane.  All their work, all their suffering, jailing, all for naught.  Workers have less than zero power—so many have had to give up.  And the populace, as noted, brainwashed thoroughly that that’s their fault, that socialism or dissent is evil and un-American.  (Ohhhh—Venezuela!!)  People have been conditioned—and they can also see the evidence—that it’s hopeless to resist.  If you do resist our basic inequality, like Occupy, or like some teacher unions, there is a huge oppressive countervailing apparatus to put you down.  Some female protests continue though.  Anti-imperialist dissenters just keep it going.  As I wrote in Dissident Voice on January 8th, women like former nun Elizabeth McAlister continue to bear witness against nuclear insanity.  She fights even though she doesn’t expect success, with the “absurd conviction” that her protest can make a small difference.

PH: What key points have you learned in your research, interviews, studies and writing?

LF: Well, what I’ve learned has added to my radicalization big time.  I believe that socialism is the only way, that patriarchy and racism remain really really bad today; they’ve taken different forms over time but they are there.  Many American women remain heroes and still fight against what’s wrong in America anyway.  From my interviews I’ve concluded that these women radicals stayed radical.  It hasn’t mattered to them which administration is in power.  It’s depressingly obvious to me how incredibly strong our capitalist culture is now, and the close connection it has with government authoritarianism—fascism.  And how present-day fascism enhances patriarchy, racism and anti-Earth policy.  By the end of the book, I had some rants going against it all—it became a jeremiad for me, a` la Anne Hutchinson.

PH:  Naomi Wolf wrote about fascism under W Bush. In her book, The End of America.

The 10 essential steps the state must implement to take total control are:

  • Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy.
  • Create secret prisons where torture takes place.
  • Develop a thug caste or paramilitary force not answerable to citizens.
  • Set up an internal surveillance system.
  • Harass citizens’ groups
  • Engage in arbitrary detention and release.
  • Target key individuals.
  • Control the press.
  • Treat all political dissidents as traitors.
  • Suspend the rule of law.

Seems like she was 300 years too late. However, this is United States of Amnesia, Groundhog Day, and plagued with consumerist and spectacle loving people. Discuss.

LF: Interesting choice.  Well, one thing I have to confess is that books like this—out in 2007—is about Bush fascism.  I get itchy about books that seem to indicate that such American fascism started with Bush, or grew appreciably more.  And she does seem to say that given time, Democrats can change the laws.  I liked Jules Boykoff’s book, 2006, Suppression of Dissent which talks about how American protest has been dismantled by a media-state partnership, by talking about Black Panthers (60s) and Judi Bari (90s); and also Bill Quigley, writing in 2011 about how police have become SWAT teams which have become military operations against protesters.  And in my book, I obviously argue that American fascism is from the way-back.  It’s like people who argue, “Well, hey Trump,” like he’s the be-all and end-all of bad American government, when mostly Obama did the same but he’s apparently now a god.  Anyway.  Wolf’s 10 steps—My women have seen all of that, and before 2007.  You’ve got internal/external enemies as in communism and terrorism, or wartime enemies leading to imprisonment.  Secret prisons we have as in black site prisons for Siddiqui, or the conditions for the women prisoners of the Lexington High Security Unit being kept quiet—conditions of extreme torture.  Plus most people don’t know we have many many political prisoners in jail, mostly in solitary—like Red Fawn Fallis and Aafia Siddiqui and Marius Mason at Carswell, TX.  The paramilitary was at Standing Rock, but also used against Mother Jones.

And surveillance—oh yeah—Standing Rock, Occupy, and also against the National Woman’s Party in 1917, done by the brand new FBI.  Government has harassed citizen groups from the pro-Palestinian to those equated with Communism in the 50s.  We’ve seen arbitrary detention of suffragists, Occupy protesters and, of course, lawyer Lynne Stewart.  Stewart was also a targeted key individual, as was Ma Bloor in the 40s, Wounded Knee resisters in the 70s and Standing Rock protectors a couple of years ago.  Occupy tried not to say who their leaders were to avoid that.  The press is totally controlled now, except Dissident Voice and a few stalwarts, but a controlled media was used against Shakur and the Panthers, Siddiqui, Judi Bari and (“Red”) Emma Goldman.

Political dissidents have been considered traitors—especially in wartime, WWI being an egregious example, as also the communists, the Ohio 7 and Weatherwomen, even 83-year-old Plowshares nuns. The lack of the rule of law is definitely horrible today—that’s why Lynne Stewart was jailed, because she tried to fight for that principle—no defender rights, especially against “terrorists”, but it was no picnic for Communists or Japanese-American women jailed for their race. Wolf’s is a useful list—and again, government control gets worse and worse and people don’t seem to notice, or want to notice, much less fight it

PH: Now universities, businesses, Homeland Security, police, FBI, banks, state, city, county governments, police forces, private corporations seemingly work together to quell dissent, quell debate, stave off any criticism of the vanguard and elites. Are we in very different times now, and how and why, than when the Weather Underground, BPP, et al were protesting and dissenting in the 1960s-’90s?

LF: Well, things are different now and mostly not better for dissent, but as I’ve argued, it’s never been good.  For instance, in the 1960s to the 90s, the media was not completely controlled, so you could have some truthful coverage, some anti-authority coverage, some sympathy for dissenters which is hard to find now.  It was not Standing Operating Procedure to use an all-out military attack on just about any or all serious protest.  After the Kent State student killings in 1970, as a student, I joined a very big rally which shut down the Northway in Albany because of what the National Guard did.  So a different time in that way—constant protest is needed now over police/military brutality in this country.  And look what happens—Sandra Bland was killed in her cell and Rev. Joy Powell was railroaded on a murder charge after they took on police brutality against Black Americans.  There is no habeas corpus or fair legal treatment; there is ultra surveillance—and there is a very tight and efficient bond between Big Business and global elitist government.  There is brainwashing with an emphasis on sexist, racist and vacant thinking; workers have no power, and no jobs.  So—here’s what’s the same as the 60s—we need a revolution!

Updating Some U.S. Political Prisoners January 2019

Writing from another country I remember the Americans I’m supposed to forget, those forced into the lives that made them prisoners or simply targets of law enforcement programs. Some are religious people, Christians and Muslims. Many were Black Panthers. Some were and are radicals. Most are Americans. All cared for their communities and people. They were condemned by society at large. Under the FBI’s COINTELPRO activists in the Sixties and Seventies political and community movements but particularly the Black Panthers were targeted and hunted and engaged in fire-fights by law enforcement. Any police casualty brought charges of murder in court. How many community leaders were convicted for killing a police person? And yet through many years have maintained their innocence despite the mechanism which increases the chance for parole if a crime is confessed and regretted. One reason I don’t forget them is because I don’t really believe they’re guilty. Here are updates for some political prisoners in the U.S.1

Among U.S. political prisoners with the roots of imprisonment in the last century, is Rap Brown (Hubert Gerold Brown), known today as Imam Jamil Al-Amin. As a young leader he was pissed, acerbic and unafraid. His late speeches are devout, eloquent, historically wise, American, concerned with the survival of his people, and religiously humble. His rhetoric frightened U.S. law enforcement since the 1960’s. Convicted of murdering a police person (a crime confessed to by someone else with accuracy, three times – then recanted), maintaining his own innocence Al-Amin was sentenced in 2002 to life imprisonment without parole. Placed in a maximum security prison and principally in solitary confinement far from friends, supporters, family for years, he was transferred to Eastern U.S. prisons for medical treatment with several medical conditions which the prison system was slow to diagnose and treat. He was found to have a rare form of blood cancer. His writings are suppressed. He’s not permitted interviews.2  With 16 years in prison, currently an appeal of his conviction slowly makes its way through appeals court. I think he’s silenced because he’s a wise man. Wasted by his country yet of deep human value he continues to frighten the establishment because he provides a bridge of peace between Islam and Christianity. “When the struggle becomes conscious then we understand that we don’t have an option. Struggle is the price you pay for your soul. We all doing life without parole.” — Imam Jamil Al-Amin

Abu Hamza al-Masri, born Mustafa Kamel Mustafa in Egypt, is a British Imam with a reputation for hating people he considers enemies of Islam. He was extradited to the U.S. to face trial in a Manhattan court not too far from the former World Trade Center(s), for alleged war related crimes in Yemen, Afghanistan and Oregon. At his trial the jury wasn’t allowed to hear substantial evidence of his work for M-15 British Intelligence. Allegations against him were not based on any violence he committed but on his alleged responsibility for crimes; most of the evidence presented was his words, sermons, statements, opinions, feelings, his freedom of expression.3  He wasn’t found guilty of hate speech but of 11 counts of terrorism, and he is serving a life-without-parole sentence in the U.S. supermax prison, ADX Florence Colorado, essentially in solitary confinement, in “a cage like cell.” Since apparently the conditions of his incarceration violate human rights law prohibitions against torture and degrading treatment,4  contravening the conditions of his extradition from Europe to the U.S., the Imam has appealed for removal to prison in Great Britain. He is blind and missing both hands which were lost in an explosion when he was younger (British media have continually referred to him as “the Hook”). With diabetes and psoriasis as well, under U.S. prison conditions at ADX Florence the stumps of his arms become continually infected.

An American, a Robert F. Wagner High School and Brooklyn College graduate who earned his M.A. in international relations in London, Fahad Hashmi, as a Muslim was targeted for association with radical friends and was extradited from England to New York, held in solitary for three years before trial, was threatened with a 70 year sentence for storing a friend’s luggage which held clothing for Al-Quaeda, and was sentenced on a plea bargain to 15 years which he is serving at ADX Florence, the supermax facility. Relying on technicalities and the prisoner’s innocence, the prosecution and imprisonment of Fahad Hashmi affirmed American law but betrayed American justice.

In 2018 Jalil Muntaqim (Anthony Bottom) was denied parole for the 9th time. According to Jericho New York he “was convicted of the 1971 murders of two New York City police officers, a crime for which he accepted responsibility and demonstrated remorse. During his 47 years in prison, Jalil earned two college degrees and served as a counselor, teacher and role model for other incarcerated people. Jalil is a rehabilitated individual who poses no risk to the community. He will be appealing this very disappointing decision.”5

Held for 22 years in solitary confinement in 2016 former Black Panther Russell “Maroon” Shoatz won through a legal action against Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections his reprieve from continual solitary confinement, as well as $99,000; his case commenced in 1973 protested the prison’s cruel and unusual punishment. The United Nations Special rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez noted the conditions of Shoatz’s imprisonment as outside a civilized norm.

Dr. Mutulu Shakur (Jeral Wayne Williams) once of the Black Liberation Army (Black Panthers) was sentenced in 1988 to sixty years on RICO conspiracy charges and for bank robberies which involved deaths of guards and police. Led to believe he would be released Feb. 10, 2016 due to laws in force at the time, he wasn’t released and was given a parole hearing for Dec.16, 2016, his 8th. Parole was denied. The government is suspected of psychologically tormenting the well-respected Dr. Shakur so that he might confess to masterminding the 1979 prison escape of Assata Shakur. In March 2018 Mutulu Shakur filed suit against the federal government for his release alleging violation of his First Amendment Rights (principally his free speech) by the Parole Board as the reason for denying his release.6

Arrested in April 1985, according to Wikipedia Thomas William Manning is expected to complete his current prison term in 2020, at which point he is to begin his next prison term of 80 years for another set of charges including the murder of a New Jersey police officer. Manning was convicted of shooting back after the officer emptied his gun at Manning and his group of families. The inhumanity of the sentencing was always intended to render the prisoner without hope. Attempts to trash and humiliate Tom Manning, American, a Vietnam veteran, and each of the Ohio Seven (“United Freedom Front”, “Sam Melville Brigade”) suggests the bitter hostility of the system to white working class people if they assert both socialism and a brotherhood of black and white. In prison Manning has held to uncompromised anti-racist, American truths strongly, constantly, with hope, paintings and words. In 2006 a show of his artwork was canceled by a timorous University of Maine.7

Jaan Laaman, also of the “Ohio Seven” (“United Freedom Front”, “Sam Melville Brigade”), is serving a 53 year prison term, following a 45 year prison term. Both by court action and example he has become known as an advocate for rights of freedom of expression for prisoners, in 1977 winning his State Supreme Court case against the New Hampshire State Prison to receive his reading materials which is said to have opened prisoner education programs through New Hampshire. He is a founder of the website 4strugglemag.org, an outlet for prison writing. On March 21, 2017, he was placed in solitary confinement for violating communications protocols (issuing of statements which apparently the prison system did not favour). He’s also threatened with transfer to a CMU (Communications Management Unit) to completely segregate his communications from the outside world.8

The histories of John Africa’s movement and Mumia Abu-Jamal have been interwoven from the start in the tragedies which took people of faith from their lives and community, where the children of some were shot by police, where community workers and pragmatic idealists were ground up by the system’s violence. From one perspective they were falsely accused honest people, put in jail under insufferable sentences to silence them about the crimes committed against John Africa’s “family” by the Philadelphia police. The best known witness Mumia Abu-Jamal who reported on the police bombing of the MOVE residence by Philadelphia police was subsequently charged with murder of a police officer and placed on death row. The injustices of his charges and trials, and courts and judges and incarcerations and threats of death against all of them are a grocery list of white racism to keep the black community in line, and Mumia Abu-Jamal’s history is mythic in his survival over death row, beating his medical death sentence beating the silence imposed on him, to become one of the best known writers and revolutionary writers-from-prison in history. Under a ruling Dec. 28, 2018 by Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge, Leon Tucker, Mumia Abu-Jamal is finally granted an opportunity to argue for his freedom in a retrial. Judge Tucker found that the judge who presided over Abu-Jamal’s previous and thought to be final appeal should have recused himsef.9  A day later six cartons of materials thought to be related to Mumia’s case were discovered in the Philadelphia D.A.’s storage room. After assessment and if necessary these may provide Abu-Jamal’s lawyers with leverage for additional appeals.10

Mike Africa of the MOVE 9 was finally released on parole Oct. 23, 2018. One of nine MOVE members convicted to 30 years imprisonment for the killing of one police officer who died of a single bullet wound in a police storming of the MOVE home; MOVE members were generally without arms and living under a peaceful ethic and it was always possible that the police officer was killed in the storm of gunfire from his fellow officers. Historically, the severity of the sentencing seems to have been an attempt to silence witnessing of the many police crimes in the Philadelphia Police’s handling of John Africa’s community group.

Compared to others here the Kings Bay Plowshares are up against comparatively short sentences for comparatively harmless actions. The religious basis of their protest against the full power of nuclear militarized America is also problematic, in that they were arrested because they chose to confront the government, rather than through the government’s need to oppress them. For nearly half a century the Plowshares movement has broken the security of Nuclear submarines, missile silos and facilities to hammer on nuclear weapons, beating swords into plowshares. Their symbolic acts of faith are like prayer a worship of something stronger and more sacred than the weapons of mass destruction and as a group its members have, without injuring others been sent to prison for months to several years at a time. They’re a help to the anti-prison movement in that they’re innocent of crimes against other people and yet are condemned and treated as criminal. At their King’s Bay Florida action April 4, 2018 having presented their passion play for Christ carrying real hammers, real blood amid real nuclear weapons they were arrested with a sign quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “The ultimate logic of racism is genocide,” and began their long tedious journey through a court system challenging the faith of those in the court system. Once a decision is made concerning the “religious freedom motions” (the defendants were allowed the opportunity to present the court with the religious motivation for their actions as pleas for dismissal), the case could be dismissed or a trial date set before the end of January.11

In 2003 Dr. Rafil Dhafir was taken from his medical practice in upstate New York and sentenced to 22 years, not for any alleged violence but for sending medical supplies to the children of Iraq, victims of the U.S. and Coalition bombing campaigns. He was born in Iraq. His attempts to alleviate the suffering of the children there by supplying medicines, was in no way wrong though through misuse and misapplication of the law was made illegal. Medical supplies were wrongly embargoed. Dr. Dhafir as a Muslim, was referred to as a suspected terrorist by New York’s Governor Pataki . To avoid his appearance as a humanitarian the FBI also prosecuted him for medicare fraud and money laundering. Dr. Dhafir donated over a million dollars of his own for medical supplies to children. When a petition for Executive Clemency was prepared for him he refused to ask for mercy as a criminal because he committed no crime. Under Federal guidelines Dr. Dhafir is eligible because of his age for release since he has served at least 10 years (16 years in February) but his release requires the warden’s approval; that hasn’t happened. Katherine Hughes followed the injustices of Dr. Dhafir’s arrest, trial and conviction.12  She quotes Dennis Halliday who resigned as chief of the UN’s Humanitarian Aid program in Iraq, 1997-98, because he found the sanctions against Iraq, genocide. Of Dr. Dhafir he said, “I am stunned by the conviction of this humanitarian, especially as the US State Department breached its own sanctions to the tune of $10 billion. The policy of sanctions against Iraq undermined not only the UN’s own charter, but the Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Convention as well.” Dr. Dhafir was obeying humanitarian law. By denying medical supplies to a civilian population it had decimated, the U.S. was violating the Convention on Genocide. Dr. Dhafir was placed in prison because he was innocent, and because the U.S. legal system has been denying its people the use of the Nuremberg defense, the citizen’s need to counter his or her country’s acts of genocide.

Dr. Aafia Siddiqui suffered a very strange conviction by a New York City jury which found her guilty of attempting to assault and murder the U.S. military personnel who were holding her prisoner in Afghanistan. As their prisoner Ms. Siddiqui was shot by them in the stomach. Tried in New York the young mother of three was peculiarly sentenced by a New York City judge to 86 years in prison. Currently the Government of Pakistan is attempting to counter this madness by seeking her return to serve the rest of her sentence in her own country. There is evidence that she has been additionally damaged in U.S. government custody. She was able to complain of physical abuse and sexual abuse at the hands of prison officials in Texas, to Pakistan’s consul general. She accused male prison staff of urinating on things belonging to her. The gratuitous severe abuse of Ms. Siddiqui by U.S. authorities is not traditionally American and may be a psyops program to dehumanize Muslims, women or both, preparing the public for greater indecencies.

Ramiro “Ramsey” Muñiz, an Hispanic community leader who ran for Governor of Texas for the Raza Unida Party in 1972 and 1974, was multiply arrested in 1994 on what seemed to be manufactured drug charges and was sentenced to life without parole. The Raza Unida Party was hurt badly and may have been the government’s target when it incapacitated Muñiz. He and his wife have always asserted his innocence and lobbied many years for his pardon and release. Now ill, on Dec. 10, 2018 he was released from Lexington Federal Medical Center (Kentucky) “on compassionate grounds under federal supervision.”13

Juvenal Ovidio Ricardo Palmera Pineda (whose nom de guerre is Simón Trinidad) was extradited to the U.S. when captured as a rebel FARC leader in Colombia. A Colombian professor and peace strategist, accounts of U.S. government trials against him reveal juries that wouldn’t convict him, numerous mistrials and one confused conviction for holding 3 Americans hostage (in a war zone controlled by FARC forces) for which he was sentenced to sixty years. Wikipedia reports that he’s held in the ADX Florence Colorado supermax prison in solitary confinement. Colombia’s civil war is officially at peace. He’s a prisoner of war after the war is over, If released and deported he would face multiple charges under the current Colombian government.

Anayibe Rojas Valderrama of FARC with the war name,”Sonia,” was captured in Colombia in 2004, and extradited by the Americans to face drug charges. She was convicted on drug charges Feb. 20, 2007 in Washington D.C. to serve a sentence of 16 years. After serving 11 she was released on good behaviour and deported to Colombia last August where she was immediately charged with money laundering.14

On May 17, 2017, Oscar López Rivera was released from prison by President Obama. The Puerto Rican nationalist had served 55 years in U.S. prisons.

Initially eligible for parole in 1998 but denied parole ten times, Robert Seth Hayes was finally granted parole July 24, 2018, after 45 years in prison.

  1. My most recent essay updating American political prisoners appeared in 2016: “The torture of U.S. political prisoners: some updates” (2016)nightslantern.ca.
  2. “The unofficial gag order of Jamil Al-Amin (H. Rap Brown): 16 years in prison, still not allowed to speak,” Obaid H. Siddiqui, June 30, 2018, SF BayView.
  3. “Abu Hamza found guilty of 11 terrorism charges,” Karen McVeigh, May 20, 2014, The Guardian.
  4. “Hate preacher Abu Hamza: US prison is too tough,” Callum Adams, Dec. 17, 2017, Telegraph.
  5. “Jalil Muntaqim Denied Parole Once Again!” Current. jerichony.org/.
  6. “Tupac’s Father, Mutulu Shakur , files Lawsuit against the U.S. Government for Illegally Holding Him in Prison,” Sha Be Allah, March 29, 2018, thesource.com.
  7. A background note: in the 1970’s Manning and his group which included several Vietnam veterans, worked out of an alternative bookstore in Portland Maine, community organizing, caring for prisoners and their families, antiwar and anti-racist. Portland police discovered a death squad in police ranks with the intention of disappearing the group. The bookstore was broken into, an employee raped, and they were under continuing threat from the KKK.
  8. “Political prisoner Jaan Laaman is still being held in segregation,” staff, May 25, 2017, 4strugglemag.
  9. “Judge: Mumia Abu-Jamal can reargue appeal in 1981 Philly police slaying,” Bobby Allyn, Dec. 28, 2018, WhyY News.
  10. “A Potentially Tectonic Event Shakes up the Mumia Abu-Jamal Case,” Dave Lindorff, Jan. 11, 2019, Counterpunch.
  11. “Update on the Kings Bay Plowshares,” Dec 27, 2018 / “Legal Update,” Bill Quigley, Nov. 19, 2018, The Nuclear Resister.
  12. “Is this Fairness? Is this Justice? Post-9/11 Muslim Charity Prosecution,” Katherine Hughes, September 20, 2014, Truthout. Her website DhafirTrial is recommended.
  13. “Hispanic activist Ramsey Muniz free after 24 years in prison,” AP, Jan. 9, 2019, KRISTV.com.
  14. “No Peace in Colombia as ex-FARC Guerrilla Sonia Awaits Release From US Prison,” W.T. Whitney, July 30, 2018, Counterpunch; “Tras ser deportada a Colombia, alias “Sonia” será procesada por lavado de activos,” Judicial, Sept. 25, 2018, El Espectador.

Updating Some U.S. Political Prisoners January 2019

Writing from another country I remember the Americans I’m supposed to forget, those forced into the lives that made them prisoners or simply targets of law enforcement programs. Some are religious people, Christians and Muslims. Many were Black Panthers. Some were and are radicals. Most are Americans. All cared for their communities and people. They were condemned by society at large. Under the FBI’s COINTELPRO activists in the Sixties and Seventies political and community movements but particularly the Black Panthers were targeted and hunted and engaged in fire-fights by law enforcement. Any police casualty brought charges of murder in court. How many community leaders were convicted for killing a police person? And yet through many years have maintained their innocence despite the mechanism which increases the chance for parole if a crime is confessed and regretted. One reason I don’t forget them is because I don’t really believe they’re guilty. Here are updates for some political prisoners in the U.S.1

Among U.S. political prisoners with the roots of imprisonment in the last century, is Rap Brown (Hubert Gerold Brown), known today as Imam Jamil Al-Amin. As a young leader he was pissed, acerbic and unafraid. His late speeches are devout, eloquent, historically wise, American, concerned with the survival of his people, and religiously humble. His rhetoric frightened U.S. law enforcement since the 1960’s. Convicted of murdering a police person (a crime confessed to by someone else with accuracy, three times – then recanted), maintaining his own innocence Al-Amin was sentenced in 2002 to life imprisonment without parole. Placed in a maximum security prison and principally in solitary confinement far from friends, supporters, family for years, he was transferred to Eastern U.S. prisons for medical treatment with several medical conditions which the prison system was slow to diagnose and treat. He was found to have a rare form of blood cancer. His writings are suppressed. He’s not permitted interviews.2  With 16 years in prison, currently an appeal of his conviction slowly makes its way through appeals court. I think he’s silenced because he’s a wise man. Wasted by his country yet of deep human value he continues to frighten the establishment because he provides a bridge of peace between Islam and Christianity. “When the struggle becomes conscious then we understand that we don’t have an option. Struggle is the price you pay for your soul. We all doing life without parole.” — Imam Jamil Al-Amin

Abu Hamza al-Masri, born Mustafa Kamel Mustafa in Egypt, is a British Imam with a reputation for hating people he considers enemies of Islam. He was extradited to the U.S. to face trial in a Manhattan court not too far from the former World Trade Center(s), for alleged war related crimes in Yemen, Afghanistan and Oregon. At his trial the jury wasn’t allowed to hear substantial evidence of his work for M-15 British Intelligence. Allegations against him were not based on any violence he committed but on his alleged responsibility for crimes; most of the evidence presented was his words, sermons, statements, opinions, feelings, his freedom of expression.3  He wasn’t found guilty of hate speech but of 11 counts of terrorism, and he is serving a life-without-parole sentence in the U.S. supermax prison, ADX Florence Colorado, essentially in solitary confinement, in “a cage like cell.” Since apparently the conditions of his incarceration violate human rights law prohibitions against torture and degrading treatment,4  contravening the conditions of his extradition from Europe to the U.S., the Imam has appealed for removal to prison in Great Britain. He is blind and missing both hands which were lost in an explosion when he was younger (British media have continually referred to him as “the Hook”). With diabetes and psoriasis as well, under U.S. prison conditions at ADX Florence the stumps of his arms become continually infected.

An American, a Robert F. Wagner High School and Brooklyn College graduate who earned his M.A. in international relations in London, Fahad Hashmi, as a Muslim was targeted for association with radical friends and was extradited from England to New York, held in solitary for three years before trial, was threatened with a 70 year sentence for storing a friend’s luggage which held clothing for Al-Quaeda, and was sentenced on a plea bargain to 15 years which he is serving at ADX Florence, the supermax facility. Relying on technicalities and the prisoner’s innocence, the prosecution and imprisonment of Fahad Hashmi affirmed American law but betrayed American justice.

In 2018 Jalil Muntaqim (Anthony Bottom) was denied parole for the 9th time. According to Jericho New York he “was convicted of the 1971 murders of two New York City police officers, a crime for which he accepted responsibility and demonstrated remorse. During his 47 years in prison, Jalil earned two college degrees and served as a counselor, teacher and role model for other incarcerated people. Jalil is a rehabilitated individual who poses no risk to the community. He will be appealing this very disappointing decision.”5

Held for 22 years in solitary confinement in 2016 former Black Panther Russell “Maroon” Shoatz won through a legal action against Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections his reprieve from continual solitary confinement, as well as $99,000; his case commenced in 1973 protested the prison’s cruel and unusual punishment. The United Nations Special rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez noted the conditions of Shoatz’s imprisonment as outside a civilized norm.

Dr. Mutulu Shakur (Jeral Wayne Williams) once of the Black Liberation Army (Black Panthers) was sentenced in 1988 to sixty years on RICO conspiracy charges and for bank robberies which involved deaths of guards and police. Led to believe he would be released Feb. 10, 2016 due to laws in force at the time, he wasn’t released and was given a parole hearing for Dec.16, 2016, his 8th. Parole was denied. The government is suspected of psychologically tormenting the well-respected Dr. Shakur so that he might confess to masterminding the 1979 prison escape of Assata Shakur. In March 2018 Mutulu Shakur filed suit against the federal government for his release alleging violation of his First Amendment Rights (principally his free speech) by the Parole Board as the reason for denying his release.6

Arrested in April 1985, according to Wikipedia Thomas William Manning is expected to complete his current prison term in 2020, at which point he is to begin his next prison term of 80 years for another set of charges including the murder of a New Jersey police officer. Manning was convicted of shooting back after the officer emptied his gun at Manning and his group of families. The inhumanity of the sentencing was always intended to render the prisoner without hope. Attempts to trash and humiliate Tom Manning, American, a Vietnam veteran, and each of the Ohio Seven (“United Freedom Front”, “Sam Melville Brigade”) suggests the bitter hostility of the system to white working class people if they assert both socialism and a brotherhood of black and white. In prison Manning has held to uncompromised anti-racist, American truths strongly, constantly, with hope, paintings and words. In 2006 a show of his artwork was canceled by a timorous University of Maine.7

Jaan Laaman, also of the “Ohio Seven” (“United Freedom Front”, “Sam Melville Brigade”), is serving a 53 year prison term, following a 45 year prison term. Both by court action and example he has become known as an advocate for rights of freedom of expression for prisoners, in 1977 winning his State Supreme Court case against the New Hampshire State Prison to receive his reading materials which is said to have opened prisoner education programs through New Hampshire. He is a founder of the website 4strugglemag.org, an outlet for prison writing. On March 21, 2017, he was placed in solitary confinement for violating communications protocols (issuing of statements which apparently the prison system did not favour). He’s also threatened with transfer to a CMU (Communications Management Unit) to completely segregate his communications from the outside world.8

The histories of John Africa’s movement and Mumia Abu-Jamal have been interwoven from the start in the tragedies which took people of faith from their lives and community, where the children of some were shot by police, where community workers and pragmatic idealists were ground up by the system’s violence. From one perspective they were falsely accused honest people, put in jail under insufferable sentences to silence them about the crimes committed against John Africa’s “family” by the Philadelphia police. The best known witness Mumia Abu-Jamal who reported on the police bombing of the MOVE residence by Philadelphia police was subsequently charged with murder of a police officer and placed on death row. The injustices of his charges and trials, and courts and judges and incarcerations and threats of death against all of them are a grocery list of white racism to keep the black community in line, and Mumia Abu-Jamal’s history is mythic in his survival over death row, beating his medical death sentence beating the silence imposed on him, to become one of the best known writers and revolutionary writers-from-prison in history. Under a ruling Dec. 28, 2018 by Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge, Leon Tucker, Mumia Abu-Jamal is finally granted an opportunity to argue for his freedom in a retrial. Judge Tucker found that the judge who presided over Abu-Jamal’s previous and thought to be final appeal should have recused himsef.9  A day later six cartons of materials thought to be related to Mumia’s case were discovered in the Philadelphia D.A.’s storage room. After assessment and if necessary these may provide Abu-Jamal’s lawyers with leverage for additional appeals.10

Mike Africa of the MOVE 9 was finally released on parole Oct. 23, 2018. One of nine MOVE members convicted to 30 years imprisonment for the killing of one police officer who died of a single bullet wound in a police storming of the MOVE home; MOVE members were generally without arms and living under a peaceful ethic and it was always possible that the police officer was killed in the storm of gunfire from his fellow officers. Historically, the severity of the sentencing seems to have been an attempt to silence witnessing of the many police crimes in the Philadelphia Police’s handling of John Africa’s community group.

Compared to others here the Kings Bay Plowshares are up against comparatively short sentences for comparatively harmless actions. The religious basis of their protest against the full power of nuclear militarized America is also problematic, in that they were arrested because they chose to confront the government, rather than through the government’s need to oppress them. For nearly half a century the Plowshares movement has broken the security of Nuclear submarines, missile silos and facilities to hammer on nuclear weapons, beating swords into plowshares. Their symbolic acts of faith are like prayer a worship of something stronger and more sacred than the weapons of mass destruction and as a group its members have, without injuring others been sent to prison for months to several years at a time. They’re a help to the anti-prison movement in that they’re innocent of crimes against other people and yet are condemned and treated as criminal. At their King’s Bay Florida action April 4, 2018 having presented their passion play for Christ carrying real hammers, real blood amid real nuclear weapons they were arrested with a sign quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “The ultimate logic of racism is genocide,” and began their long tedious journey through a court system challenging the faith of those in the court system. Once a decision is made concerning the “religious freedom motions” (the defendants were allowed the opportunity to present the court with the religious motivation for their actions as pleas for dismissal), the case could be dismissed or a trial date set before the end of January.11

In 2003 Dr. Rafil Dhafir was taken from his medical practice in upstate New York and sentenced to 22 years, not for any alleged violence but for sending medical supplies to the children of Iraq, victims of the U.S. and Coalition bombing campaigns. He was born in Iraq. His attempts to alleviate the suffering of the children there by supplying medicines, was in no way wrong though through misuse and misapplication of the law was made illegal. Medical supplies were wrongly embargoed. Dr. Dhafir as a Muslim, was referred to as a suspected terrorist by New York’s Governor Pataki . To avoid his appearance as a humanitarian the FBI also prosecuted him for medicare fraud and money laundering. Dr. Dhafir donated over a million dollars of his own for medical supplies to children. When a petition for Executive Clemency was prepared for him he refused to ask for mercy as a criminal because he committed no crime. Under Federal guidelines Dr. Dhafir is eligible because of his age for release since he has served at least 10 years (16 years in February) but his release requires the warden’s approval; that hasn’t happened. Katherine Hughes followed the injustices of Dr. Dhafir’s arrest, trial and conviction.12  She quotes Dennis Halliday who resigned as chief of the UN’s Humanitarian Aid program in Iraq, 1997-98, because he found the sanctions against Iraq, genocide. Of Dr. Dhafir he said, “I am stunned by the conviction of this humanitarian, especially as the US State Department breached its own sanctions to the tune of $10 billion. The policy of sanctions against Iraq undermined not only the UN’s own charter, but the Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Convention as well.” Dr. Dhafir was obeying humanitarian law. By denying medical supplies to a civilian population it had decimated, the U.S. was violating the Convention on Genocide. Dr. Dhafir was placed in prison because he was innocent, and because the U.S. legal system has been denying its people the use of the Nuremberg defense, the citizen’s need to counter his or her country’s acts of genocide.

Dr. Aafia Siddiqui suffered a very strange conviction by a New York City jury which found her guilty of attempting to assault and murder the U.S. military personnel who were holding her prisoner in Afghanistan. As their prisoner Ms. Siddiqui was shot by them in the stomach. Tried in New York the young mother of three was peculiarly sentenced by a New York City judge to 86 years in prison. Currently the Government of Pakistan is attempting to counter this madness by seeking her return to serve the rest of her sentence in her own country. There is evidence that she has been additionally damaged in U.S. government custody. She was able to complain of physical abuse and sexual abuse at the hands of prison officials in Texas, to Pakistan’s consul general. She accused male prison staff of urinating on things belonging to her. The gratuitous severe abuse of Ms. Siddiqui by U.S. authorities is not traditionally American and may be a psyops program to dehumanize Muslims, women or both, preparing the public for greater indecencies.

Ramiro “Ramsey” Muñiz, an Hispanic community leader who ran for Governor of Texas for the Raza Unida Party in 1972 and 1974, was multiply arrested in 1994 on what seemed to be manufactured drug charges and was sentenced to life without parole. The Raza Unida Party was hurt badly and may have been the government’s target when it incapacitated Muñiz. He and his wife have always asserted his innocence and lobbied many years for his pardon and release. Now ill, on Dec. 10, 2018 he was released from Lexington Federal Medical Center (Kentucky) “on compassionate grounds under federal supervision.”13

Juvenal Ovidio Ricardo Palmera Pineda (whose nom de guerre is Simón Trinidad) was extradited to the U.S. when captured as a rebel FARC leader in Colombia. A Colombian professor and peace strategist, accounts of U.S. government trials against him reveal juries that wouldn’t convict him, numerous mistrials and one confused conviction for holding 3 Americans hostage (in a war zone controlled by FARC forces) for which he was sentenced to sixty years. Wikipedia reports that he’s held in the ADX Florence Colorado supermax prison in solitary confinement. Colombia’s civil war is officially at peace. He’s a prisoner of war after the war is over, If released and deported he would face multiple charges under the current Colombian government.

Anayibe Rojas Valderrama of FARC with the war name,”Sonia,” was captured in Colombia in 2004, and extradited by the Americans to face drug charges. She was convicted on drug charges Feb. 20, 2007 in Washington D.C. to serve a sentence of 16 years. After serving 11 she was released on good behaviour and deported to Colombia last August where she was immediately charged with money laundering.14

On May 17, 2017, Oscar López Rivera was released from prison by President Obama. The Puerto Rican nationalist had served 55 years in U.S. prisons.

Initially eligible for parole in 1998 but denied parole ten times, Robert Seth Hayes was finally granted parole July 24, 2018, after 45 years in prison.

  1. My most recent essay updating American political prisoners appeared in 2016: “The torture of U.S. political prisoners: some updates” (2016)nightslantern.ca.
  2. “The unofficial gag order of Jamil Al-Amin (H. Rap Brown): 16 years in prison, still not allowed to speak,” Obaid H. Siddiqui, June 30, 2018, SF BayView.
  3. “Abu Hamza found guilty of 11 terrorism charges,” Karen McVeigh, May 20, 2014, The Guardian.
  4. “Hate preacher Abu Hamza: US prison is too tough,” Callum Adams, Dec. 17, 2017, Telegraph.
  5. “Jalil Muntaqim Denied Parole Once Again!” Current. jerichony.org/.
  6. “Tupac’s Father, Mutulu Shakur , files Lawsuit against the U.S. Government for Illegally Holding Him in Prison,” Sha Be Allah, March 29, 2018, thesource.com.
  7. A background note: in the 1970’s Manning and his group which included several Vietnam veterans, worked out of an alternative bookstore in Portland Maine, community organizing, caring for prisoners and their families, antiwar and anti-racist. Portland police discovered a death squad in police ranks with the intention of disappearing the group. The bookstore was broken into, an employee raped, and they were under continuing threat from the KKK.
  8. “Political prisoner Jaan Laaman is still being held in segregation,” staff, May 25, 2017, 4strugglemag.
  9. “Judge: Mumia Abu-Jamal can reargue appeal in 1981 Philly police slaying,” Bobby Allyn, Dec. 28, 2018, WhyY News.
  10. “A Potentially Tectonic Event Shakes up the Mumia Abu-Jamal Case,” Dave Lindorff, Jan. 11, 2019, Counterpunch.
  11. “Update on the Kings Bay Plowshares,” Dec 27, 2018 / “Legal Update,” Bill Quigley, Nov. 19, 2018, The Nuclear Resister.
  12. “Is this Fairness? Is this Justice? Post-9/11 Muslim Charity Prosecution,” Katherine Hughes, September 20, 2014, Truthout. Her website DhafirTrial is recommended.
  13. “Hispanic activist Ramsey Muniz free after 24 years in prison,” AP, Jan. 9, 2019, KRISTV.com.
  14. “No Peace in Colombia as ex-FARC Guerrilla Sonia Awaits Release From US Prison,” W.T. Whitney, July 30, 2018, Counterpunch; “Tras ser deportada a Colombia, alias “Sonia” será procesada por lavado de activos,” Judicial, Sept. 25, 2018, El Espectador.

In The Eye of the Beholder: USA History of Imprisoning Women Politicals

I was born a protester … My mother had to go to the school a lot and talk to the principal.

— Dorli Rainey (In conversation with author Paul Haeder)

I am being jailed because I have advocated change for equality, justice, and peace. … I stand where thousands of abolitionists, escaped slaves, workers and political activists have stood for demanding justice, for refusing to either quietly bear the biting lash of domination or to stand by silently as others bear the same lash.

— Marilyn Buck, at her 1990 sentencing (epigram in Linda Ford’s book, Women Politicals in America)

Personal Truth

Personal experience is like the yeast in good sour dough bread – lifts truth to the heavens. It wasn’t just a shame to see Dorli Rainey, 80-year-old activist, sprayed with corrosive eye-nose-lung chemicals by the bicycling Seattle Police Department during a peaceful Occupy Seattle rally. That was November 16, 2011.  We were all kettled in and sprayed by the fascist police force, all warm and fuzzy looking in their spandex bike shorts and on black Trek mountain bikes.

Seattle is a libertarian town, a city of racist and Nazi-loving cops and officers that kill Blacks, Latino/a citizens and Native Americans. The images of Dorli with milk splashed on her face being helped out of the crowd that hit the Associated Press headlines didn’t change the patriarchal and thuggish leaders of the Emerald City.

The legacy of Rachel Carson and her work on environmental fascism by the purveyors of the chemical industrial war complex also was deep in my soul after I read Silent Spring at the impressionable age of 15.

Luckily, when I was a first-year high school student, one of my English teachers turned me onto the National Farm Workers Association and Dolores Huerta’s role in leading with Cesar Chavez grape and lettuce boycotts. Ms Courtney was instrumental in inculcating my interest in women heroes in history, highlighting the work of both Mother Jones and Angela Davis.

A legacy of women activists in the streets and my own participation with their causes goes back when I was in my third year of high school, protesting the invaders trying to block people from receiving services from Planned Parenthood in Tucson. I was alongside women who demanded their right to reproductive medicine facing down angry men and women protected by a phalanx of Tucson Police Department goons.

A year later I was covering the police beat for the Arizona Daily Wildcat, a reporting job that put me face to face with the rape culture – most of the stories I covered involved the sexual assaults on and around campus and then throughout the metropolitan area. Four to eighty (4-2-80) was the figure I had emblazoned in my mind – a four year old girl raped by three men in a drug house and an eighty-year-old artist using a walker raped by what the fascist cops dubbed the “Apologetic Rapist.” All ages, all walks of life, all races, that’s what I had come to know as the rape culture engulfing me.

I wrote about judges who sided with the alleged rapists, double raping the sexually assaulted by admonishing her for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, for wearing provocative clothes, for playing drinking games with young healthy men – “what did you expect would happen?” I learned early on that my words as a journalist were nothing compared to a baseball to the heads of the perpetrators, both the violent sexual assaulters and the DA’s, and judges, coaches, cops and colonized public.

I was told flat out that I was no longer a protected member of my own gender when I was accused of  “siding with the radical fems castrating men” as I covered stories on Take Back the Night and protests against my campus sweeping under the rug (university politics then and now) of star athletes (male) leveled with rape charges that “mysteriously disappeared.”

I fought tooth and nail around the various newsrooms I worked in, since I was both a hard left socialist and communist in name. I blasted the American Police state (with the full support and logistics of the city government) when they spearheaded and carried out an illegal and unconstitutional military assault against African Americans, while my news reporter brothers and sisters defended the cops and the bureaucrats. I called some of the defendants “the brave women in Philadelphia who had the guts to defend home and family and who witnessed their loved ones firebomb murdered.” I was lambasted by both male and female editors while Debbie Sims and Janine and Janet Africa of the MOVE 9 ended up with 100-year sentences with no chance of parole because a cop was killed by friendly fire. They were political prisoners of a vicious killing machine, propped up by a schizophrenic rule of law pistol in one hand and a machine gun of empty constitutional rights in another hand. The three were locked up in a state correctional (sic) institution starting in 1978, although Debbie was released in June 2018.

Add to the many heroes of the women political prison class others less militant, like Lois Gibbs and other “housewives and mothers” fighting the patriarchal death goo of Love Canal’s Hooker Chemical Co that dumped 21,800 tons of industrial hazardous waste from 1942 to 1953 that ended up being under a Niagara Falls middle class housing development of death. Birth defects, developmental disabilities, and tortuous death.

Free Speech on the Line – Early Beginnings of Fascism in a Stolen Country

The United States has imprisoned women dissidents from the beginning, even as a colony. The intolerance of dissent, of questioning the established order, began then and it has continued.

It is time to recognize, as America slides toward becoming an autocratic fascist state, that we have, and always have had, political prisoners. We also have and always have had, those who have dissented, who have fought injustice, inequality, racism, imperialism and sexism. Many of these dissenters are, and have been, women.

— Linda Ford, Women Politicals

Getting through Linda Ford’s Women Politicals in America: Jailed Dissenters from Mother Jones to Lynne Stewart (2018) is both a joy and an unsettling experience. Bearing witness to the incredible depth of courage and conviction of women fighters for justice — and in most cases, these are female soldiers against American empire, fighting military and environmental wars, muckraking against capitalism, battling racism, and charging against sexism, and exposing the cancer of capitalism under a patriarchy, which in the end defines capitalism at its core — forces the reader to DO something with the information and terrible reality of this insane and misogynistic fascism.

An American colony seeded by degenerates, a coven of thieving, fearing, Indian-killing, superstitious and authoritarian whites was bound to start with men trying to whip and stockade their own brand of sadistic order into the society that saw black and white – damned or saved – as the defining philosophy in their Indian hating, woman sniping, slave owning selves!

Burning witches as heretics was the precursor of today, even as I pen this when the spineless Birmingham Civil Rights Institute withdrew its Fred L. Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award to Angela Davis because of the apartheid forces of Zionism and Israel-too-genocidal/big-to-jail lunatics putting pressure on that civil rights (sic) group to follow lock step the Zionist Lies are Truth shit. Linda Ford talks about Black Panther Angela Davis as one political prisoner of note in her book, and the irony is the Hillary Clinton-supporting Davis, tenured faculty that she is, is back in the white patriarchy gun sights.

This witch-burning continues today, against the accusers of Kavanaugh or Weinstein or any woman going against any number of men in power, from Trump to Epstein, from Charlie Rose to Bill Clinton. Here, from Henry Miller, The Crucible, a telling reminder of what Western White Patriarchy has unleashed in the Americas:  

When it is recalled that until the Christian era the underworld was never regarded as a hostile area, that all gods were useful and essentially friendly to man despite occasional lapses when we see the steady methodical inculcation into humanity of the idea of man’s worthlessness – until redeemed – the necessity of the Devil may become evident as a weapon, a weapon designed and used time and time again in every age to whip men into a surrender to a particular church or church state.

The McCarthy Era and loyalty oaths go way back. Anne Hutchinson became a major threat to the authority of Governor John Winthrop in the 1630’s. Linda Ford starts her book looking at Anne who was “upholding an ideal of self-government and liberty. Anne Hutchinson may have been acceptable as a female prophet, but she went well beyond acceptable political/social norms and religious creed, when she taught her own beliefs in her own meetings.”

Jailed, punished, banished. Those three words rip through the historical record as Linda Ford advances through the epochs and decades to cogently look at the harsh, tortuous and illegal nature of punishing women dissenters. “Early women Travelling Preachers had been whipped through towns for 80-mile stretches, dragged behind wagons, and left in the snowy countryside to fend for themselves.” Mary Dyer, supporter of Hutchinson, was hanged in Boston in 1660.

Most telling in Ford’s book is how well she personalizes the heroines and draws a strong point of view from each of the women’s “selves” she features, large or small, in this timely and powerful book. Words of the condemned (and many times murdered) prove to be powerful in the hands of this gifted writer, Linda Ford:

You have no power over my body, neither can you do me any harm. No further do I esteem of any mortal man. I fear none but the great Jehovah which hath foretold me of these things, and I do verily believe that he will deliver me out of your hands . . . . And see!This scripture fulfilled this day in mine eyes, therefore take heed what ye goe about to do unto me …  for I know that or this ye goe about to do to me, God will ruine you and your posterity, and this whole state.

— Anne Hutchinson, to the Massachusetts General Court, 1637

This is in Ford’s prologue, and then we get caught in her riptide of narratives in thirteen more sections, as the headwinds of those early days of dissent reverberate throughout Ford’s writing. She writes about the hard row to hoe being not just a dissenter in this country, but a woman dissenter, and when one is a woman of color dissenter, both barrels of the fascist shotguns come blazing against the respective heroes.

They are heroes, no doubt about it, and this book is timely, one for the ages and one that all young women should read with their sisters, aunts, mothers and, of course, their male advocates.

The author alludes to her previous work, Iron-Jawed Angels,  covering the militant suffragists protesting the patriarchal Wilson government from 1912 to 1919:

I found their jail experience as political prisoners dramatic, romantic, horrifying . . . and kind of quaint. But working on this book, which takes women politicals through the present, through the 1980’s and 1990’s to 2018, suddenly it is not so romantic and quaint. Suddenly it is extreme, scary, appalling and way too real.

What’s also relevant about her work that should be the millionth teachable moment for this consumerist, capitalist, predatory loan-bearing, infantile society is the power of women to not only dissent and protest, but to put their lives on the line in this country for the ideals of social justice of a real kind, where freedom and equality and anti-war/anti-imperialism cut to the heart of their struggle.

The end of slavery, the end of chattel laws, the end of misogyny, the end of land-culture-ecosystems theft, and the end of capitalism are worthy battles this book explores through the lives and voices of political women prisoners.

Ironically, environmental warriors (deemed terrorists by the police state) now represent the backbone of Mother Earth protectors, and women are at the forefront of the battles to protect water, air, land and farming rights. We know about earth protectors in other countries being murdered: Berta Caceres murdered in 2016 after resisting the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam in Honduras. Her daughter, Laura, stated:

We are defenders of life. We are willing to do anything to allow life to continue. We don’t want to lose our lies and lose our mamas and families. But we assume that risk. If they can murder someone with high recognition like me mother Berta, then they can murder anyone.

Ford takes us to Indian country from the beginning of the country’s concerted genocide and overt hatred of both men and women of every tribe, up to the current struggles, to include the Standing Rock campaign, and the horrific, anti-democratic and abusive FBI and police protection of the millionaires and billionaires, in the form of Dakota Access Pipeline Company: A pro-business/big energy thuggery “forcing a pipeline carrying explosive Bakken crude oil through Native-American lands without tribal consultation or consent. There have been no environmental reviews, and it’s clear to dissidents that there is no respect for rights of tribal governments or tribal cultural resources and vital natural resources,” Ford writes.

Ford traverses much spiritual, legal, historical and narrative territory in her chapters, from Mother Jones and Lucy Parsons (1870-1920), to Lucy Burns and her militant suffragist stance; to the anti-war/anti-capitalistic imperialism of Emma Goldman, to the fascism of Japanese internment through a woman hero, Mitsuye Endo; into the communist struggle with Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and Ethel Rosenburg and deeply into Assanta Shakur’s struggles and other warrior women of the anti-white supremacy/black liberation movement versus the FBI’s COINTELPRO; into the struggle of Mary Brave Bird and Alejandrina Torres against US colonialism; into the period of 1960-1990 with Feminist Barbara Demin and anti-nuclear activist Anne Montgomery; into the armed struggle by “defiant revolutionaries” Laura Whitehorn and Susan Rosenberg; into 1990 to the present with the disappearance, torture and destruction of Aafia Siddiqui, anti-imperialist dissenters, Muslim women and whistleblowers; into the current police state cracking down on women anti-capitalist/racist dissenters and on Human Rights Lawyer Lynne  Stewart; through the 1990s to the current state of the amped up police state with the crackdown on the Black and Occupy Movements.

The struggle and defiance and the powerful resistance of women have gone unreported, or misreported, in this United States of Amnesia as Gore Vidal pegged this country; and as Ford states in her opening, her male colleague was completely unaware of most of the history of deeply committed women, who de facto become political prisoners because of their social and environmental justice bulwark/defense and defiance against the bulwark of Wall Street, bankers, military industrial complex and robber barons — pre-industrial moneyed thugs, through to the industrial revolution war mongers, into the post industrialization billionaire monopolies and anti-worker massive corporations, now, currently, into the surveillance and digital transnational banking stage of late stage capitalism of the Too Big to Fail and Davos kind of money grubbers/controllers.

The stories of the people’s history and the voices of the indigenous people’s history of the United States as clearly written by Howard Zinn and Rozanne Dunbar-Ortiz (Loaded: A Disarming History; Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States) are precursors to this work by Ford, one that is detailed, full of the staff of life, as women throughout the ages of this country’s history are strip- searched, raped, medically tortured, beaten and disappeared for their clarion calls to stop the violence and oppression and ecocide of capitalism USA style. We are exposed to the blatant terroristic tactics of the police state, from redneck bruisers in county sheriff departments all the way up to states’ attorneys general and the country’s AG and all the way up to presidents.

In many of the hero cases Ford lays out, with all the prisoners exposed through her book’s raison d’etre of cataloging the lives of true warriors and politically incarcerated or lynched, we see a line between pacifism of Catholic nuns shackling themselves to the gates of Air Force compounds housing thermal nuclear weapons of mass destruction, to the outright anarchy of the fist and pipe bomb, as seen in the Weather Underground and the Black Liberation Army, to name just a few in the book where women were not only leaders, but fighting inside the radical groups to stop the sexism that was both rampant and contradictory to true socialism and equality of the working class, all classes.

It’s clear that the women of color have had two or three major impediments put in front of them as revolutionaries and dissidents:

Linda discusses much in her life and writes much about Sioux water protector, Red Fawn Fallis, who is facing 20 years to life for a federal offense of “possessing a weapon.” All trumped up, all out of sync with reality, all part of a system that oppresses women dissidents, women political prisoners. Police are brownshirts, DA’s are Gestapo, judges are SS. The entire white male class is rotten to the core, but when they have positions of power and are the jury, judge and executioner, and when they not only defend extrajudicial killings but encourage them, as their paymasters in the elite class not only demand this force of anti-democratic SOP, but pay for the killings, THEN why the hell do we take it?

In this screwed up Hollywood spectacle society, passivity, compliance and fear rule, when we should be angry daily, mounting daily a contempt of and disregard for the bosses, the Little and Big Eichmann’s.

Passionate, organized hatred is the element missing in all that we do to try to change the world. Now is the time to spread hate, hatred for the rich. — Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

The women political prisoners of the past would be turning in their graves to see how compliant and infected with celebrity fawning disease and rich man/woman coveting syndrome this society has been buried under. But alas, the racism of this society far exceeds the regular patriarchy the society has and continues to fall under like an avalanche of new and more draconian/high tech oppressions.

Environmental racism is twofold for women dissenters. First, the dominant white/capitalist power structure has never had a problem poisoning the lands and neighborhoods of black and brown people, assigning them little worth or consideration when it comes to their healthy existence. Second, any protest coming from nonwhite activists has little chance of success, and any excess force used against such protest will bring few consequences. So, Native-American women who stand as water protectors for their threatened lands, and African-American women who dare to confront state/corporate pollution of their cities face strong reprisals from the police state.

— Linda Ford, Chapter Eleven, Police State I.

In the second part of this analysis, we will drill down on Ford’s forms of agitation women have engaged in and for which they have been treated as political prisoners, though the society in general doesn’t recognize our fascism, doesn’t acknowledge our police state underpinning and fails to collectively understand how the power of the government wedded to the corporation will stop dissent. I will also talk with Linda concerning a few key points that brought her to write the book and her assessment of the world now, which is becoming supercharged and on steroids, as this country – and the world – spirals down the drain of fascistic lock step compliant acceptance.

Here, early on in her book, Linda lays out the types of protests and dissent which have been embraced by “women agitators who have become political prisoners.”

  1. Anti-capitalist – This would include women labor organizers. It encompasses socialists and anarchists, who have long worked against the profit-based capitalist/government system, working to improve the lot and the rights of workers, and so have frequently run afoul of the authorities accordingly.
  2. Antipatriarchal – Feminist activist, primarily in the early and late 20th Century, have used protests and civil disobedience in their critique of a male-dominated, militaristic society which has sometimes meant going up against police and government officials – and jail time.
  3. Anti-imperialist and authoritarian/anti-war – Women have long worked as pacifist and anti-war protesters. Caught up in war hysteria, they have historically been jailed for their efforts, whether World War I, the Vietnam War or the invasion of Iraq. Sometimes they have been victims of political decisions that labeled them enemies for their relation to external foes, as with Japanese- American or Muslim-American women. They have fought against US wars and the authoritarian nature of American government foreign policy, and also against imperialism/authoritarianism in its domestic policy, particularly toward African-Americans, but also against Native-Americans, and more broadly, to protest the abuse of the poor by elites.
  4. Anti-white supremacy — Women who have been civil rights activists, whether anti-lynching/white violence, Martin Luther King marchers, or Black Panthers, have been punished for resisting racism which has persisted in this society since its inception. The recent protests against anti-black police brutality have resulted in very harsh reprisals. Women have also paid dearly for supporting the American Indian movement, and the Puerto Rican independence movement. And now women who are Muslim activists or defenders, or even in some cases because they are Muslim, in a time of an amorphous war on terror, have also been imprisoned by the American government.  

These categories are touchstones for illustrating the history of dissent that has created this political class of heroines, Women Politicals. Today, however, in a hyper-distracted society and one dovetailed to many superficial things created by hyper-consumerism, with the white dominant Western Civilization normalizing war, destruction and theft, I would be hard pressed to find that many Americans willing to engage in self-reflection and self-condemnation through the very catharsis of reading Linda’s book. Causes they can relate to? Seeing these women dissenters as both leaders of thought and necessary people of liberation in democracy?

I am hopeful I will do justice to the book’s core humanness and the principal architectonics of Ford’s investigation of a hidden and covered up history.

Women Politicals of the American Empire

There have been many women dissenters who have been jailed by the American government as political prisoners.  There are women in jail now who are undergoing punishment as perceived enemies of the American Empire.  Two such women are nuclear resister Elizabeth McAlister and alleged “terrorist” Aafia Siddiqui.  When I wrote about Pakistani-born Aafia Siddiqui as one of the “women  politicals (not) in the news” eight years ago, she had just begun her 86-year sentence at Carswell Federal Prison in Texas for allegedly assaulting US soldiers of the Empire in Afghanistan.  Now 46, she recently appealed to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan for help:  “I want to get out of prison, my imprisonment in the US is illegal as I was kidnapped and taken to the US. . .”  Dr. Siddiqui was accused of being a would-be assassin and an Al Qaeda terrorist.  But she was the one who was grievously wounded in the stomach.  She was the one whose youngest child was killed when she was taken, “disappeared” in Pakistan, and her other two children imprisoned separately for years.  She was the one who was beaten, raped, tortured and kept in solitary in black site prisons of the American Empire.  Her “crime” was being a doctor in Boston who was a Muslim activist, and who, through a series of unfortunate and skewed connections, ended up on Attorney General Ashcroft’s “watchlist.”  For her “crime,” lshe had to endure the consequences of an extreme anti-“terrorist”/anti-Muslim era which began with the September 11, 2001 bombings.

Crimes against Muslims globally, and immediate repression of Muslims within the US, although not starting then, greatly intensified after 9/11.  The FBI, in its zeal to root out Arab “terrorists,” has been involved in questionable activities which fly in the face of civil rights or constitutional law.  We’ve seen the use of the grand jury as bullying tactic, wholesale surveillance, sweeps to arrest dissenters, and entrapment to create “terrorists” when real ones do not exist.

Pro-Palestinian activists have been victimized, along with young Muslim women who have been candidates for entrapment.  In 2013, Rasmea Odeh, deputy executive director of the Arab-American Network, was indicted by the US government for “immigration fraud” when she applied for citizenship.  Although the State Department was well aware of the circumstances of her moving to the US, Israel Lobbyists worked to get her arrested.  Caught in a “security sweep” in Israel in 1969, she was, although innocent, imprisoned for a supermarket bombing.  During her 10 years in Israel’s jails, she was tortured and raped.  After coming to the US in 1994, she became an activist for Arab-American women, and found herself jailed again.  She was deported in September of 2017.  In 2015, Asia Siddiqui and Noelle Velentzas were arrested in NYC by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, and charged with conspiracy to “use a weapon of mass destruction.” They were skillfully entrapped by an FBI informant, never planning or even thinking about bombings until the agent suggested they should.  They await their trial.  The climate of fear existing in America, along with “terrorism” charges needing no habeus corpus or rules of evidence, mean no justice and no sanity for Muslim women caught by the US “justice” system.

As a “terrorist” enemy of the Empire and its soldiers, Aafia Siddiqui had no chance at all.  She was mistakenly accused initially.  She was “disappeared” in Pakistan by helpful agents, and when her true story began to emerge, she was put in black site prisons, beaten and tortured.  When she was finally put on trial, she was a broken woman, and had only to be disposed of by a kangaroo court—sentenced to 86 years at Carswell.  She has been visited by Pakistan’s Consul General in Houston, who has complained to the US Justice Department about Siddiqui’s continued brutal treatment.  She says Siddiqui suffers “immense physical and sexual torment.”  Pakistani and American authorities all say they are looking into the matter, but nothing has happened.  One Pakistani official’s statement was that the US treats its prisoners “humanely and in a manner that complies with our human rights obligations.”  Indeed.

The Empire applies its “humane” treatment to more than its accused Muslim “terrorists.”  Women of the anti-nuclear Plowshares movement, who bear witness against weapons threatening potential annihilation of the planet, are also considered “terrorist” threats.  Elizabeth McAlister, former nun and widow of anti-nuclear activist Philip Berrigan, at age 73, is in jail in Georgia for her part in an anti-nuclear action:  Kings Bay (GA) Plowshares, carried out on April 4, 2018.  Seven stalwarts, three of whom were women—McAlister, Martha Hennesy of NYC and Clare Grady of Ithaca—entered the naval base which houses Trident submarines armed with nuclear warheads.  They were there to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination.  Their banners included King’s “The ultimate logic of racism is genocide.”  They smeared the base’s logo with human blood.

And they carried with them indictments of the US government, President Trump and the base commander Brian Lepine, for war crimes.  They were charged with the felonies of conspiracy and destruction of government property.  Clare Grady and Elizabeth McAlister were jailed, and McAlister remains in jail today.   According to nukeresister.com, McAlister is in prison to fight the Empire:  “We resist militarism that has employed deadly violence to enforce global domination. . .  The weapons from one Trident have the capacity to end life as we know it on planet Earth.”  Such activists provide way too much transparency for the American Empire.

The US considers those who object to its global empire with its drones, bombs, universal surveillance and support for fellow oppressive nations—whether in the Middle East or Latin America—as potential terrorists.  So women who protest against the School of the Americas or unmanned drone attacks from US bases are arrested and jailed.  Since the 80s, women protesters have been jailed from six to 15 months for speaking out against the SOA, an American institution which has trained Latin American death squads.  Ann Tiffany and Nancy Gwin of Syracuse, both served six months at Danbury for “illegally entering” military bases, and shining light on the Empire.  Mary Anne Grady Flores (of Ithaca) got a year for anti-drone action, and very busy anti-Empire activist Kathy Kelly has had four stints in federal prison for protesting against the death and destruction brought by unmanned bomber drones in the Middle East.  Women who resist the ominous nuclear arms threat of the United States can receive particularly stiff sentences, as “terrorist” threats to government property and national security.

In part inspired by Catholic Worker founder Dorothy Day, priests Daniel and Philip Berrigan began a movement to beat swords into plowshares by taking on the American nuclear arms (military and corporate) juggernaut.  Women—for the most part Catholic nuns—were enthusiastic participants from the beginning.  Sister Anne Montgomery took part in six Plowshares anti-nuclear actions including the first, along with four men (with the two Berrigan brothers), and Molly Rush, in 1980 at King of Prussia (PA).  Montgomery spent 11 weeks in jail for King of Prussia; she was indicted in 2009 at age 83 for her final action—Disarm NOW Plowshares in Bangor (WA).  Sister Montgomery was trained in civil disobedience at the McAlister/Berrigan Jonah House.

Sister Elizabeth McAlister was an art history professor at Marymount College when she met Father Philip Berrigan and was inspired by him to become an activist.  Such activism led to them becoming two of the “Harrisburg 7,” charged with conspiring to raid federal offices in order to bomb underground conduits—and to kidnap Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.  They had kidded about doing that in letters, but J. Edgar Hoover was not amused.  The government eventually had to downgrade the charges to anti-draft actions.  McAlister and Berrigan both left their orders and married in 1973.  Jonah House was founded by Elizabeth McAlister and her husband in Baltimore, as one of a number of “resistance communities” begun in the 70s; and was, and is, a base and training ground for civil disobedience and anti-nuclear actions.

On Thanksgiving morn 1983, the “Plowshares 7” entered the Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, NY.  They hammered dents into and spilled blood on a B-52, there on alert, armed with nuclear weapons.  They had to wait outside over an hour, singing and marching with their banner before security came to arrest them.  The “7” included four women—Jacqueline Allen (of Hartford, CT), Kathleen Rumpf (of Marlboro, NY), Clare Grady (then 25, of Ithaca), and in her first Plowshares action, Elizabeth Mcalister.  Their judge decided the defendants could not use a defense addressing the “imminence of the harm” of the weapons because they did “acts of destruction” to government property.  He sentenced them to federal prison:  two years for Rumpf, Allen and Grady and three for McAlister.  Daughter Frida Berrigan has said that her family has paid a price for her parents’ fight against nuclear weapons:  they were separated from each other or their children for a total of 11 years.

The work continues for Plowshares women.  Through the 1980s and 90s and beyond, they have been jailed by the Clinton, Bush (both), Obama and Trump administrations—administrations which all featured massive nuclear build-ups.  Sisters Jackie Hudson, Ardeth Platte and Carol Gilbert spent years in jail for, as Gilbert said, “symbolically disarming America’s weapons of mass destruction.”  After 2001 such women would be treated as terrorists.  Sister Megan Rice, 82, for her part in the Y-12 Nuclear Weapons Plant (TN) action of 2012, got three years as a “violent offender.”  Elizabeth McAlister was jailed for the Kings Bay action in April.  She was charged under Georgia state law, according to nukeresister.org, for misdemeanor criminal trespass, but also for two felonies:  possession of tools to commit a crime and interference with government property.  The defense team has mounted a defense based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, that the protesters were acting “from privacy of conscience rooted in their faith.”  The judge will decide on that—and never has any sort of defense based on moral grounds ever worked, mind you—at the end of January, and a trial date will be set.  McAlister and her fellow protesters were charged because they dare to resist militarism that employs “deadly violence to enforce global domination.”

Elizabeth McAlister, in jail since April, remains steadfast, modest and unassuming.  She hesitates to give interviews.  She did write after her arrest about why she resists the Empire’s weapons:  “We came to Kings Bay Submarine Base animated by the absurd conviction that we could make some impact on slowing if not ending, the mad rush to the devastation of our magnificent planet.”  Such sentiments, such absurd convictions, that anyone can interfere in the Empire’s global destruction, have to be punished.  Such female dissenters have to be jailed and silenced.  There should be no more silence surrounding America’s women politicals.  Whether considered terrorist threats because, like Aafia Siddiqui, they are part of a group deemed an enemy race; or considered terrorist threats because, like Elizabeth McAlister, they resist and expose America’s global domination—such women will be made political prisoners of the Empire.1

  1. To learn more about America’s women political prisoners, please consult my new book Women Politicals in America.

Why Is Israel Afraid of Khalida Jarrar?

When Israeli troops stormed the house of Palestinian parliamentarian and lawyer, Khalida Jarrar, on April 2, 2015, she was engrossed in her research. For months, Jarrar had been leading a Palestinian effort to take Israel to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Her research on that very evening was directly related to the kind of behavior that allows a group of soldiers to handcuff a respected Palestinian intellectual, throwing her in jail with no trial and with no accountability for their action.

Jarrar was released after spending over one year in jail in June 2016, only to be arrested once more, on July 2, 2017. She remains in an Israeli prison.

On October 28 of this year, her ‘administrative detention’ was renewed for the fourth time.

There are thousands of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, most of them held outside the militarily Occupied Palestinian Territories, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

However, nearly 500 Palestinians fall into a different category, as they are held without trial, detained for six-month periods that are renewed, sometimes indefinitely, by Israeli military courts with no legal justification whatsoever. Jarrar is one of those detainees.

Jarrar is not beseeching her jailers for her freedom. Instead, she is keeping busy educating her fellow female prisoners on international law, offering classes and issuing statements to the outside world that reflect not only her refined intellect, but also her resolve and strength of character.

Jarrar is relentless. Despite her failing health – she suffers from multiple ischemic infarctions, hypercholesterolemia and was hospitalized due to severe bleeding resulting from epistaxis – her commitment to the cause of her people did not, in any way, weaken or falter.

The 55-year-old Palestinian lawyer has championed a political discourse that is largely missing amid the ongoing feud between the Palestinian Authority’s largest faction, Fatah, in the Occupied West Bank and Hamas in besieged Gaza.

As a member of the Palestine Legislative Council (PLC) and an active member within the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Jarrar has advocated the kind of politics that is not disconnected from the people and, especially, from the women who she strongly and uncompromisingly represents.

According to Jarrar, no Palestinian official should engage in any form of dialogue with Israel, because such engagement helps legitimize a state that is founded on genocide and ethnic cleansing, and is currently carrying out various types of war crimes; the very crimes that Jarrar tried to expose before the ICC.

Expectedly, Jarrar rejects the so-called ‘peace process’, a futile exercise that has no intention or mechanism that is aimed at “implementing international resolutions related to the Palestinian cause and recognizing the fundamental rights of the Palestinians.”

It goes without saying that a woman with such an astute, strong position, vehemently rejects the ‘security coordination’ between the PA and Israel, seeing such action as a betrayal to the struggle and sacrifices of the Palestinian people.

While PA officials continue to enjoy the perks of ‘leadership’, desperately breathing life into a dead political discourse of a ‘peace process’ and a ‘two state solution’, Jarrar, a Palestinian female leader with a true vision, subsists in HaSharon Prison. There, along with dozens of Palestinian women, she experiences daily humiliation, denial of rights and various types of Israeli methods aimed at breaking her will.

But Jarrar is as experienced in resisting Israel as she is in her knowledge of law and human rights.

In August 2014, as Israel was carrying out one of its most heinous acts of genocide in Gaza – killing and wounding thousands in its so-called ‘Protective Edge’ war – Jarrar received an unwelcome visit by Israeli soldiers.

Fully aware of Jarrar’s work and credibility as a Palestinian lawyer with an international outreach – she is the Palestine representative in the Council of Europe – the Israeli government unleashed their campaign of harassment, which ended in her imprisonment. The soldiers delivered a military edict ordering her to leave her home in al-Bireh, near Ramallah, for Jericho.

Failing to silence her voice, she was arrested in April the following year, beginning an episode of suffering, but also resistance, which is yet to end.

When the Israeli army came for Jarrar, they surrounded her home with a massive number of soldiers, as if the well-spoken Palestinian activist was Israel’s greatest ‘security threat.’

The scene was quite surreal, and telling of Israel’s real fear – that of Palestinians, like Khalida Jarrar, who are able to communicate an articulate message that exposes Israel to the rest of the world.

It was reminiscent of the opening sentence of Franz Kafka’s novel, The Trial: “Somebody must have made a false accusation against Joseph K., for he was arrested one morning without having done anything wrong.”

Administrative detention in Israel is the re-creation of that Kafkaesque scene over and over again. Joseph K. is Khalida Jarrar and thousands of other Palestinians, paying a price for merely calling for the rights and freedom of their people.

Under international pressure, Israel was forced to put Jarrar on trial, levying against her twelve charges that included visiting a released prisoner and participating in a book fair.

Her other arrest, and the four renewals of her detention, is a testament not just to Israel’s lack of any real evidence against Jarrar, but for its moral bankruptcy as well.

But why is Israel afraid of Khalida Jarrar?

The truth is, Jarrar, like many other Palestinian women, represents the antidote of the fabricated Israeli narrative, relentlessly promoting Israel as an oasis of freedom, democracy and human rights, juxtaposed with a Palestinian society that purportedly represents the opposite of what Israel stands for.

Jarrar, a lawyer, human rights activist, prominent politician and advocate for women, demolishes, in her eloquence, courage and deep understanding of her rights and the rights of her people, this Israeli house of lies.

Jarrar is the quintessential feminist; her feminism, however, is not mere identity politics, a surface ideology, evoking empty rights meant to strike a chord with western audiences.

Instead, Khalida Jarrar fights for Palestinian women, their freedom and their rights to receive proper education, to seek work opportunity and to better their lives, while facing tremendous obstacles of military occupation, prison and social pressure.

Khalida in Arabic means “immortal”, a most fitting designation for a true fighter who represents the legacy of generations of strong Palestinian women, whose ‘sumoud’ – steadfastness – shall always inspire an entire nation.