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    Would You Like Some Crushing Debt With That Degree?

    Truthout - Mon, 03/02/2015 - 16:26

    Wall Street-style predatory capitalism has taken over our education system, and it's absolutely devastating a whole generation of young people.

    When Latonya Suggs enrolled at Everest College, a branch of the for-profit Corinthian Colleges system, she thought she was taking the first step towards realizing her "American Dream."

    But tens of thousands of dollars later, she realized that Everest wasn't all it was cracked up to be.

    See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.

    As Suggs told Democracy Now! recently, Everest didn't do anything to help her find a job after she graduated and was more interested in making money off her student loans than it was in making sure her degree was put to good use.

    Latonya Suggs now has around $63,000 in student loan debt to her name, which is why last week she joined fourteen other former Corinthian Colleges students in refusing to pay back her student loans.

    This is the nation's very first student loan strike, and it comes just as the government takes action against Corinthian Colleges for running what it calls "an illegal predatory lending scheme."

    According to the government, "Corinthian lured tens of thousands of students to take out private loans to cover expensive tuition costs by advertising bogus job prospects and career services. [It] then used illegal debt collection tactics to strong-arm students into paying back those loans while still in school."

    In other words, Corinthian Colleges isn't an education company as much as it's a blood-sucking debt collection agency.

    That, in a nutshell, is everything that's wrong with the higher education system in this country.

    Education is supposed to be part of the commons, something we all invest in as a society to make sure that everyone has a fair shot at achieving their intellectual potential - and to keep moving innovation, invention and the arts ahead in our country.

    But since the introduction of Reaganomics, we've outsourced huge chunks of our education system to private for-profit corporations like Corinthian Colleges. And those private corporations have, in turn, morphed the education system into yet another arm of Wall Street-style predatory capitalism.

    The dirty little secret, of course, is that the for-profit college industry is less about teaching anybody anything than it is about creating debt - debt that then be very profitably sold off in tranches - and even aggregated into derivatives - to banksters and wealthy investors.

    Like every other part of our economy these days, the education system has become financialized, and for-profit colleges like Corinthian are really just phony shells for the latest bankster get-rich-quick scheme.

    This is insane.

    In no other country in the developed world are financiers and scam artists entrusted with managing the education commons.

    Most developed nations actually make going to college free for all their citizens, so when it comes to how screwed up our higher education system is, the US really is exceptional.

    This needs to change, and it needs to change now.

    A college education is more than just the ticket to finding a good job - it's the foundation of our intellectual infrastructure. And if we continue to outsource that foundation to greedy private corporations who then provide our students with a crappy education and a lifetime of debt, our entire society suffers.

    Not only will eager students lose out on a chance to actually improve their lives, but the rest of us also lose out on the all the long-term national benefits that come with having a truly informed and educated society.

    Higher education is a fundamental part of the commons. Let's start acting like it and kick the banksters out of the classroom once and for all.

    Would You Like Some Crushing Debt With That Degree?

    Truthout - Mon, 03/02/2015 - 16:26

    Wall Street-style predatory capitalism has taken over our education system, and it's absolutely devastating a whole generation of young people.

    When Latonya Suggs enrolled at Everest College, a branch of the for-profit Corinthian Colleges system, she thought she was taking the first step towards realizing her "American Dream."

    But tens of thousands of dollars later, she realized that Everest wasn't all it was cracked up to be.

    See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.

    As Suggs told Democracy Now! recently, Everest didn't do anything to help her find a job after she graduated and was more interested in making money off her student loans than it was in making sure her degree was put to good use.

    Latonya Suggs now has around $63,000 in student loan debt to her name, which is why last week she joined fourteen other former Corinthian Colleges students in refusing to pay back her student loans.

    This is the nation's very first student loan strike, and it comes just as the government takes action against Corinthian Colleges for running what it calls "an illegal predatory lending scheme."

    According to the government, "Corinthian lured tens of thousands of students to take out private loans to cover expensive tuition costs by advertising bogus job prospects and career services. [It] then used illegal debt collection tactics to strong-arm students into paying back those loans while still in school."

    In other words, Corinthian Colleges isn't an education company as much as it's a blood-sucking debt collection agency.

    That, in a nutshell, is everything that's wrong with the higher education system in this country.

    Education is supposed to be part of the commons, something we all invest in as a society to make sure that everyone has a fair shot at achieving their intellectual potential - and to keep moving innovation, invention and the arts ahead in our country.

    But since the introduction of Reaganomics, we've outsourced huge chunks of our education system to private for-profit corporations like Corinthian Colleges. And those private corporations have, in turn, morphed the education system into yet another arm of Wall Street-style predatory capitalism.

    The dirty little secret, of course, is that the for-profit college industry is less about teaching anybody anything than it is about creating debt - debt that then be very profitably sold off in tranches - and even aggregated into derivatives - to banksters and wealthy investors.

    Like every other part of our economy these days, the education system has become financialized, and for-profit colleges like Corinthian are really just phony shells for the latest bankster get-rich-quick scheme.

    This is insane.

    In no other country in the developed world are financiers and scam artists entrusted with managing the education commons.

    Most developed nations actually make going to college free for all their citizens, so when it comes to how screwed up our higher education system is, the US really is exceptional.

    This needs to change, and it needs to change now.

    A college education is more than just the ticket to finding a good job - it's the foundation of our intellectual infrastructure. And if we continue to outsource that foundation to greedy private corporations who then provide our students with a crappy education and a lifetime of debt, our entire society suffers.

    Not only will eager students lose out on a chance to actually improve their lives, but the rest of us also lose out on the all the long-term national benefits that come with having a truly informed and educated society.

    Higher education is a fundamental part of the commons. Let's start acting like it and kick the banksters out of the classroom once and for all.

    UK Media Regulator Again Threatens RT for “Bias”: This Time, Airing “Anti-Western Views”

    The Intercept - Mon, 03/02/2015 - 15:55

    In 2001, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II used the occasion of the annual “Queen’s Speech” to unveil a new statutory proposal to regulate all media operating in her realm, one provision of which was the creation of the “Office of Communications” (Ofcom) to monitor and punish television outlets which exhibit “bias.” In 2008, the BBC heralded the Queen’s Speech as “one of the high points of the parliamentary calendar, unrivalled in its spectacle and tradition,” as the monarch “delivers the speech from the grand throne in the House of Lords.” The press monitor’s Twitter account boasts: “We keep an eye on the UK’s telecoms, television, radio and postal industries to make sure they’re doing the best for all of us.”

    Ofcom has rarely punished establishment British media outlets for “bias” even though the British media is notoriously and slavishly loyal to the state and other British political and financial elites. Just last week, Guardian editor Seumus Milne noted: “as one academic study after another has demonstrated . . . . from the coverage of wars to economics, [the BBC] has a pro-government, elite and corporate anchor. The BBC is full of Conservatives and former New Labour apparatchiks with almost identical views about politics, business and the world.” Indeed, of all the countless media outlets around the world covering NSA reporting over the last 18 months, the BBC has easily been the worst: the most overtly biased in favor of mass surveillance and official claims. Ofcom’s authority over BBC is limited, but plenty of British media outlets — certainly most of its largest ones — are driven by these same biases.

    During my first week writing at the Guardian, a long-time observer (and one-time member) of the British media warned me about the extreme group think bias of U.K. journalists, and I quoted that warning in the context of describing their extreme and deeply personal animus toward WikiLeaks: “Nothing delights British former lefties more than an opportunity to defend power while pretending it is a brave stance in defence of a left liberal principle.” Needless to say, none of that extreme, power-serving media bias — including the avalanche of deceit and lies much of the British media peddled to sell Tony Blair’s invasion of Iraq — has ever provoked any punishment from Ofcom.

    By rather stark contrast, Ofcom has repeatedly threatened the Russian-state television outlet RT with revocation of its license. Last November, that outlet launched a British-specific, London-based version of its network, but previously had been broadcasting its standard English-speaking programming in the U.K. At the time of its launch, the Guardian noted that RT “is facing six separate investigations by media regulator Ofcom.”

    That investigative history included a finding last fall whereby the network was “threatened with statutory sanctions by [] Ofcom after the Kremlin-backed news channel breached broadcasting regulations on impartiality with its coverage of the Ukraine crisis.” RT executives were “summoned to a meeting with Ofcom after it was found guilty of breaching the code governing UK broadcasters” and told they could face revocation of their license if these breaches of “impartiality rules” continued.

    Today, Ofcom announced a new “bias” investigation into RT. The offense this time, according to the Guardian, is the broadcasting of “anti-western comments in a late-night discussion on Ukraine.” Specifically, “the programme is understood to have featured a number of anti-Western views in the discussion between the presenter and three studio guests.”

    Unfortunately, RT told the Intercept this morning that it was barred by Ofcom regulations even from commenting on this new investigation. Not only are they being threatened for the crime of airing “anti-western views,” but they are prohibited by law from publicly discussing these threats.

    That RT is “biased” is true as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go very far at all. It is expressly funded by the Russian government to present a Russian viewpoint of the world. But all media outlets composed of and run by human beings are “biased,” and that certainly includes the leading British outlets, which rail against Russia (and every other perceived adversary of the West) at least as much as RT defends it.

    All of this underscores the propagandistic purpose of touting “media objectivity” versus “bias.” The former simply does not exist. Revealingly, it is British journalists themselves who are most vocal in demanding that Her Majesty’s Government bar RT from broadcasting on “bias” grounds: fathom how authoritarian a society must be if it gets its journalists to play the leading role in demanding that the state ban (or imprison) journalists it dislikes. So notably, the most vocal among the anti-RT crowd on the ground that it spreads lies and propaganda — such as Nick Cohen and Oliver Kamm — were also the most aggressive peddlers of the pro-U.K.-government conspiracy theories and lies that led to the Iraq War.

    That people like this, with their histories of pro-government propaganda, are the ones demanding punishment of RT for “bias” tells you all you need to know about what is really at play here. What’s really driving this is illustrated by the edict issued today by one of the High Priests of U.S. Foreign Policy, Brookings President and former Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott:

    This is about nothing more than ensuring that Western citizens are not exposed to the side of The Enemy. Notably, Ofcom previously revoked the license of PressTV, the state-run television agency of Iran, after first fining it £100,000 for an interview with an imprisoned journalist which was said to be coerced. Western countries love to depict citizens of their long list of adversaries as being propagandized — whether it be China, Iran, Russia, North Korea, ISIS, Al Qaeda, Syria, Venezuela, Ecuador, etc. etc. — even as they themselves work in all sorts of ways to ban their own citizens from exposure to those adversaries’ views, such as when a U.S. court imprisoned a Muslim American for years for the “crime” of including a Hezbollah channel in the cable TV package he sold in Brooklyn (of course, these purported concerns about propaganda and a free press magically and tellingly disappear when the suppression is done by regimes compliant with the U.S. and its allies).

    Purporting to compel media “objectivity” is always about imposing a very specific and subjective agenda masquerading as impartiality. The chair of Ofcom is Colette Bowe, who was previously the chief information officer at the Department of Trade and Industry as well as a board member of Morgan Stanley and Electra Private Equity. She is also “a former executive chairman of Fleming Fund Management, chief executive of the Personal Investment Authority, and a director of the Securities and Investment Board.” Does anyone believe her concept of “objectivity” and “impartiality” will be anything other than the prevailing conventional wisdom and orthodoxies of the British elite?

    The U.K. Government loves to lecture the world about infringements of liberty generally and press freedom specifically. It does so as it threatens to revoke the broadcasting license of a media outlet for broadcasting “anti-western” views and other perspectives at odds with the U.K. Government, all while shielding (and venerating) the equally virulent biases from pro-state television in the U.K. That is the classic hallmark of how a government propagandizes its citizens: ensuring that they hear only those views of which the government approves and which serve its interests and agenda.

    Photo: Shutterstock

    The post UK Media Regulator Again Threatens RT for “Bias”: This Time, Airing “Anti-Western Views” appeared first on The Intercept.

    2:00PM Water Cooler 3/2/15

    Naked Capitalism - Mon, 03/02/2015 - 14:55
    Today's Water Cooler: April launch for Clinton, Emmanueldammerüng, IMF on unions and income inequality, hope for the Mississippi delta?
    Categories: political economy

    America Abandoned One of Its Own in Yemen — and Now He May Die

    The Intercept - Mon, 03/02/2015 - 14:13

    As more and more of Yemen is taken over by the country’s Houthi Shiite minority, combat has apparently begun to encroach on Sharif Mobley, an American being held under mysterious circumstances in Yemen.

    Mobley can hear fighting between Houthi militias and Hadi’s forces from within the facility in which he is detained, according to his partner, Nzinga Islam, who lives in New Jersey. His psychological condition and his treatment by those holding him have both declined since the start of the year, she said. Mobley, who has been held in Yemen since 2010, fears he might be killed as the fighting intensifies.

    It is not known where Mobley is being held. After abandoning the capital, Sanaa, the retreating regime of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has regrouped in the south of the country, setting up a new capital in Aden. The Houthis hail from Yemen’s remote northern highlands.

    Born in New Jersey, Mobley and his four older siblings were raised by parents who were members of the Nation of Islam. The family lived in the small town of Buena, about an hour east of Philadelphia. As his devotion to his Muslim faith grew, Mobley met Islam in 2005 and married her three months later. Their first child, a daughter, was born soon after. The couple moved to Delaware in 2007 and began contemplating a move to the Middle East to strengthen their faith and learn Arabic. After striking up a friendship with a family from Yemen at a mosque they attended, Mobley and his wife decided to move with their newborn daughter to the country in 2008.

    U.S. officials alleged at the time that Mobley appeared to be taking steps toward terrorism after being in contact with Anwar al-Awlaki, the former Al-Qaeda recruiter born in America and killed in 2011 by a U.S. drone strike. The officials alleged that Mobley was helping Al-Qaeda by moving members of the group through the country. But according to a Washington Post interview in 2010, Islam said that Mobley, who emailed the then-popular preacher after hearing his religious teachings on CDs, only talked to Awlaki about what to do with her after she became pregnant again and needed surgery.

    After becoming fearful about how dangerous conditions were getting in Yemen, including feeling that they were under surveillance, Islam claimed that she and Mobley had planned to return to America as soon as possible. Islam would turn out to be the only one who made it back home to New Jersey, as Mobley and his lawyers said that he was detained by a group of men in the middle of the night and shot in the leg on January 26, 2010.

    It’s a startling tale that has received its share of coverage, but is still unknown to most Americans.

    Now, with Yemen in the midst of a civil war, Nzinga Mobley spoke with The Intercept about the increasingly precarious position her husband is in. She said the conditions of Mobley’s imprisonment are deteriorating.

    “Since the start of the new year, he never ever said that the treatment has gotten better,” Islam said in a phone conversation. “He, if anything, has said the treatment has gotten worse.”

    Islam said the battle for control of Yemen has added to her husband’s stress.

    “Mostly what I hear from him, on a psychological level, is that he hears the fighting going on outside between the Houthi group and the government soldiers,” she said. “He hears the fighting, it’s very close by. He has a feeling that they took the prison or the military base which he’s on.  He fears for his life — he doesn’t know what they are capable of.  It has gotten worse for him psychologically because not only does he not know what’s going on with his own case, but now he even fears, day to day, for his life.”

    Mobley’s lawyers from the international human rights NGO group Reprieve claimed that after his arrest, he was shackled to his bed for 24 hours a day and beaten regularly. They also said he was interrogated by two U.S. agents who identified themselves as “Khan from DOD (Department of Defense) and Matt from FBI.” His account was supported by a FOIA request made by Reprieve lawyer Cori Crider, which revealed an FBI document describing a conversation with Islam during the first few days of his incarceration. 

    The FBI and the Department of Defense have yet to respond to The Intercept’s request for comment on the incident.

    According to his lawyers, Mobley was taken to the hospital for treatment to his damaged leg, where he endured more questioning from the same U.S. officials on his reasons for moving to Yemen. The lawyers also described an account in which the same officials threatened Mobley on the condition that, if he failed to answer their questions about Awlaki, his wife and children would suffer and he would never seen them again.

    Then, on March 7, 2010, Yemeni officials claimed that Mobley shot and killed a guard in a failed escape attempt from the hospital. Mobley’s lawyer said they’ve never been told the charges he faces from that incident, and they haven’t seen him since February 2014.  In addition, his lawyers said that their client has been sprayed with mace whenever he has requested to speak to the  U.S. Embassy, which no longer exists after officially closing a few weeks ago. Islam had been very critical of the embassy in failing to facilitate her attempts to reconnect with her husband.

    “I remember there was a time when I was in Yemen and they were suggesting Americans go home,” she told The Intercept. “They pick up the phone and called my family back here in America to reach out to me and tell me if I got home. So I know they are capable of doing so. But no one has ever called me or emailed me or reached out to any of the family about the current situation, given us some type of reassurance or anything. Anytime I ever had contact with the embassy or State Department was through my initiation, me asking them, ‘What is your plan now for Sharif, now that the situation has completely turned around and there is no government?’ And I get either no response or a weak response when I ask about the evacuation. ‘Oh, there is no evacuation.’”

    Crider echoed Islam’s sentiments about U.S. officials not showing the level of concern or urgency that they would expect from those tasked with making sure the status of Americans is constantly communicated to their families and close ones.

    “Poor Nzinga has been chasing them again and again, just as I have,” Crider said. “And it’s not just that they don’t initiate contact. They have affirmatively withheld information that is critical to their own citizen trying to get a fair trial. Even if the embassy was doing everything it could — as a person who has sat through several hearings in that criminal court process, it makes some of the Guantánamo things that some of my clients go through look like a model of due process. So, no, they don’t call. It’s kind of a ‘We’ll-call-you’ kind of a thing.”

    Crider emphatically believes that the U.S. officials are fully cognizant of Mobley’s location and condition.

    “They have been to see him,” she said. “They know where he is. And when she asks where is my husband, they just say, ‘We can’t tell you for security reasons.’ The idea that the government of the United States, a massive funder of the Yemeni government, is just going to permit that state to disappear one of its own citizens kind of tells you what you need to know about where poor Sharif is on the pecking order.”

    “They know full well this man was shot in the middle of the street on January 26, 2010. They know full well that he was held in secret for weeks and weeks and weeks. And they know that he now faces capital charges.”

    The U.S. State Department declined to comment on Mobley’s whereabouts for  “privacy reasons,” and added that “consular officials strive to assist U.S. citizens detained abroad whenever possible.”

    The lack of urgency to help Mobley from American officials has prompted Islam to believe that her husband would receive more attention and help if he were white.

    “It’s sad and it’s unfortunate, but I’m feeling that if he was a white American, more effort would have been made to get him out of the situation,” said Islam, who has made similar comments to NBC News. “Now, I believe it’s very difficult to remove him from the situation. But before it had gotten this bad, I believe that if he was a white American, they would have put forth enough effort. It wouldn’t have even gotten this far, it would have been five years, he wouldn’t have to experience the civil war that’s happening now. I still have that feeling.”

    Mobley, now 31, had advised his wife to take their children out of Yemen and return to America.

    “It’s not a day that goes by that they don’t ask about their father,” said Islam, who has two sons and a daughter with Mobley. “I always relate Sharif in our daily activities. I definitely keep his memory and his presence alive in the house by telling them stories about what their father used to like, what type of cartoons. For example, we’re going to Chuck E. Cheese and Sharif was always scared of the big mouse character, and that’s something I would tell them about. Every day my daughter or my son — even the younger son we have, who has never seen his father — I show him pictures and he points to his daddy. So they are very aware of their father and his circumstances.”

    Photo: Hani Mohammed/AP

    The post America Abandoned One of Its Own in Yemen — and Now He May Die appeared first on The Intercept.

    America Abandoned One of Its Own in Yemen — and Now He May Die

    The Intercept - Mon, 03/02/2015 - 14:13

    As more and more of Yemen is taken over by the country’s Houthi Shiite minority, combat has apparently begun to encroach on Sharif Mobley, an American being held under mysterious circumstances in Yemen.

    Mobley can hear fighting between Houthi militias and Hadi’s forces from within the facility in which he is detained, according to his partner, Nzinga Islam, who lives in New Jersey. His psychological condition and his treatment by those holding him have both declined since the start of the year, she said. Mobley, who has been held in Yemen since 2010, fears he might be killed as the fighting intensifies.

    It is not known where Mobley is being held. After abandoning the capital, Sanaa, the retreating regime of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has regrouped in the south of the country, setting up a new capital in Aden. The Houthis hail from Yemen’s remote northern highlands.

    Born in New Jersey, Mobley and his four older siblings were raised by parents who were members of the Nation of Islam. The family lived in the small town of Buena, about an hour east of Philadelphia. As his devotion to his Muslim faith grew, Mosley met Islam in 2005 and married her three months later. Their first child, a daughter, was born soon after. The couple moved to Delaware in 2007 and began contemplating a move to the Middle East to strengthen their faith and learn Arabic. After striking up a friendship with a family from Yemen at a mosque they attended, Mobley and his wife decided to move with their newborn daughter to the country in 2008.

    U.S. officials alleged at the time that Mosley appeared taking steps to become a terrorist after being in contact with Anwar al-Awlaki, the former Al-Qaeda recruiter born in America and killed in 2011 by a U.S. drone strike. The officials alleged that Mosley was helping Al-Qaeda by moving members of the group throughout the country. But according to a Washington Post interview in 2010, Islam said that Mosley, who emailed the then-popular preacher after hearing his religious teachings on CDs, only talked to Awlaki about what to do with her after she became pregnant again and needed surgery.

    After fearing how dangerous conditions were getting in Yemen, including feeling they were under surveillance, Islam claimed that she and Mosley had planned to return to America as soon as possible. Islam would turn out to be the only one who ended up back home to New Jersey, as Mobley and his lawyers say that he was detained by a group of men in the middle of the night and shot in the leg on January 26, 2010.

    It’s a startling tale that has received its share of coverage, but is still unknown to most Americans.

    Now, with Yemen in the midst of a civil war, Nzinga Mobley spoke with The Intercept about the increasingly precarious position her husband is in. She said the conditions of Mosley’s imprisonment are deteriorating.

    “Since the start of the new year, he never ever said that the treatment has gotten better,” Islam said in a phone conversation. “He, if anything, has said the treatment has gotten worse.”

    Islam said the battle for control of Yemen has added to her husband’s stress.

    “Mostly what I hear from him, on a psychological level, is that he hears the fighting going on outside between the Houthi group and the government soldiers,” she said. “He hears the fighting, it’s very close by. He has a feeling that they took the prison or the military base, which he’s on.  He fears for his life, he doesn’t know what they are capable of.  It has gotten worse for him psychologically because not only does he not know what’s going on with his own case, but now he even fears, from day to day, his life.”

    Mobley’s lawyers from the U.K. non-profit organization Reprieve claim that, after his arrest, he was shackled to his bed for 24 hours a day and beaten regularly. They also say he was interrogated by two U.S. agents who identified themselves as “Khan from DOD (Department of Defense) and Matt from FBI.” His account was supported by a FOIA request made by Reprieve lawyer Cori Crider that revealed an FBI document describing a conversation with Islam during the first few days of his incarceration. 

    The FBI and the Department of Defense have yet to respond to The Intercept’s request for comment on the incident.

    According to his lawyers, Mobley was taken to the hospital for treatment to his damaged leg and endured more questioning from the same U.S. officials on his reasons for moving to Yemen. The lawyers also described an account in which the same officials threatened Mobley on the condition that, if he failed to answer their questions about Awlaki, his wife and children would suffer and he would never seen them again.

    Then, on March 7, 2010, Yemeni officials claim that Mobley shot and killed a guard in a failed escape attempt from the hospital. Mobley’s lawyer said they’ve never been told the charges he faces from that incident and also say they haven’t seen him since February 2014.  In addition, his lawyers have said that their client has been sprayed with mace whenever he requested to speak to the  U.S. Embassy, which no longer exists after officially closing a few weeks ago. Islam had been very critical of the embassy in failing to facilitate her attempts to reconnect with her husband.

    “I remember there was a time when I was in Yemen and they were suggesting when Americans go home,” she told The Intercept. “They pick up the phone and called my family back here in America to reach out to me and tell me if I got home. So I know they are capable of doing so. But no one has ever called me or emailed me or reached out to any of the family about the current situation, given us some type of reassurance or anything. Anytime I ever had contact with the embassy or State Department was through my initiation, me asking them, ‘What is your plan now for Sharif, now that the situation has completely turned around and there is no government?’ And I get either no response or a weak response when I ask about the evacuation. ‘Oh, there is no evacuation.’”

    Crider echoed Islam’s sentiments about U.S. officials not showing the level of concern or urgency that they would expect from those tasked with making sure the status of Americans is constantly updated to their families and close ones.

    “Poor Nzinga has been chasing them again and again, just as I have,” Crider said. “And it’s not just that they don’t initiate contact. They have affirmatively withheld information that is critical to their own citizen, trying to get a fair trial. Even if the Embassy was doing everything they could, as a person who has sat through several hearings in that criminal court process, it makes some of the Guantánamo things that some of my clients go through look like a model of due process apparentness. So, no, they don’t call. It’s kind of a ‘We’ll call you’ kind of a thing.”

    Crider emphatically believes that the U.S. officials are fully cognizant of Mobley’s location and condition.

    “They have been to see him,” she said. “They know where he is. And when she asks where is my husband, they just say, ‘We can’t tell you for security reasons.’ The idea that the government of the United States, a massive funder of the Yemeni government is just going to permit that state to disappear one of its own citizens kind of tells you what you need to know about where poor Sharif is on the pecking order.”

    “They know full well this man was shot in the middle of the street on January 26, 2010. They know full well that he was held in secret for weeks and weeks and weeks. And they know that he now faces capital charges.”

    The U.S. State Department declined to comment on Mobley’s whereabouts for  “privacy reasons” and added that “consular officials strive to assist U.S. citizens detained abroad whenever possible.”

    The lack of urgency to help Mobley from American officials has prompted Islam to believe that her husband would receive more attention and help if he were white.

    “It’s sad and it’s unfortunate, but I feeling that if he was a white American, more effort would have been made to get him out of the situation,” said Islam, who has made similar comments to NBC News. “Now, I believe it’s very difficult to remove him from the situation. But before it has gotten this bad, I believe that if he was a white American, that they would have put forth enough effort and wouldn’t have even gotten this far, it would have been five years, he wouldn’t have to experience the civil war that’s happening now. I still have that feeling.”

    Mobley, now 31, had advised his wife to take their children and herself out of Yemen and return to America.

    “It’s not a day that goes by that they don’t ask about their father,” Islam said, who has two sons and a daughter with Mosley.  “I always relate Sharif in our daily activities. I definitely keep his memory and his presence alive in the house by telling them stories about what their father used to like, what type of cartoons. For example, we’re going to Chuck E. Cheese and Sharif was always scared of the big mouse and character, and that’s something I would tell them about. Every day my daughter or my son, even the younger son we have who has never seen his father, I show him pictures and he points to his daddy. So they are very aware of their father and his circumstances.”

    Photo: Hani Mohammed/AP

    The post America Abandoned One of Its Own in Yemen — and Now He May Die appeared first on The Intercept.

    You Should Really Consider Installing Signal, an Encrypted Messaging App for iPhone

    The Intercept - Mon, 03/02/2015 - 14:04

    In the age of ubiquitous government surveillance, the only way citizens can protect their privacy online is through encryption. Historically, this has been extremely difficult for mere mortals; just watch the video Edward Snowden made to teach Glenn Greenwald how to encrypt his emails to see how confusing it gets. But all of this is quickly changing as high-quality, user-friendly encryption software becomes available.

    App maker Open Whisper Systems took an important step in this direction today with the release of a major new version of its Signal encrypted calling app for iPhones and iPads. The new version, Signal 2.0, folds in support for encrypted text messages using a protocol called TextSecure, meaning users can communicate using voice and text while remaining confident nothing can be intercepted in transit over the internet.

    That may not sound like a particularly big deal, given that other encrypted communication apps are available for iOS, but Signal 2.0 offers something tremendously useful: peace of mind.

    Unlike other text messaging products, Signal’s code is open source, meaning it can be inspected by experts, and the app also supports forward secrecy, so if an attacker steals your encryption key, they cannot go back and decrypt messages they may have collected in the past.

    Signal is also one special place on the iPhone where users can be confident all their communications are always fully scrambled. Other apps with encryption tend to enter insecure modes at unpredictable times — unpredictable for many users, at least. Apple’s iMessage, for example, employs strong encryption, but only when communicating between two Apple devices and only when there is a proper data connection. Otherwise, iMessage falls back on insecure SMS messaging. iMessage also lacks forward secrecy and inspectable source code.

    Signal also offers the ability for power users to verify the identity of the people they’re talking to, confirming that the encryption isn’t under attack. With iMessage, you just have to take Apple’s word for it.

    Strong, reliable, predictably-applied encryption is especially important at a time when the world just found out, via a report by The Intercept, that American and British spies hacked into the world’s largest SIM card manufacturer and stole the encryption keys that are used to protect communication between handsets and cell phone towers. With these keys, spies can eavesdrop on phone calls and texts just by passively listening to the airwaves.

    Signal development is also noteworthy because its makers, Open Whisper Systems and that company’s founder Moxie Marlinspike, are gaining a reputation for combining trustworthy encryption with ease of use and mobile convenience. Open Whisper Systems recently partnered with the makers of the messaging app WhatsApp to add encryption to that popular product (WhatsApp is not yet fully encrypted across all platforms and media types).

    “We want to make private communication simple,” says Marlinspike, who designed the encryption protocols that power his company’s apps. “Our objective is to do new cryptographic research and development that advances the state of the art while simultaneously making it frictionless and accessible for anyone.”

    iPhone users can find Signal here. For Android users, the product is, at the moment, split into two apps: TextSecure for private texting and RedPhone for private voice calls. “We’re working towards a single unified Signal app for Android, iPhone and the desktop,” says Marlinspike.

    It’s important to keep in mind that no technology is 100 percent secure, and an encrypted messaging app can only be as secure as the device you install it on. Intelligence agencies and other hackers can still exploit security bugs that have not been fixed, known as zero day exploits, to take over smartphones and bypass the encryption that privacy apps employ. But apps like Signal go a long way to making mass surveillance of billions of innocent people infeasible.

    Update: Changed wording in the lede to better reflect the caveats deeper in the piece.

    The post You Should Really Consider Installing Signal, an Encrypted Messaging App for iPhone appeared first on The Intercept.

    You Should Really Consider Installing Signal, an Encrypted Messaging App for iPhone

    The Intercept - Mon, 03/02/2015 - 14:04

    In the age of ubiquitous government surveillance, the only way citizens can fully protect their privacy online is through encryption. Historically, this has been extremely difficult for mere mortals; just watch the video Edward Snowden made to teach Glenn Greenwald how to encrypt his emails to see how confusing it gets. But all of this is quickly changing as high-quality, user-friendly encryption software becomes available.

    App maker Open Whisper Systems took an important step in this direction today with the release of a major new version of its Signal encrypted calling app for iPhones and iPads. The new version, Signal 2.0, folds in support for encrypted text messages using a protocol called TextSecure, meaning users can communicate using voice and text while remaining confident nothing can be intercepted in transit over the internet.

    That may not sound like a particularly big deal, given that other encrypted communication apps are available for iOS, but Signal 2.0 offers something tremendously useful: peace of mind.

    Unlike other text messaging products, Signal’s code is open source, meaning it can be inspected by experts, and the app also supports forward secrecy, so if an attacker steals your encryption key, they cannot go back and decrypt messages they may have collected in the past.

    Signal is also one special place on the iPhone where users can be confident all their communications are always fully scrambled. Other apps with encryption tend to enter insecure modes at unpredictable times — unpredictable for many users, at least. Apple’s iMessage, for example, employs strong encryption, but only when communicating between two Apple devices and only when there is a proper data connection. Otherwise, iMessage falls back on insecure SMS messaging. iMessage also lacks forward secrecy and inspectable source code.

    Signal also offers the ability for power users to verify the identity of the people they’re talking to, confirming that the encryption isn’t under attack. With iMessage, you just have to take Apple’s word for it.

    Strong, reliable, predictably-applied encryption is especially important at a time when the world just found out, via a report by The Intercept, that American and British spies hacked into the world’s largest SIM card manufacturer and stole the encryption keys that are used to protect communication between handsets and cell phone towers. With these keys, spies can eavesdrop on phone calls and texts just by passively listening to the airwaves.

    Signal development is also noteworthy because its makers, Open Whisper Systems and that company’s founder Moxie Marlinspike, are gaining a reputation for combining trustworthy encryption with ease of use and mobile convenience. Open Whisper Systems recently partnered with the makers of the messaging app WhatsApp to add encryption to that popular product (WhatsApp is not yet fully encrypted across all platforms and media types).

    “We want to make private communication simple,” says Marlinspike, who designed the encryption protocols that power his company’s apps. “Our objective is to do new cryptographic research and development that advances the state of the art while simultaneously making it frictionless and accessible for anyone.”

    iPhone users can find Signal here. For Android users, the product is, at the moment, split into two apps: TextSecure for private texting and RedPhone for private voice calls. “We’re working towards a single unified Signal app for Android, iPhone and the desktop,” says Marlinspike.

    It’s important to keep in mind that no technology is 100 percent secure, and an encrypted messaging app can only be as secure as the device you install it on. Intelligence agencies and other hackers can still exploit security bugs that have not been fixed, known as zero day exploits, to take over smartphones and bypass the encryption that privacy apps employ. But apps like Signal go a long way to making mass surveillance of billions of innocent people infeasible.

    The post You Should Really Consider Installing Signal, an Encrypted Messaging App for iPhone appeared first on The Intercept.

    Antiquities Scholar: Islamic State's Destruction of Museum and Library Is Cultural and Ethnic Cleansing

    Truthout - Mon, 03/02/2015 - 13:41

    Video has surfaced showing militants from the Islamic State destroying ancient artifacts at a museum in the Iraqi city of Mosul. Men are seen toppling statues and using sledgehammers and drills to destroy the artifacts. The Guardian reports one of the statues destroyed was a winged-bull Assyrian protective deity that dates back to the 9th century B.C. The Islamic State has also reportedly destroyed the Mosul public library, which housed more than 8,000 rare books and manuscripts. On Thursday, UNESCO, the cultural arm of the United Nations, called for the U.N. Security Council to hold an emergency meeting on protecting Iraq’s cultural heritage. "I condemn this as a deliberate attack against Iraq’s millennial history and culture, and as an inflammatory incitement to violence and hatred," said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. We speak to Zainab Bahrani, professor of Near Eastern and East Mediterranean art and archeology at Columbia University. She has worked extensively in Iraq, including periods as senior adviser to Iraq’s Ministry of Culture and a UNESCO consultant.

    TRANSCRIPT:

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We turn now to Iraq, where video has surfaced showing militants from the Islamic State destroying ancient artifacts at a museum in the Iraqi city of Mosul. Men are seen toppling statues and using sledgehammers and drills to destroy the artifacts. The Guardian reports one of the statues destroyed was a winged-bull Assyrian protective deity that dates back to the 9th century B.C.

    AMY GOODMAN: On Thurday, UNESCO, the cultural arm of the United Nations, called for the U.N. Security Council to hold an emergency meeting on protecting Iraq’s cultural heritage. UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said, quote, "I condemn this as a deliberate attack against Iraq’s millennial history and culture, and as an inflammatory incitement to violence and hatred."

    UNESCO has also warned about the self-proclaimed Islamic State generating income from the looting and smuggling of cultural heritage items. Earlier this month, the U.N. Security Council banned all trade in antiquities from wartorn Syria and reaffirmed a ban on Iraqi artifact sales from about a decade ago.

    Joining us here in New York is Zainab Bahrani, professor of Near Eastern and East Mediterranean art and archeology at Columbia University. She has worked extensively in Iraq, including periods as senior adviser to Iraq’s Ministry of Culture and, back in 2004 or so, a UNESCO consultant.

    We welcome you, Professor Bahrani, to Democracy Now! Talk about what is happening, the significance—let’s start with the Mosul museum.

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Well, the Mosul museum is a major museum in the Middle East. It’s one of the largest museums in the area, and it has a remarkable collection of finds that date back to the Neolithic era and continue into the Islamic period, so covering thousands of years, going back to about 8,000 B.C.

    AMY GOODMAN: What was your reaction when we saw the video yesterday?

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Well, I think we, all of us who are in the field, were completely horrified. I mean, of course we expected that something like this might happen, ever since ISIS took over the area, took over Mosul. But to see it actually happen was devastating.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what is their rationale or their reasons for doing this?

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Well, the rationale seems to be, from what they are saying on the video, that these are idols, and therefore they are false gods and should be destroyed. But, to me, this actually doesn’t make that much sense, since, of course, a lot of this cultural heritage and these antiquities have been visible since the seventh century A.D., and they have been there unharmed. So, it’s not really clear why now this should happen.

    AMY GOODMAN: On the one hand, the rationale of it being heretical, right, the false idols—

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Yes.

    AMY GOODMAN: —and on the other hand, it’s believed—I mean, I can’t confirm this myself independently—that the militants have sold the ancient artifacts on the black market?

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Well, it seems to be that there is a great deal of selling of antiquities by ISIL. And this has been confirmed by certain people who are watching the trade in antiquities. So they are selling antiquities. One of the arguments is that the objects they destroyed yesterday were the larger pieces that could not be moved out and sold, so they were more likely to be able to destroy them.

    I think that a great deal of the discussion here in the West, and perhaps throughout the world, has focused on the looting rather than the issue of cultural cleansing. The destruction of monuments on site is also something to be concerned about. I mean, the looting for the antiquities market, which is an illicit international market, is very important to consider, because this is very destructive. But the blowing up of shrines and monuments on site is really horrendous, and this is a form of cultural cleansing, certainly, but also ethnic cleansing.

    AMY GOODMAN: Explain.

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Well, it’s a form of ethnic cleansing because this is a region of the world—Mesopotamia has always been a multicultural, mutli-ethnic, multilinguistic and multireligious community, the entirety of the country. And what’s happening now is that diversity is being wiped out. So when you wipe out people’s monuments and heritage, you erase any record of their ever having been there. And it’s a way of creating a terra nulla, if you will, a kind of an empty land that you can conquer and then claim that there was nothing there before. So it’s a general erasure and rewriting of history of Mesopotamia.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, UNESCO’s director-general expressed outrage following the Islamic State’s attack on the Mosul museum. Irina Bokova said, quote, "This attack is far more than a cultural tragedy—this is also a security issue as it fuels sectarianism, violent extremism and conflict in Iraq. ... The systematic destruction of iconic components of Iraq’s rich and diverse heritage that we have been witnessing over the past months is intolerable and it must stop immediately." And, of course, Iraq went—Iraq went through similar problems—not at this scale—during the—in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion, the disorder that followed, when there was also some destruction and looting that occurred.

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Well, I think that’s right. And I think too many people have forgotten that all of this actually began a long time ago. Of course, the scale now is far greater, and the slaughter that’s taking place of human beings is truly horrendous, but the rewriting of Iraq’s history and the erasure of its past actually started with the 2003 war, if not even with the earlier one. So there has been a great deal of destruction of heritage sites, and the attempt to say that this is ingrained in the culture. I think one large problem is that pundits here in the West often say, "Well, these acts are grounded, are based, in the historical reality of Iraq, of Mesopotamia. This is a kind of an internal fight between Shia and Sunni peoples, and we should just mind our own business and leave it alone." But it seems to me that this is completely misguided, because what we are saying is that this is based in history. We’re trying to say—the pundits are trying to say that this is based in a historical reality, when it’s not. It’s a complete rewriting of what was the historical reality. Now, let’s take, for example, the idea of the resurrection of a medieval Islamic state. So, of course, here, everybody says, "Well, they are truly barbaric. They are medieval." But everybody who has read history knows that in the Abbasid empire, the caliphs of the Abbasids valued scholarship. They translated Greek classical texts. They loved the arts and promoted arts and architecture. So, it’s actually quite false to say that in the Middle Ages they were opposed to these things.

    AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you, Professor Bahrani, going back to 2003, the day after Baghdad fell, that famous scene of the looters coming from the Iraqi museum—

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Yes.

    AMY GOODMAN: —and the criticism of the U.S. for not protecting the museum. Going back to that time, declaring that freedom is "untidy," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the looting in Iraq was a result of "pent-up feelings" of oppression, that it would subside as Iraqis adjusted to life without Saddam Hussein. He said, "Freedom’s untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things. They’re also free to live their lives and do wonderful things. And that’s what’s going to happen here." Looting, he said, was not uncommon for countries that experience significant social upheaval. Rumsfeld said, "Stuff happens."

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: I remember his statements very well. I also remember that he was quite taken aback that there was more than one vase in the entire country. And he seemed to have not realized that Iraq is Mesopotamia, the cradle of the world’s civilization. And how he did not know that, I’m really not sure. But he was clearly very mistaken.

    AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the historical legacy of Muslims protecting antiquities, knowledge, philosophy, science?

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Absolutely. I mean, it’s not my specific area of expertise, because I’m a specialist in the pre-Islamic past, but I know enough to know that this heritage has always been there, that Islamic geographers and travelers and historians have written about places like Babylon and Nineveh in the Middle Ages. The caliphs, the Abbasid caliphs especially, supported the scholarship of the ancient Greek classical texts and philosophy and the sciences, in a way that is truly unparalleled not just in the history of Iraq, but, I would say, in a great part of the world. It’s one of the high points of the world’s history of scholarly knowledge.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what’s been the reaction in the rest of the—throughout the rest of the Middle East, of other governments and civil society organizations after they’ve heard about this from yesterday?

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: I think that most of the news that I’ve heard from all over the Middle East is that people are horrified, that everybody is taken aback, because nobody was expecting this extent of just senseless destruction. Of course, this is a very small thing to consider after the mass slaughter, the kidnapping, the rapes, the torture, the daily murdering. So, this is really very much just a kind of a last straw on top of a terrible annihilation of people.

    But what I want to stress is that the destruction of this sculpture, of the heritage sites and the ancient Assyrian and Hadrian sculpture that we saw destroyed in the video, that this is not just about the past. This is about a destruction and an erasure of the history of the people of Iraq, as a way to say that they never belonged here.

    AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you so much for being with us, Zainab Bahrani, professor of Near Eastern and East Mediterranean art and archaeology at Columbia University. Her most recent book is called The Infinite Image: Art, Time and the Aesthetic Dimension in Antiquity.

    This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we’re going to Pasco, Washington. It was there that police killed Antonio Zambrano-Montes. Cellphone video shows him putting up his hands. He was unarmed. Stay with us.

    Antiquities Scholar: Islamic State's Destruction of Museum and Library Is Cultural and Ethnic Cleansing

    Truthout - Mon, 03/02/2015 - 13:41

    Video has surfaced showing militants from the Islamic State destroying ancient artifacts at a museum in the Iraqi city of Mosul. Men are seen toppling statues and using sledgehammers and drills to destroy the artifacts. The Guardian reports one of the statues destroyed was a winged-bull Assyrian protective deity that dates back to the 9th century B.C. The Islamic State has also reportedly destroyed the Mosul public library, which housed more than 8,000 rare books and manuscripts. On Thursday, UNESCO, the cultural arm of the United Nations, called for the U.N. Security Council to hold an emergency meeting on protecting Iraq’s cultural heritage. "I condemn this as a deliberate attack against Iraq’s millennial history and culture, and as an inflammatory incitement to violence and hatred," said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. We speak to Zainab Bahrani, professor of Near Eastern and East Mediterranean art and archeology at Columbia University. She has worked extensively in Iraq, including periods as senior adviser to Iraq’s Ministry of Culture and a UNESCO consultant.

    TRANSCRIPT:

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We turn now to Iraq, where video has surfaced showing militants from the Islamic State destroying ancient artifacts at a museum in the Iraqi city of Mosul. Men are seen toppling statues and using sledgehammers and drills to destroy the artifacts. The Guardian reports one of the statues destroyed was a winged-bull Assyrian protective deity that dates back to the 9th century B.C.

    AMY GOODMAN: On Thurday, UNESCO, the cultural arm of the United Nations, called for the U.N. Security Council to hold an emergency meeting on protecting Iraq’s cultural heritage. UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said, quote, "I condemn this as a deliberate attack against Iraq’s millennial history and culture, and as an inflammatory incitement to violence and hatred."

    UNESCO has also warned about the self-proclaimed Islamic State generating income from the looting and smuggling of cultural heritage items. Earlier this month, the U.N. Security Council banned all trade in antiquities from wartorn Syria and reaffirmed a ban on Iraqi artifact sales from about a decade ago.

    Joining us here in New York is Zainab Bahrani, professor of Near Eastern and East Mediterranean art and archeology at Columbia University. She has worked extensively in Iraq, including periods as senior adviser to Iraq’s Ministry of Culture and, back in 2004 or so, a UNESCO consultant.

    We welcome you, Professor Bahrani, to Democracy Now! Talk about what is happening, the significance—let’s start with the Mosul museum.

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Well, the Mosul museum is a major museum in the Middle East. It’s one of the largest museums in the area, and it has a remarkable collection of finds that date back to the Neolithic era and continue into the Islamic period, so covering thousands of years, going back to about 8,000 B.C.

    AMY GOODMAN: What was your reaction when we saw the video yesterday?

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Well, I think we, all of us who are in the field, were completely horrified. I mean, of course we expected that something like this might happen, ever since ISIS took over the area, took over Mosul. But to see it actually happen was devastating.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what is their rationale or their reasons for doing this?

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Well, the rationale seems to be, from what they are saying on the video, that these are idols, and therefore they are false gods and should be destroyed. But, to me, this actually doesn’t make that much sense, since, of course, a lot of this cultural heritage and these antiquities have been visible since the seventh century A.D., and they have been there unharmed. So, it’s not really clear why now this should happen.

    AMY GOODMAN: On the one hand, the rationale of it being heretical, right, the false idols—

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Yes.

    AMY GOODMAN: —and on the other hand, it’s believed—I mean, I can’t confirm this myself independently—that the militants have sold the ancient artifacts on the black market?

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Well, it seems to be that there is a great deal of selling of antiquities by ISIL. And this has been confirmed by certain people who are watching the trade in antiquities. So they are selling antiquities. One of the arguments is that the objects they destroyed yesterday were the larger pieces that could not be moved out and sold, so they were more likely to be able to destroy them.

    I think that a great deal of the discussion here in the West, and perhaps throughout the world, has focused on the looting rather than the issue of cultural cleansing. The destruction of monuments on site is also something to be concerned about. I mean, the looting for the antiquities market, which is an illicit international market, is very important to consider, because this is very destructive. But the blowing up of shrines and monuments on site is really horrendous, and this is a form of cultural cleansing, certainly, but also ethnic cleansing.

    AMY GOODMAN: Explain.

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Well, it’s a form of ethnic cleansing because this is a region of the world—Mesopotamia has always been a multicultural, mutli-ethnic, multilinguistic and multireligious community, the entirety of the country. And what’s happening now is that diversity is being wiped out. So when you wipe out people’s monuments and heritage, you erase any record of their ever having been there. And it’s a way of creating a terra nulla, if you will, a kind of an empty land that you can conquer and then claim that there was nothing there before. So it’s a general erasure and rewriting of history of Mesopotamia.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, UNESCO’s director-general expressed outrage following the Islamic State’s attack on the Mosul museum. Irina Bokova said, quote, "This attack is far more than a cultural tragedy—this is also a security issue as it fuels sectarianism, violent extremism and conflict in Iraq. ... The systematic destruction of iconic components of Iraq’s rich and diverse heritage that we have been witnessing over the past months is intolerable and it must stop immediately." And, of course, Iraq went—Iraq went through similar problems—not at this scale—during the—in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion, the disorder that followed, when there was also some destruction and looting that occurred.

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Well, I think that’s right. And I think too many people have forgotten that all of this actually began a long time ago. Of course, the scale now is far greater, and the slaughter that’s taking place of human beings is truly horrendous, but the rewriting of Iraq’s history and the erasure of its past actually started with the 2003 war, if not even with the earlier one. So there has been a great deal of destruction of heritage sites, and the attempt to say that this is ingrained in the culture. I think one large problem is that pundits here in the West often say, "Well, these acts are grounded, are based, in the historical reality of Iraq, of Mesopotamia. This is a kind of an internal fight between Shia and Sunni peoples, and we should just mind our own business and leave it alone." But it seems to me that this is completely misguided, because what we are saying is that this is based in history. We’re trying to say—the pundits are trying to say that this is based in a historical reality, when it’s not. It’s a complete rewriting of what was the historical reality. Now, let’s take, for example, the idea of the resurrection of a medieval Islamic state. So, of course, here, everybody says, "Well, they are truly barbaric. They are medieval." But everybody who has read history knows that in the Abbasid empire, the caliphs of the Abbasids valued scholarship. They translated Greek classical texts. They loved the arts and promoted arts and architecture. So, it’s actually quite false to say that in the Middle Ages they were opposed to these things.

    AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you, Professor Bahrani, going back to 2003, the day after Baghdad fell, that famous scene of the looters coming from the Iraqi museum—

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Yes.

    AMY GOODMAN: —and the criticism of the U.S. for not protecting the museum. Going back to that time, declaring that freedom is "untidy," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the looting in Iraq was a result of "pent-up feelings" of oppression, that it would subside as Iraqis adjusted to life without Saddam Hussein. He said, "Freedom’s untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things. They’re also free to live their lives and do wonderful things. And that’s what’s going to happen here." Looting, he said, was not uncommon for countries that experience significant social upheaval. Rumsfeld said, "Stuff happens."

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: I remember his statements very well. I also remember that he was quite taken aback that there was more than one vase in the entire country. And he seemed to have not realized that Iraq is Mesopotamia, the cradle of the world’s civilization. And how he did not know that, I’m really not sure. But he was clearly very mistaken.

    AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the historical legacy of Muslims protecting antiquities, knowledge, philosophy, science?

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Absolutely. I mean, it’s not my specific area of expertise, because I’m a specialist in the pre-Islamic past, but I know enough to know that this heritage has always been there, that Islamic geographers and travelers and historians have written about places like Babylon and Nineveh in the Middle Ages. The caliphs, the Abbasid caliphs especially, supported the scholarship of the ancient Greek classical texts and philosophy and the sciences, in a way that is truly unparalleled not just in the history of Iraq, but, I would say, in a great part of the world. It’s one of the high points of the world’s history of scholarly knowledge.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what’s been the reaction in the rest of the—throughout the rest of the Middle East, of other governments and civil society organizations after they’ve heard about this from yesterday?

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: I think that most of the news that I’ve heard from all over the Middle East is that people are horrified, that everybody is taken aback, because nobody was expecting this extent of just senseless destruction. Of course, this is a very small thing to consider after the mass slaughter, the kidnapping, the rapes, the torture, the daily murdering. So, this is really very much just a kind of a last straw on top of a terrible annihilation of people.

    But what I want to stress is that the destruction of this sculpture, of the heritage sites and the ancient Assyrian and Hadrian sculpture that we saw destroyed in the video, that this is not just about the past. This is about a destruction and an erasure of the history of the people of Iraq, as a way to say that they never belonged here.

    AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you so much for being with us, Zainab Bahrani, professor of Near Eastern and East Mediterranean art and archaeology at Columbia University. Her most recent book is called The Infinite Image: Art, Time and the Aesthetic Dimension in Antiquity.

    This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we’re going to Pasco, Washington. It was there that police killed Antonio Zambrano-Montes. Cellphone video shows him putting up his hands. He was unarmed. Stay with us.

    Antiquities Scholar: Islamic State's Destruction of Museum and Library Is Cultural and Ethnic Cleansing

    Truthout - Mon, 03/02/2015 - 13:41

    Video has surfaced showing militants from the Islamic State destroying ancient artifacts at a museum in the Iraqi city of Mosul. Men are seen toppling statues and using sledgehammers and drills to destroy the artifacts. The Guardian reports one of the statues destroyed was a winged-bull Assyrian protective deity that dates back to the 9th century B.C. The Islamic State has also reportedly destroyed the Mosul public library, which housed more than 8,000 rare books and manuscripts. On Thursday, UNESCO, the cultural arm of the United Nations, called for the U.N. Security Council to hold an emergency meeting on protecting Iraq’s cultural heritage. "I condemn this as a deliberate attack against Iraq’s millennial history and culture, and as an inflammatory incitement to violence and hatred," said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. We speak to Zainab Bahrani, professor of Near Eastern and East Mediterranean art and archeology at Columbia University. She has worked extensively in Iraq, including periods as senior adviser to Iraq’s Ministry of Culture and a UNESCO consultant.

    TRANSCRIPT:

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We turn now to Iraq, where video has surfaced showing militants from the Islamic State destroying ancient artifacts at a museum in the Iraqi city of Mosul. Men are seen toppling statues and using sledgehammers and drills to destroy the artifacts. The Guardian reports one of the statues destroyed was a winged-bull Assyrian protective deity that dates back to the 9th century B.C.

    AMY GOODMAN: On Thurday, UNESCO, the cultural arm of the United Nations, called for the U.N. Security Council to hold an emergency meeting on protecting Iraq’s cultural heritage. UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said, quote, "I condemn this as a deliberate attack against Iraq’s millennial history and culture, and as an inflammatory incitement to violence and hatred."

    UNESCO has also warned about the self-proclaimed Islamic State generating income from the looting and smuggling of cultural heritage items. Earlier this month, the U.N. Security Council banned all trade in antiquities from wartorn Syria and reaffirmed a ban on Iraqi artifact sales from about a decade ago.

    Joining us here in New York is Zainab Bahrani, professor of Near Eastern and East Mediterranean art and archeology at Columbia University. She has worked extensively in Iraq, including periods as senior adviser to Iraq’s Ministry of Culture and, back in 2004 or so, a UNESCO consultant.

    We welcome you, Professor Bahrani, to Democracy Now! Talk about what is happening, the significance—let’s start with the Mosul museum.

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Well, the Mosul museum is a major museum in the Middle East. It’s one of the largest museums in the area, and it has a remarkable collection of finds that date back to the Neolithic era and continue into the Islamic period, so covering thousands of years, going back to about 8,000 B.C.

    AMY GOODMAN: What was your reaction when we saw the video yesterday?

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Well, I think we, all of us who are in the field, were completely horrified. I mean, of course we expected that something like this might happen, ever since ISIS took over the area, took over Mosul. But to see it actually happen was devastating.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what is their rationale or their reasons for doing this?

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Well, the rationale seems to be, from what they are saying on the video, that these are idols, and therefore they are false gods and should be destroyed. But, to me, this actually doesn’t make that much sense, since, of course, a lot of this cultural heritage and these antiquities have been visible since the seventh century A.D., and they have been there unharmed. So, it’s not really clear why now this should happen.

    AMY GOODMAN: On the one hand, the rationale of it being heretical, right, the false idols—

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Yes.

    AMY GOODMAN: —and on the other hand, it’s believed—I mean, I can’t confirm this myself independently—that the militants have sold the ancient artifacts on the black market?

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Well, it seems to be that there is a great deal of selling of antiquities by ISIL. And this has been confirmed by certain people who are watching the trade in antiquities. So they are selling antiquities. One of the arguments is that the objects they destroyed yesterday were the larger pieces that could not be moved out and sold, so they were more likely to be able to destroy them.

    I think that a great deal of the discussion here in the West, and perhaps throughout the world, has focused on the looting rather than the issue of cultural cleansing. The destruction of monuments on site is also something to be concerned about. I mean, the looting for the antiquities market, which is an illicit international market, is very important to consider, because this is very destructive. But the blowing up of shrines and monuments on site is really horrendous, and this is a form of cultural cleansing, certainly, but also ethnic cleansing.

    AMY GOODMAN: Explain.

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Well, it’s a form of ethnic cleansing because this is a region of the world—Mesopotamia has always been a multicultural, mutli-ethnic, multilinguistic and multireligious community, the entirety of the country. And what’s happening now is that diversity is being wiped out. So when you wipe out people’s monuments and heritage, you erase any record of their ever having been there. And it’s a way of creating a terra nulla, if you will, a kind of an empty land that you can conquer and then claim that there was nothing there before. So it’s a general erasure and rewriting of history of Mesopotamia.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, UNESCO’s director-general expressed outrage following the Islamic State’s attack on the Mosul museum. Irina Bokova said, quote, "This attack is far more than a cultural tragedy—this is also a security issue as it fuels sectarianism, violent extremism and conflict in Iraq. ... The systematic destruction of iconic components of Iraq’s rich and diverse heritage that we have been witnessing over the past months is intolerable and it must stop immediately." And, of course, Iraq went—Iraq went through similar problems—not at this scale—during the—in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion, the disorder that followed, when there was also some destruction and looting that occurred.

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Well, I think that’s right. And I think too many people have forgotten that all of this actually began a long time ago. Of course, the scale now is far greater, and the slaughter that’s taking place of human beings is truly horrendous, but the rewriting of Iraq’s history and the erasure of its past actually started with the 2003 war, if not even with the earlier one. So there has been a great deal of destruction of heritage sites, and the attempt to say that this is ingrained in the culture. I think one large problem is that pundits here in the West often say, "Well, these acts are grounded, are based, in the historical reality of Iraq, of Mesopotamia. This is a kind of an internal fight between Shia and Sunni peoples, and we should just mind our own business and leave it alone." But it seems to me that this is completely misguided, because what we are saying is that this is based in history. We’re trying to say—the pundits are trying to say that this is based in a historical reality, when it’s not. It’s a complete rewriting of what was the historical reality. Now, let’s take, for example, the idea of the resurrection of a medieval Islamic state. So, of course, here, everybody says, "Well, they are truly barbaric. They are medieval." But everybody who has read history knows that in the Abbasid empire, the caliphs of the Abbasids valued scholarship. They translated Greek classical texts. They loved the arts and promoted arts and architecture. So, it’s actually quite false to say that in the Middle Ages they were opposed to these things.

    AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you, Professor Bahrani, going back to 2003, the day after Baghdad fell, that famous scene of the looters coming from the Iraqi museum—

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Yes.

    AMY GOODMAN: —and the criticism of the U.S. for not protecting the museum. Going back to that time, declaring that freedom is "untidy," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the looting in Iraq was a result of "pent-up feelings" of oppression, that it would subside as Iraqis adjusted to life without Saddam Hussein. He said, "Freedom’s untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things. They’re also free to live their lives and do wonderful things. And that’s what’s going to happen here." Looting, he said, was not uncommon for countries that experience significant social upheaval. Rumsfeld said, "Stuff happens."

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: I remember his statements very well. I also remember that he was quite taken aback that there was more than one vase in the entire country. And he seemed to have not realized that Iraq is Mesopotamia, the cradle of the world’s civilization. And how he did not know that, I’m really not sure. But he was clearly very mistaken.

    AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the historical legacy of Muslims protecting antiquities, knowledge, philosophy, science?

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Absolutely. I mean, it’s not my specific area of expertise, because I’m a specialist in the pre-Islamic past, but I know enough to know that this heritage has always been there, that Islamic geographers and travelers and historians have written about places like Babylon and Nineveh in the Middle Ages. The caliphs, the Abbasid caliphs especially, supported the scholarship of the ancient Greek classical texts and philosophy and the sciences, in a way that is truly unparalleled not just in the history of Iraq, but, I would say, in a great part of the world. It’s one of the high points of the world’s history of scholarly knowledge.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what’s been the reaction in the rest of the—throughout the rest of the Middle East, of other governments and civil society organizations after they’ve heard about this from yesterday?

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: I think that most of the news that I’ve heard from all over the Middle East is that people are horrified, that everybody is taken aback, because nobody was expecting this extent of just senseless destruction. Of course, this is a very small thing to consider after the mass slaughter, the kidnapping, the rapes, the torture, the daily murdering. So, this is really very much just a kind of a last straw on top of a terrible annihilation of people.

    But what I want to stress is that the destruction of this sculpture, of the heritage sites and the ancient Assyrian and Hadrian sculpture that we saw destroyed in the video, that this is not just about the past. This is about a destruction and an erasure of the history of the people of Iraq, as a way to say that they never belonged here.

    AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you so much for being with us, Zainab Bahrani, professor of Near Eastern and East Mediterranean art and archaeology at Columbia University. Her most recent book is called The Infinite Image: Art, Time and the Aesthetic Dimension in Antiquity.

    This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we’re going to Pasco, Washington. It was there that police killed Antonio Zambrano-Montes. Cellphone video shows him putting up his hands. He was unarmed. Stay with us.

    Antiquities Scholar: Islamic State's Destruction of Museum and Library Is Cultural and Ethnic Cleansing

    Truthout - Mon, 03/02/2015 - 13:41

    Video has surfaced showing militants from the Islamic State destroying ancient artifacts at a museum in the Iraqi city of Mosul. Men are seen toppling statues and using sledgehammers and drills to destroy the artifacts. The Guardian reports one of the statues destroyed was a winged-bull Assyrian protective deity that dates back to the 9th century B.C. The Islamic State has also reportedly destroyed the Mosul public library, which housed more than 8,000 rare books and manuscripts. On Thursday, UNESCO, the cultural arm of the United Nations, called for the U.N. Security Council to hold an emergency meeting on protecting Iraq’s cultural heritage. "I condemn this as a deliberate attack against Iraq’s millennial history and culture, and as an inflammatory incitement to violence and hatred," said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. We speak to Zainab Bahrani, professor of Near Eastern and East Mediterranean art and archeology at Columbia University. She has worked extensively in Iraq, including periods as senior adviser to Iraq’s Ministry of Culture and a UNESCO consultant.

    TRANSCRIPT:

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We turn now to Iraq, where video has surfaced showing militants from the Islamic State destroying ancient artifacts at a museum in the Iraqi city of Mosul. Men are seen toppling statues and using sledgehammers and drills to destroy the artifacts. The Guardian reports one of the statues destroyed was a winged-bull Assyrian protective deity that dates back to the 9th century B.C.

    AMY GOODMAN: On Thurday, UNESCO, the cultural arm of the United Nations, called for the U.N. Security Council to hold an emergency meeting on protecting Iraq’s cultural heritage. UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said, quote, "I condemn this as a deliberate attack against Iraq’s millennial history and culture, and as an inflammatory incitement to violence and hatred."

    UNESCO has also warned about the self-proclaimed Islamic State generating income from the looting and smuggling of cultural heritage items. Earlier this month, the U.N. Security Council banned all trade in antiquities from wartorn Syria and reaffirmed a ban on Iraqi artifact sales from about a decade ago.

    Joining us here in New York is Zainab Bahrani, professor of Near Eastern and East Mediterranean art and archeology at Columbia University. She has worked extensively in Iraq, including periods as senior adviser to Iraq’s Ministry of Culture and, back in 2004 or so, a UNESCO consultant.

    We welcome you, Professor Bahrani, to Democracy Now! Talk about what is happening, the significance—let’s start with the Mosul museum.

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Well, the Mosul museum is a major museum in the Middle East. It’s one of the largest museums in the area, and it has a remarkable collection of finds that date back to the Neolithic era and continue into the Islamic period, so covering thousands of years, going back to about 8,000 B.C.

    AMY GOODMAN: What was your reaction when we saw the video yesterday?

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Well, I think we, all of us who are in the field, were completely horrified. I mean, of course we expected that something like this might happen, ever since ISIS took over the area, took over Mosul. But to see it actually happen was devastating.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what is their rationale or their reasons for doing this?

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Well, the rationale seems to be, from what they are saying on the video, that these are idols, and therefore they are false gods and should be destroyed. But, to me, this actually doesn’t make that much sense, since, of course, a lot of this cultural heritage and these antiquities have been visible since the seventh century A.D., and they have been there unharmed. So, it’s not really clear why now this should happen.

    AMY GOODMAN: On the one hand, the rationale of it being heretical, right, the false idols—

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Yes.

    AMY GOODMAN: —and on the other hand, it’s believed—I mean, I can’t confirm this myself independently—that the militants have sold the ancient artifacts on the black market?

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Well, it seems to be that there is a great deal of selling of antiquities by ISIL. And this has been confirmed by certain people who are watching the trade in antiquities. So they are selling antiquities. One of the arguments is that the objects they destroyed yesterday were the larger pieces that could not be moved out and sold, so they were more likely to be able to destroy them.

    I think that a great deal of the discussion here in the West, and perhaps throughout the world, has focused on the looting rather than the issue of cultural cleansing. The destruction of monuments on site is also something to be concerned about. I mean, the looting for the antiquities market, which is an illicit international market, is very important to consider, because this is very destructive. But the blowing up of shrines and monuments on site is really horrendous, and this is a form of cultural cleansing, certainly, but also ethnic cleansing.

    AMY GOODMAN: Explain.

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Well, it’s a form of ethnic cleansing because this is a region of the world—Mesopotamia has always been a multicultural, mutli-ethnic, multilinguistic and multireligious community, the entirety of the country. And what’s happening now is that diversity is being wiped out. So when you wipe out people’s monuments and heritage, you erase any record of their ever having been there. And it’s a way of creating a terra nulla, if you will, a kind of an empty land that you can conquer and then claim that there was nothing there before. So it’s a general erasure and rewriting of history of Mesopotamia.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, UNESCO’s director-general expressed outrage following the Islamic State’s attack on the Mosul museum. Irina Bokova said, quote, "This attack is far more than a cultural tragedy—this is also a security issue as it fuels sectarianism, violent extremism and conflict in Iraq. ... The systematic destruction of iconic components of Iraq’s rich and diverse heritage that we have been witnessing over the past months is intolerable and it must stop immediately." And, of course, Iraq went—Iraq went through similar problems—not at this scale—during the—in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion, the disorder that followed, when there was also some destruction and looting that occurred.

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Well, I think that’s right. And I think too many people have forgotten that all of this actually began a long time ago. Of course, the scale now is far greater, and the slaughter that’s taking place of human beings is truly horrendous, but the rewriting of Iraq’s history and the erasure of its past actually started with the 2003 war, if not even with the earlier one. So there has been a great deal of destruction of heritage sites, and the attempt to say that this is ingrained in the culture. I think one large problem is that pundits here in the West often say, "Well, these acts are grounded, are based, in the historical reality of Iraq, of Mesopotamia. This is a kind of an internal fight between Shia and Sunni peoples, and we should just mind our own business and leave it alone." But it seems to me that this is completely misguided, because what we are saying is that this is based in history. We’re trying to say—the pundits are trying to say that this is based in a historical reality, when it’s not. It’s a complete rewriting of what was the historical reality. Now, let’s take, for example, the idea of the resurrection of a medieval Islamic state. So, of course, here, everybody says, "Well, they are truly barbaric. They are medieval." But everybody who has read history knows that in the Abbasid empire, the caliphs of the Abbasids valued scholarship. They translated Greek classical texts. They loved the arts and promoted arts and architecture. So, it’s actually quite false to say that in the Middle Ages they were opposed to these things.

    AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you, Professor Bahrani, going back to 2003, the day after Baghdad fell, that famous scene of the looters coming from the Iraqi museum—

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Yes.

    AMY GOODMAN: —and the criticism of the U.S. for not protecting the museum. Going back to that time, declaring that freedom is "untidy," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the looting in Iraq was a result of "pent-up feelings" of oppression, that it would subside as Iraqis adjusted to life without Saddam Hussein. He said, "Freedom’s untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things. They’re also free to live their lives and do wonderful things. And that’s what’s going to happen here." Looting, he said, was not uncommon for countries that experience significant social upheaval. Rumsfeld said, "Stuff happens."

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: I remember his statements very well. I also remember that he was quite taken aback that there was more than one vase in the entire country. And he seemed to have not realized that Iraq is Mesopotamia, the cradle of the world’s civilization. And how he did not know that, I’m really not sure. But he was clearly very mistaken.

    AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the historical legacy of Muslims protecting antiquities, knowledge, philosophy, science?

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Absolutely. I mean, it’s not my specific area of expertise, because I’m a specialist in the pre-Islamic past, but I know enough to know that this heritage has always been there, that Islamic geographers and travelers and historians have written about places like Babylon and Nineveh in the Middle Ages. The caliphs, the Abbasid caliphs especially, supported the scholarship of the ancient Greek classical texts and philosophy and the sciences, in a way that is truly unparalleled not just in the history of Iraq, but, I would say, in a great part of the world. It’s one of the high points of the world’s history of scholarly knowledge.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what’s been the reaction in the rest of the—throughout the rest of the Middle East, of other governments and civil society organizations after they’ve heard about this from yesterday?

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: I think that most of the news that I’ve heard from all over the Middle East is that people are horrified, that everybody is taken aback, because nobody was expecting this extent of just senseless destruction. Of course, this is a very small thing to consider after the mass slaughter, the kidnapping, the rapes, the torture, the daily murdering. So, this is really very much just a kind of a last straw on top of a terrible annihilation of people.

    But what I want to stress is that the destruction of this sculpture, of the heritage sites and the ancient Assyrian and Hadrian sculpture that we saw destroyed in the video, that this is not just about the past. This is about a destruction and an erasure of the history of the people of Iraq, as a way to say that they never belonged here.

    AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you so much for being with us, Zainab Bahrani, professor of Near Eastern and East Mediterranean art and archaeology at Columbia University. Her most recent book is called The Infinite Image: Art, Time and the Aesthetic Dimension in Antiquity.

    This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we’re going to Pasco, Washington. It was there that police killed Antonio Zambrano-Montes. Cellphone video shows him putting up his hands. He was unarmed. Stay with us.

    Antiquities Scholar: Islamic State's Destruction of Museum and Library Is Cultural and Ethnic Cleansing

    Truthout - Mon, 03/02/2015 - 13:41

    Video has surfaced showing militants from the Islamic State destroying ancient artifacts at a museum in the Iraqi city of Mosul. Men are seen toppling statues and using sledgehammers and drills to destroy the artifacts. The Guardian reports one of the statues destroyed was a winged-bull Assyrian protective deity that dates back to the 9th century B.C. The Islamic State has also reportedly destroyed the Mosul public library, which housed more than 8,000 rare books and manuscripts. On Thursday, UNESCO, the cultural arm of the United Nations, called for the U.N. Security Council to hold an emergency meeting on protecting Iraq’s cultural heritage. "I condemn this as a deliberate attack against Iraq’s millennial history and culture, and as an inflammatory incitement to violence and hatred," said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. We speak to Zainab Bahrani, professor of Near Eastern and East Mediterranean art and archeology at Columbia University. She has worked extensively in Iraq, including periods as senior adviser to Iraq’s Ministry of Culture and a UNESCO consultant.

    TRANSCRIPT:

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We turn now to Iraq, where video has surfaced showing militants from the Islamic State destroying ancient artifacts at a museum in the Iraqi city of Mosul. Men are seen toppling statues and using sledgehammers and drills to destroy the artifacts. The Guardian reports one of the statues destroyed was a winged-bull Assyrian protective deity that dates back to the 9th century B.C.

    AMY GOODMAN: On Thurday, UNESCO, the cultural arm of the United Nations, called for the U.N. Security Council to hold an emergency meeting on protecting Iraq’s cultural heritage. UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said, quote, "I condemn this as a deliberate attack against Iraq’s millennial history and culture, and as an inflammatory incitement to violence and hatred."

    UNESCO has also warned about the self-proclaimed Islamic State generating income from the looting and smuggling of cultural heritage items. Earlier this month, the U.N. Security Council banned all trade in antiquities from wartorn Syria and reaffirmed a ban on Iraqi artifact sales from about a decade ago.

    Joining us here in New York is Zainab Bahrani, professor of Near Eastern and East Mediterranean art and archeology at Columbia University. She has worked extensively in Iraq, including periods as senior adviser to Iraq’s Ministry of Culture and, back in 2004 or so, a UNESCO consultant.

    We welcome you, Professor Bahrani, to Democracy Now! Talk about what is happening, the significance—let’s start with the Mosul museum.

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Well, the Mosul museum is a major museum in the Middle East. It’s one of the largest museums in the area, and it has a remarkable collection of finds that date back to the Neolithic era and continue into the Islamic period, so covering thousands of years, going back to about 8,000 B.C.

    AMY GOODMAN: What was your reaction when we saw the video yesterday?

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Well, I think we, all of us who are in the field, were completely horrified. I mean, of course we expected that something like this might happen, ever since ISIS took over the area, took over Mosul. But to see it actually happen was devastating.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what is their rationale or their reasons for doing this?

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Well, the rationale seems to be, from what they are saying on the video, that these are idols, and therefore they are false gods and should be destroyed. But, to me, this actually doesn’t make that much sense, since, of course, a lot of this cultural heritage and these antiquities have been visible since the seventh century A.D., and they have been there unharmed. So, it’s not really clear why now this should happen.

    AMY GOODMAN: On the one hand, the rationale of it being heretical, right, the false idols—

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Yes.

    AMY GOODMAN: —and on the other hand, it’s believed—I mean, I can’t confirm this myself independently—that the militants have sold the ancient artifacts on the black market?

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Well, it seems to be that there is a great deal of selling of antiquities by ISIL. And this has been confirmed by certain people who are watching the trade in antiquities. So they are selling antiquities. One of the arguments is that the objects they destroyed yesterday were the larger pieces that could not be moved out and sold, so they were more likely to be able to destroy them.

    I think that a great deal of the discussion here in the West, and perhaps throughout the world, has focused on the looting rather than the issue of cultural cleansing. The destruction of monuments on site is also something to be concerned about. I mean, the looting for the antiquities market, which is an illicit international market, is very important to consider, because this is very destructive. But the blowing up of shrines and monuments on site is really horrendous, and this is a form of cultural cleansing, certainly, but also ethnic cleansing.

    AMY GOODMAN: Explain.

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Well, it’s a form of ethnic cleansing because this is a region of the world—Mesopotamia has always been a multicultural, mutli-ethnic, multilinguistic and multireligious community, the entirety of the country. And what’s happening now is that diversity is being wiped out. So when you wipe out people’s monuments and heritage, you erase any record of their ever having been there. And it’s a way of creating a terra nulla, if you will, a kind of an empty land that you can conquer and then claim that there was nothing there before. So it’s a general erasure and rewriting of history of Mesopotamia.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, UNESCO’s director-general expressed outrage following the Islamic State’s attack on the Mosul museum. Irina Bokova said, quote, "This attack is far more than a cultural tragedy—this is also a security issue as it fuels sectarianism, violent extremism and conflict in Iraq. ... The systematic destruction of iconic components of Iraq’s rich and diverse heritage that we have been witnessing over the past months is intolerable and it must stop immediately." And, of course, Iraq went—Iraq went through similar problems—not at this scale—during the—in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion, the disorder that followed, when there was also some destruction and looting that occurred.

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Well, I think that’s right. And I think too many people have forgotten that all of this actually began a long time ago. Of course, the scale now is far greater, and the slaughter that’s taking place of human beings is truly horrendous, but the rewriting of Iraq’s history and the erasure of its past actually started with the 2003 war, if not even with the earlier one. So there has been a great deal of destruction of heritage sites, and the attempt to say that this is ingrained in the culture. I think one large problem is that pundits here in the West often say, "Well, these acts are grounded, are based, in the historical reality of Iraq, of Mesopotamia. This is a kind of an internal fight between Shia and Sunni peoples, and we should just mind our own business and leave it alone." But it seems to me that this is completely misguided, because what we are saying is that this is based in history. We’re trying to say—the pundits are trying to say that this is based in a historical reality, when it’s not. It’s a complete rewriting of what was the historical reality. Now, let’s take, for example, the idea of the resurrection of a medieval Islamic state. So, of course, here, everybody says, "Well, they are truly barbaric. They are medieval." But everybody who has read history knows that in the Abbasid empire, the caliphs of the Abbasids valued scholarship. They translated Greek classical texts. They loved the arts and promoted arts and architecture. So, it’s actually quite false to say that in the Middle Ages they were opposed to these things.

    AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you, Professor Bahrani, going back to 2003, the day after Baghdad fell, that famous scene of the looters coming from the Iraqi museum—

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Yes.

    AMY GOODMAN: —and the criticism of the U.S. for not protecting the museum. Going back to that time, declaring that freedom is "untidy," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the looting in Iraq was a result of "pent-up feelings" of oppression, that it would subside as Iraqis adjusted to life without Saddam Hussein. He said, "Freedom’s untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things. They’re also free to live their lives and do wonderful things. And that’s what’s going to happen here." Looting, he said, was not uncommon for countries that experience significant social upheaval. Rumsfeld said, "Stuff happens."

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: I remember his statements very well. I also remember that he was quite taken aback that there was more than one vase in the entire country. And he seemed to have not realized that Iraq is Mesopotamia, the cradle of the world’s civilization. And how he did not know that, I’m really not sure. But he was clearly very mistaken.

    AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the historical legacy of Muslims protecting antiquities, knowledge, philosophy, science?

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Absolutely. I mean, it’s not my specific area of expertise, because I’m a specialist in the pre-Islamic past, but I know enough to know that this heritage has always been there, that Islamic geographers and travelers and historians have written about places like Babylon and Nineveh in the Middle Ages. The caliphs, the Abbasid caliphs especially, supported the scholarship of the ancient Greek classical texts and philosophy and the sciences, in a way that is truly unparalleled not just in the history of Iraq, but, I would say, in a great part of the world. It’s one of the high points of the world’s history of scholarly knowledge.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what’s been the reaction in the rest of the—throughout the rest of the Middle East, of other governments and civil society organizations after they’ve heard about this from yesterday?

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: I think that most of the news that I’ve heard from all over the Middle East is that people are horrified, that everybody is taken aback, because nobody was expecting this extent of just senseless destruction. Of course, this is a very small thing to consider after the mass slaughter, the kidnapping, the rapes, the torture, the daily murdering. So, this is really very much just a kind of a last straw on top of a terrible annihilation of people.

    But what I want to stress is that the destruction of this sculpture, of the heritage sites and the ancient Assyrian and Hadrian sculpture that we saw destroyed in the video, that this is not just about the past. This is about a destruction and an erasure of the history of the people of Iraq, as a way to say that they never belonged here.

    AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you so much for being with us, Zainab Bahrani, professor of Near Eastern and East Mediterranean art and archaeology at Columbia University. Her most recent book is called The Infinite Image: Art, Time and the Aesthetic Dimension in Antiquity.

    This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we’re going to Pasco, Washington. It was there that police killed Antonio Zambrano-Montes. Cellphone video shows him putting up his hands. He was unarmed. Stay with us.

    Antiquities Scholar: Islamic State's Destruction of Museum and Library Is Cultural and Ethnic Cleansing

    Truthout - Mon, 03/02/2015 - 13:41

    Video has surfaced showing militants from the Islamic State destroying ancient artifacts at a museum in the Iraqi city of Mosul. Men are seen toppling statues and using sledgehammers and drills to destroy the artifacts. The Guardian reports one of the statues destroyed was a winged-bull Assyrian protective deity that dates back to the 9th century B.C. The Islamic State has also reportedly destroyed the Mosul public library, which housed more than 8,000 rare books and manuscripts. On Thursday, UNESCO, the cultural arm of the United Nations, called for the U.N. Security Council to hold an emergency meeting on protecting Iraq’s cultural heritage. "I condemn this as a deliberate attack against Iraq’s millennial history and culture, and as an inflammatory incitement to violence and hatred," said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. We speak to Zainab Bahrani, professor of Near Eastern and East Mediterranean art and archeology at Columbia University. She has worked extensively in Iraq, including periods as senior adviser to Iraq’s Ministry of Culture and a UNESCO consultant.

    TRANSCRIPT:

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We turn now to Iraq, where video has surfaced showing militants from the Islamic State destroying ancient artifacts at a museum in the Iraqi city of Mosul. Men are seen toppling statues and using sledgehammers and drills to destroy the artifacts. The Guardian reports one of the statues destroyed was a winged-bull Assyrian protective deity that dates back to the 9th century B.C.

    AMY GOODMAN: On Thurday, UNESCO, the cultural arm of the United Nations, called for the U.N. Security Council to hold an emergency meeting on protecting Iraq’s cultural heritage. UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said, quote, "I condemn this as a deliberate attack against Iraq’s millennial history and culture, and as an inflammatory incitement to violence and hatred."

    UNESCO has also warned about the self-proclaimed Islamic State generating income from the looting and smuggling of cultural heritage items. Earlier this month, the U.N. Security Council banned all trade in antiquities from wartorn Syria and reaffirmed a ban on Iraqi artifact sales from about a decade ago.

    Joining us here in New York is Zainab Bahrani, professor of Near Eastern and East Mediterranean art and archeology at Columbia University. She has worked extensively in Iraq, including periods as senior adviser to Iraq’s Ministry of Culture and, back in 2004 or so, a UNESCO consultant.

    We welcome you, Professor Bahrani, to Democracy Now! Talk about what is happening, the significance—let’s start with the Mosul museum.

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Well, the Mosul museum is a major museum in the Middle East. It’s one of the largest museums in the area, and it has a remarkable collection of finds that date back to the Neolithic era and continue into the Islamic period, so covering thousands of years, going back to about 8,000 B.C.

    AMY GOODMAN: What was your reaction when we saw the video yesterday?

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Well, I think we, all of us who are in the field, were completely horrified. I mean, of course we expected that something like this might happen, ever since ISIS took over the area, took over Mosul. But to see it actually happen was devastating.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what is their rationale or their reasons for doing this?

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Well, the rationale seems to be, from what they are saying on the video, that these are idols, and therefore they are false gods and should be destroyed. But, to me, this actually doesn’t make that much sense, since, of course, a lot of this cultural heritage and these antiquities have been visible since the seventh century A.D., and they have been there unharmed. So, it’s not really clear why now this should happen.

    AMY GOODMAN: On the one hand, the rationale of it being heretical, right, the false idols—

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Yes.

    AMY GOODMAN: —and on the other hand, it’s believed—I mean, I can’t confirm this myself independently—that the militants have sold the ancient artifacts on the black market?

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Well, it seems to be that there is a great deal of selling of antiquities by ISIL. And this has been confirmed by certain people who are watching the trade in antiquities. So they are selling antiquities. One of the arguments is that the objects they destroyed yesterday were the larger pieces that could not be moved out and sold, so they were more likely to be able to destroy them.

    I think that a great deal of the discussion here in the West, and perhaps throughout the world, has focused on the looting rather than the issue of cultural cleansing. The destruction of monuments on site is also something to be concerned about. I mean, the looting for the antiquities market, which is an illicit international market, is very important to consider, because this is very destructive. But the blowing up of shrines and monuments on site is really horrendous, and this is a form of cultural cleansing, certainly, but also ethnic cleansing.

    AMY GOODMAN: Explain.

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Well, it’s a form of ethnic cleansing because this is a region of the world—Mesopotamia has always been a multicultural, mutli-ethnic, multilinguistic and multireligious community, the entirety of the country. And what’s happening now is that diversity is being wiped out. So when you wipe out people’s monuments and heritage, you erase any record of their ever having been there. And it’s a way of creating a terra nulla, if you will, a kind of an empty land that you can conquer and then claim that there was nothing there before. So it’s a general erasure and rewriting of history of Mesopotamia.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, UNESCO’s director-general expressed outrage following the Islamic State’s attack on the Mosul museum. Irina Bokova said, quote, "This attack is far more than a cultural tragedy—this is also a security issue as it fuels sectarianism, violent extremism and conflict in Iraq. ... The systematic destruction of iconic components of Iraq’s rich and diverse heritage that we have been witnessing over the past months is intolerable and it must stop immediately." And, of course, Iraq went—Iraq went through similar problems—not at this scale—during the—in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion, the disorder that followed, when there was also some destruction and looting that occurred.

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Well, I think that’s right. And I think too many people have forgotten that all of this actually began a long time ago. Of course, the scale now is far greater, and the slaughter that’s taking place of human beings is truly horrendous, but the rewriting of Iraq’s history and the erasure of its past actually started with the 2003 war, if not even with the earlier one. So there has been a great deal of destruction of heritage sites, and the attempt to say that this is ingrained in the culture. I think one large problem is that pundits here in the West often say, "Well, these acts are grounded, are based, in the historical reality of Iraq, of Mesopotamia. This is a kind of an internal fight between Shia and Sunni peoples, and we should just mind our own business and leave it alone." But it seems to me that this is completely misguided, because what we are saying is that this is based in history. We’re trying to say—the pundits are trying to say that this is based in a historical reality, when it’s not. It’s a complete rewriting of what was the historical reality. Now, let’s take, for example, the idea of the resurrection of a medieval Islamic state. So, of course, here, everybody says, "Well, they are truly barbaric. They are medieval." But everybody who has read history knows that in the Abbasid empire, the caliphs of the Abbasids valued scholarship. They translated Greek classical texts. They loved the arts and promoted arts and architecture. So, it’s actually quite false to say that in the Middle Ages they were opposed to these things.

    AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you, Professor Bahrani, going back to 2003, the day after Baghdad fell, that famous scene of the looters coming from the Iraqi museum—

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Yes.

    AMY GOODMAN: —and the criticism of the U.S. for not protecting the museum. Going back to that time, declaring that freedom is "untidy," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the looting in Iraq was a result of "pent-up feelings" of oppression, that it would subside as Iraqis adjusted to life without Saddam Hussein. He said, "Freedom’s untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things. They’re also free to live their lives and do wonderful things. And that’s what’s going to happen here." Looting, he said, was not uncommon for countries that experience significant social upheaval. Rumsfeld said, "Stuff happens."

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: I remember his statements very well. I also remember that he was quite taken aback that there was more than one vase in the entire country. And he seemed to have not realized that Iraq is Mesopotamia, the cradle of the world’s civilization. And how he did not know that, I’m really not sure. But he was clearly very mistaken.

    AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the historical legacy of Muslims protecting antiquities, knowledge, philosophy, science?

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: Absolutely. I mean, it’s not my specific area of expertise, because I’m a specialist in the pre-Islamic past, but I know enough to know that this heritage has always been there, that Islamic geographers and travelers and historians have written about places like Babylon and Nineveh in the Middle Ages. The caliphs, the Abbasid caliphs especially, supported the scholarship of the ancient Greek classical texts and philosophy and the sciences, in a way that is truly unparalleled not just in the history of Iraq, but, I would say, in a great part of the world. It’s one of the high points of the world’s history of scholarly knowledge.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what’s been the reaction in the rest of the—throughout the rest of the Middle East, of other governments and civil society organizations after they’ve heard about this from yesterday?

    ZAINAB BAHRANI: I think that most of the news that I’ve heard from all over the Middle East is that people are horrified, that everybody is taken aback, because nobody was expecting this extent of just senseless destruction. Of course, this is a very small thing to consider after the mass slaughter, the kidnapping, the rapes, the torture, the daily murdering. So, this is really very much just a kind of a last straw on top of a terrible annihilation of people.

    But what I want to stress is that the destruction of this sculpture, of the heritage sites and the ancient Assyrian and Hadrian sculpture that we saw destroyed in the video, that this is not just about the past. This is about a destruction and an erasure of the history of the people of Iraq, as a way to say that they never belonged here.

    AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you so much for being with us, Zainab Bahrani, professor of Near Eastern and East Mediterranean art and archaeology at Columbia University. Her most recent book is called The Infinite Image: Art, Time and the Aesthetic Dimension in Antiquity.

    This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we’re going to Pasco, Washington. It was there that police killed Antonio Zambrano-Montes. Cellphone video shows him putting up his hands. He was unarmed. Stay with us.

    Police Killing of Unarmed Mexican Farmworker in Washington State Sparks Protest

    Truthout - Mon, 03/02/2015 - 13:36

    Authorities in Pasco, Washington, have revealed police fired 17 shots at Antonio Zambrano-Montes, an unarmed Mexican farmworker who was shot dead on February 10. Cellphone video shows Zambrano turning to face police and raising his hands before he is shot. The shooting has sparked weeks of protests. Live from Pasco, we speak with Felix Vargas, chairman of Consejo Latino, a group of local businessmen in Pasco who are working with Zambrano’s family. We also talk to Jennifer Shaw, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington state and a member of the Community Police Commission in Seattle.

    TRANSCRIPT:

    AMY GOODMAN: After our next segment, we’ll talk about Governor Scott Walker comparing unions to the self-proclaimed Islamic State. But first, this.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, for the second time in about two weeks, the Mexican government has expressed outrage over police shootings of unarmed immigrants by police officers in the United States. Mexican authorities say police in Grapevine, Texas, violated a decades-old treaty by waiting four days to inform them of the killing of Rubén García Villalpando. Police say they shot García early Saturday morning during a traffic stop, after he defied orders to halt and walked toward a patrol car with his hands in the air. García’s attorney and a local activist described their account of the shooting to news station KDFW.

    CARLOS QUINTANILLA: When the officers said, "Don’t move, mother F," he stayed there. And for one reason or another, Rubén begins to walk towards a police officer, and that one second passed, and the officer fired twice—pop, pop—and Rubén was dead.

    DOMINGO GARCIA: When this video is released, you will show that there is a man, who has no prior criminal record, a wife and four children, who puts his hands on his head, and is shot through twice because he asked the officer to treat him with respect and dignity and not to be calling him "mother F," multiple times.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: The shooting in Texas comes just 10 days after the police killing of Antonio Zambrano-Montes in Pasco, Washington. Zambrano was reportedly throwing rocks at police officers when he was killed. The incident happened at a busy intersection. Several eyewitnesses recorded cellphone video that shows Zambrano turning to face police, raising his hands before he’s shot. On Thursday, authorities confirmed how many times they fired at Zambrano. This is Sergeant Ken Lattin of the Kennewick County Police Department.

    SGT. KEN LATTIN: Ultimately—this was a question that you had had—we’ve determined that they fired their weapons 17 times. Seventeen rounds were fired. Of those, five or six rounds struck Mr. Zambrano. We say five or six rounds because there’s obviously been two autopsies: one by—conducted by the medical examiner that was brought in by the coroner, and then, as Mr. Sant specified last week, the body was released to the family, they brought in their own independent pathologist to do an autopsy. And so, those results of both autopsies are not yet complete. Without going into any sort of gruesome detail, it’s not easy to determine, when you look at entry wounds and exit wounds, for sure, how many rounds.

    AMY GOODMAN: The Pasco police also said Zambrano was not shot in the back, contradicting an independent autopsy by the victim’s family that found two entry wounds on the back of his body—one on the back his right arm and another in his buttocks. Zambrano’s family has now hired the attorney for Michael Brown’s family in Ferguson, Missouri, Benjamin Crump, who visited Pasco to meet with them this week. Pasco is about, oh, three-and-a-half hours southeast of Seattle.

    All of this comes as the Mexican government reports 75 Mexicans have been killed by law officers in the United States since 2006.

    For more, we go to Pasco, Washington, where we’re joined by Felix Vargas, the chairman of Consejo Latino, a group of local businessmen in Pasco who are working with Zambrano’s family and helping to call for justice in his shooting death. Vargas is a retired U.S. diplomat and Army colonel.

    And we’re joined in Seattle by Jennifer Shaw, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington state and a member of the Community Police Commission in Seattle. She wrote a letter urging the Justice Department to launch an investigation into the fatal police shooting of Antonio Zambrano-Montes in Pasco, saying the local police probe is needlessly focusing on his activities prior to the incident.

    We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Let’s go directly to Pasco. Felix Vargas, explain what happened and the fact there’s so much video of this. It was during rush hour?

    FELIX VARGAS: Yes, it was. A crowded intersection, downtown Pasco, a gentleman is seen throwing rocks at cars. Police are called. There’s a minor scuffle. And then you see the gentleman running across the street away from the police. The police draw their weapons and fire an initial volley of shots at him. It appears that they hit him. He gets to the other side of the street, he turns left, heads west. The police are in pursuit of him, three, four yards behind him. He’s wounded. He turns around, appears to raise his arms up. He does not have a knife or a gun in his hand. And then he is effectively executed by the second volley of shots. In all, as you said, 17 shots were fired. The initial autopsy shows that five to six rounds made impact. We have a second autopsy, which was performed by the family’s forensic examiner, and that shows seven to eight impacts on the body. So, that is what has happened. It has really disturbed this community as never before.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Mr. Vargas, what has been so far the reaction of local authorities in terms of the police officers involved?

    FELIX VARGAS: Well, the authorities have promised to withhold judgment until a police investigation of the police shooting takes place. There’s a special investigative unit, which is set up, excluding the participation by the Pasco police. But that particular unit is talking to witnesses and doing their own investigation. They do emphasize that this will be an impartial, objective investigation. That is really the process, after which the Franklin County prosecutor will determine if there are sufficient grounds to levy charges against the three police shooters, and then the case will go to trial. There’s also a call for a coroner’s inquest after this particular investigation. It is simply not a credible investigation—I need to add that.

    AMY GOODMAN: Why isn’t it credible?

    FELIX VARGAS: It’s not credible because it involves a group of police officers, who are brothers in uniform of the perpetrators of the shooting. It is not credible because in the last six months we’ve had four incidents, including this one; in the three previous incidents, the police have been exonerated. There is one other example of a shooting here six months ago of a young man also who suffered from mental illness, as did Antonio Zambrano, and also suffered from substance abuse—similar circumstances, again, shot with excessive—by excessive use of force here by the police. There is an inherent conflict of interest here whenever you have a police organization investigating its own. We need a higher-level investigation here, and that can only come from the Department of Justice here, that the—you know, that the community can have some reasonable grounds to believe that it will be independent. So, it’s important that we have this.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And in terms of the general state of relations in your part of the state, there’s been, obviously, a growing population of Mexican, especially Mexican, population as a result of the large agriculture there in the area. Can you talk about the state of relations in Washington?

    FELIX VARGAS: Well, the state of relations is really quite good. We do have a city of 68,000, 60 percent of which are Hispanic. They’re drawn here primarily because of our very vibrant agricultural economy that we have here. And we really haven’t had any incidents. There is some unease with the police, because they don’t have enough certified language speakers. It is a police made up primarily of Anglo policemen. So, the relations are cordial. I wouldn’t say they’re warm. We have, as an organization, tried to improve that relationship and to build confidence within the community towards the police force. We met with the police chief two weeks before the incident to review his policies and procedures and to assure ourselves that we will not have an incident similar to the one in Ferguson. We received assurances that the training, the protocols were all in place to avoid this kind of situation. We’re greatly disappointed, really, in the leadership of the police chief, because we simply do not know if he knows what goes on within his police force.

    AMY GOODMAN: You are a leading member of the community, a businessman, former military. Are you calling for the police chief to step down?

    FELIX VARGAS: Not at this point. You know, there are things that have happened which caused us to believe that he’s not in control of his police force. It’s premature to do that. I think we need to let certain investigatory practices proceed. We would like to see active engagement by the Department of Justice in this regard. While the police chief has, I think, some lack in credibility, we’re not prepared to call for his—for him to step down at this point. We may do so later on.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And we’re also joined by Jennifer Shaw, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington state and a member of the Community Police Commission in Seattle. She wrote a letter urging the Justice Department to launch an investigation into the shooting of Antonio Zambrano-Montes in Pasco, saying the local police probe was needlessly focusing on his activities prior to the incident. Could you—Jennifer, could you summarize your concerns for us?

    JENNIFER SHAW: Well, sure, and thank you for reaching out to us. You know, we’re seeing across the country a real need for a culture change within our police departments. As Mr. Vargas points out, it is concerning to have police investigating their own, and particularly the notion of trying to find something wrong with the person that was shot as a justification for the shooting. We saw the same thing with Trayvon Martin. There was comments about he smoked pot. Other—you know, the comments about Michael Brown, that he had engaged in other criminal activity, at a time when the officer wasn’t even aware of it. So it’s really not relevant what the victim of the shooting was doing two weeks ago, or two weeks prior to the shooting, and to have that be what appears to be the primary focus is really concerning. It’s also concerning that the police officers that were involved in the shooting have still not been interviewed by the investigators.

    AMY GOODMAN: And so, what needs to happen right now, Jennifer Shaw?

    JENNIFER SHAW: Well, certainly, there needs to be a full and impartial investigation of this incident, but also there needs to be a review of the current policies and practices and training within the Pasco Police Department. What we’re seeing in Washington, and really across the country, is that police departments have been using outdated use-of-force policies. Their training is really much more focused on how to use force, not how to avoid using force. And so, tragically, we keep seeing these kinds of incidents.

    AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back to Sergeant Ken Lattin of the Kennewick County Police Department answering questions during Thursday’s news conference.

    REPORTER: Have you interviewed the three officers?

    SGT. KEN LATTIN: Good question. So as we’ve—that seems to be a big question each week. And we’ve got to have all the information before they sit down with those, so they’ve got to get those transcriptions done, so that the lead investigator that will sit down and interview with the officers has all the information. So, that—we’re not to that point yet. It’s still being set up.

    REPORTER: So all the other witnesses that you want to talk to would be interviewed first, all that material transcribed—

    SGT. KEN LATTIN: Absolutely.

    REPORTER: —and the three officers will be the last people you interview?

    SGT. KEN LATTIN: Correct.

    AMY GOODMAN: Jennifer Shaw, your comment on this? The witnesses will be interviewed first, and then the officers will be interviewed last.

    JENNIFER SHAW: Well, when you think of any other investigation of a shooting by an individual, of another individual, with witnesses around, imagine that the police would wait 10 days, two weeks, before interviewing the person who was doing the shooting. It seems unreasonable. It seems, actually, kind of dangerous, for public safety purposes, to wait that long for the witnesses—or, for the officers to sit down and kind of read through everything and come up with a story. I mean, the idea of an investigation is to find out what happened from everybody that was involved. And it seems like these officers are being given special consideration because they’re police officers.

    AMY GOODMAN: Jennifer Shaw, we want to thank you for joining us from the Washington ACLU in Seattle, and, Felix Vargas, for joining us from your home in Pasco, Washington, with Consejo Latino. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report, as we move on to our last segment. Juan?

    Police Killing of Unarmed Mexican Farmworker in Washington State Sparks Protest

    Truthout - Mon, 03/02/2015 - 13:36

    Authorities in Pasco, Washington, have revealed police fired 17 shots at Antonio Zambrano-Montes, an unarmed Mexican farmworker who was shot dead on February 10. Cellphone video shows Zambrano turning to face police and raising his hands before he is shot. The shooting has sparked weeks of protests. Live from Pasco, we speak with Felix Vargas, chairman of Consejo Latino, a group of local businessmen in Pasco who are working with Zambrano’s family. We also talk to Jennifer Shaw, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington state and a member of the Community Police Commission in Seattle.

    TRANSCRIPT:

    AMY GOODMAN: After our next segment, we’ll talk about Governor Scott Walker comparing unions to the self-proclaimed Islamic State. But first, this.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, for the second time in about two weeks, the Mexican government has expressed outrage over police shootings of unarmed immigrants by police officers in the United States. Mexican authorities say police in Grapevine, Texas, violated a decades-old treaty by waiting four days to inform them of the killing of Rubén García Villalpando. Police say they shot García early Saturday morning during a traffic stop, after he defied orders to halt and walked toward a patrol car with his hands in the air. García’s attorney and a local activist described their account of the shooting to news station KDFW.

    CARLOS QUINTANILLA: When the officers said, "Don’t move, mother F," he stayed there. And for one reason or another, Rubén begins to walk towards a police officer, and that one second passed, and the officer fired twice—pop, pop—and Rubén was dead.

    DOMINGO GARCIA: When this video is released, you will show that there is a man, who has no prior criminal record, a wife and four children, who puts his hands on his head, and is shot through twice because he asked the officer to treat him with respect and dignity and not to be calling him "mother F," multiple times.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: The shooting in Texas comes just 10 days after the police killing of Antonio Zambrano-Montes in Pasco, Washington. Zambrano was reportedly throwing rocks at police officers when he was killed. The incident happened at a busy intersection. Several eyewitnesses recorded cellphone video that shows Zambrano turning to face police, raising his hands before he’s shot. On Thursday, authorities confirmed how many times they fired at Zambrano. This is Sergeant Ken Lattin of the Kennewick County Police Department.

    SGT. KEN LATTIN: Ultimately—this was a question that you had had—we’ve determined that they fired their weapons 17 times. Seventeen rounds were fired. Of those, five or six rounds struck Mr. Zambrano. We say five or six rounds because there’s obviously been two autopsies: one by—conducted by the medical examiner that was brought in by the coroner, and then, as Mr. Sant specified last week, the body was released to the family, they brought in their own independent pathologist to do an autopsy. And so, those results of both autopsies are not yet complete. Without going into any sort of gruesome detail, it’s not easy to determine, when you look at entry wounds and exit wounds, for sure, how many rounds.

    AMY GOODMAN: The Pasco police also said Zambrano was not shot in the back, contradicting an independent autopsy by the victim’s family that found two entry wounds on the back of his body—one on the back his right arm and another in his buttocks. Zambrano’s family has now hired the attorney for Michael Brown’s family in Ferguson, Missouri, Benjamin Crump, who visited Pasco to meet with them this week. Pasco is about, oh, three-and-a-half hours southeast of Seattle.

    All of this comes as the Mexican government reports 75 Mexicans have been killed by law officers in the United States since 2006.

    For more, we go to Pasco, Washington, where we’re joined by Felix Vargas, the chairman of Consejo Latino, a group of local businessmen in Pasco who are working with Zambrano’s family and helping to call for justice in his shooting death. Vargas is a retired U.S. diplomat and Army colonel.

    And we’re joined in Seattle by Jennifer Shaw, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington state and a member of the Community Police Commission in Seattle. She wrote a letter urging the Justice Department to launch an investigation into the fatal police shooting of Antonio Zambrano-Montes in Pasco, saying the local police probe is needlessly focusing on his activities prior to the incident.

    We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Let’s go directly to Pasco. Felix Vargas, explain what happened and the fact there’s so much video of this. It was during rush hour?

    FELIX VARGAS: Yes, it was. A crowded intersection, downtown Pasco, a gentleman is seen throwing rocks at cars. Police are called. There’s a minor scuffle. And then you see the gentleman running across the street away from the police. The police draw their weapons and fire an initial volley of shots at him. It appears that they hit him. He gets to the other side of the street, he turns left, heads west. The police are in pursuit of him, three, four yards behind him. He’s wounded. He turns around, appears to raise his arms up. He does not have a knife or a gun in his hand. And then he is effectively executed by the second volley of shots. In all, as you said, 17 shots were fired. The initial autopsy shows that five to six rounds made impact. We have a second autopsy, which was performed by the family’s forensic examiner, and that shows seven to eight impacts on the body. So, that is what has happened. It has really disturbed this community as never before.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Mr. Vargas, what has been so far the reaction of local authorities in terms of the police officers involved?

    FELIX VARGAS: Well, the authorities have promised to withhold judgment until a police investigation of the police shooting takes place. There’s a special investigative unit, which is set up, excluding the participation by the Pasco police. But that particular unit is talking to witnesses and doing their own investigation. They do emphasize that this will be an impartial, objective investigation. That is really the process, after which the Franklin County prosecutor will determine if there are sufficient grounds to levy charges against the three police shooters, and then the case will go to trial. There’s also a call for a coroner’s inquest after this particular investigation. It is simply not a credible investigation—I need to add that.

    AMY GOODMAN: Why isn’t it credible?

    FELIX VARGAS: It’s not credible because it involves a group of police officers, who are brothers in uniform of the perpetrators of the shooting. It is not credible because in the last six months we’ve had four incidents, including this one; in the three previous incidents, the police have been exonerated. There is one other example of a shooting here six months ago of a young man also who suffered from mental illness, as did Antonio Zambrano, and also suffered from substance abuse—similar circumstances, again, shot with excessive—by excessive use of force here by the police. There is an inherent conflict of interest here whenever you have a police organization investigating its own. We need a higher-level investigation here, and that can only come from the Department of Justice here, that the—you know, that the community can have some reasonable grounds to believe that it will be independent. So, it’s important that we have this.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And in terms of the general state of relations in your part of the state, there’s been, obviously, a growing population of Mexican, especially Mexican, population as a result of the large agriculture there in the area. Can you talk about the state of relations in Washington?

    FELIX VARGAS: Well, the state of relations is really quite good. We do have a city of 68,000, 60 percent of which are Hispanic. They’re drawn here primarily because of our very vibrant agricultural economy that we have here. And we really haven’t had any incidents. There is some unease with the police, because they don’t have enough certified language speakers. It is a police made up primarily of Anglo policemen. So, the relations are cordial. I wouldn’t say they’re warm. We have, as an organization, tried to improve that relationship and to build confidence within the community towards the police force. We met with the police chief two weeks before the incident to review his policies and procedures and to assure ourselves that we will not have an incident similar to the one in Ferguson. We received assurances that the training, the protocols were all in place to avoid this kind of situation. We’re greatly disappointed, really, in the leadership of the police chief, because we simply do not know if he knows what goes on within his police force.

    AMY GOODMAN: You are a leading member of the community, a businessman, former military. Are you calling for the police chief to step down?

    FELIX VARGAS: Not at this point. You know, there are things that have happened which caused us to believe that he’s not in control of his police force. It’s premature to do that. I think we need to let certain investigatory practices proceed. We would like to see active engagement by the Department of Justice in this regard. While the police chief has, I think, some lack in credibility, we’re not prepared to call for his—for him to step down at this point. We may do so later on.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And we’re also joined by Jennifer Shaw, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington state and a member of the Community Police Commission in Seattle. She wrote a letter urging the Justice Department to launch an investigation into the shooting of Antonio Zambrano-Montes in Pasco, saying the local police probe was needlessly focusing on his activities prior to the incident. Could you—Jennifer, could you summarize your concerns for us?

    JENNIFER SHAW: Well, sure, and thank you for reaching out to us. You know, we’re seeing across the country a real need for a culture change within our police departments. As Mr. Vargas points out, it is concerning to have police investigating their own, and particularly the notion of trying to find something wrong with the person that was shot as a justification for the shooting. We saw the same thing with Trayvon Martin. There was comments about he smoked pot. Other—you know, the comments about Michael Brown, that he had engaged in other criminal activity, at a time when the officer wasn’t even aware of it. So it’s really not relevant what the victim of the shooting was doing two weeks ago, or two weeks prior to the shooting, and to have that be what appears to be the primary focus is really concerning. It’s also concerning that the police officers that were involved in the shooting have still not been interviewed by the investigators.

    AMY GOODMAN: And so, what needs to happen right now, Jennifer Shaw?

    JENNIFER SHAW: Well, certainly, there needs to be a full and impartial investigation of this incident, but also there needs to be a review of the current policies and practices and training within the Pasco Police Department. What we’re seeing in Washington, and really across the country, is that police departments have been using outdated use-of-force policies. Their training is really much more focused on how to use force, not how to avoid using force. And so, tragically, we keep seeing these kinds of incidents.

    AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back to Sergeant Ken Lattin of the Kennewick County Police Department answering questions during Thursday’s news conference.

    REPORTER: Have you interviewed the three officers?

    SGT. KEN LATTIN: Good question. So as we’ve—that seems to be a big question each week. And we’ve got to have all the information before they sit down with those, so they’ve got to get those transcriptions done, so that the lead investigator that will sit down and interview with the officers has all the information. So, that—we’re not to that point yet. It’s still being set up.

    REPORTER: So all the other witnesses that you want to talk to would be interviewed first, all that material transcribed—

    SGT. KEN LATTIN: Absolutely.

    REPORTER: —and the three officers will be the last people you interview?

    SGT. KEN LATTIN: Correct.

    AMY GOODMAN: Jennifer Shaw, your comment on this? The witnesses will be interviewed first, and then the officers will be interviewed last.

    JENNIFER SHAW: Well, when you think of any other investigation of a shooting by an individual, of another individual, with witnesses around, imagine that the police would wait 10 days, two weeks, before interviewing the person who was doing the shooting. It seems unreasonable. It seems, actually, kind of dangerous, for public safety purposes, to wait that long for the witnesses—or, for the officers to sit down and kind of read through everything and come up with a story. I mean, the idea of an investigation is to find out what happened from everybody that was involved. And it seems like these officers are being given special consideration because they’re police officers.

    AMY GOODMAN: Jennifer Shaw, we want to thank you for joining us from the Washington ACLU in Seattle, and, Felix Vargas, for joining us from your home in Pasco, Washington, with Consejo Latino. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report, as we move on to our last segment. Juan?

    Police Killing of Unarmed Mexican Farmworker in Washington State Sparks Protest

    Truthout - Mon, 03/02/2015 - 13:36

    Authorities in Pasco, Washington, have revealed police fired 17 shots at Antonio Zambrano-Montes, an unarmed Mexican farmworker who was shot dead on February 10. Cellphone video shows Zambrano turning to face police and raising his hands before he is shot. The shooting has sparked weeks of protests. Live from Pasco, we speak with Felix Vargas, chairman of Consejo Latino, a group of local businessmen in Pasco who are working with Zambrano’s family. We also talk to Jennifer Shaw, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington state and a member of the Community Police Commission in Seattle.

    TRANSCRIPT:

    AMY GOODMAN: After our next segment, we’ll talk about Governor Scott Walker comparing unions to the self-proclaimed Islamic State. But first, this.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, for the second time in about two weeks, the Mexican government has expressed outrage over police shootings of unarmed immigrants by police officers in the United States. Mexican authorities say police in Grapevine, Texas, violated a decades-old treaty by waiting four days to inform them of the killing of Rubén García Villalpando. Police say they shot García early Saturday morning during a traffic stop, after he defied orders to halt and walked toward a patrol car with his hands in the air. García’s attorney and a local activist described their account of the shooting to news station KDFW.

    CARLOS QUINTANILLA: When the officers said, "Don’t move, mother F," he stayed there. And for one reason or another, Rubén begins to walk towards a police officer, and that one second passed, and the officer fired twice—pop, pop—and Rubén was dead.

    DOMINGO GARCIA: When this video is released, you will show that there is a man, who has no prior criminal record, a wife and four children, who puts his hands on his head, and is shot through twice because he asked the officer to treat him with respect and dignity and not to be calling him "mother F," multiple times.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: The shooting in Texas comes just 10 days after the police killing of Antonio Zambrano-Montes in Pasco, Washington. Zambrano was reportedly throwing rocks at police officers when he was killed. The incident happened at a busy intersection. Several eyewitnesses recorded cellphone video that shows Zambrano turning to face police, raising his hands before he’s shot. On Thursday, authorities confirmed how many times they fired at Zambrano. This is Sergeant Ken Lattin of the Kennewick County Police Department.

    SGT. KEN LATTIN: Ultimately—this was a question that you had had—we’ve determined that they fired their weapons 17 times. Seventeen rounds were fired. Of those, five or six rounds struck Mr. Zambrano. We say five or six rounds because there’s obviously been two autopsies: one by—conducted by the medical examiner that was brought in by the coroner, and then, as Mr. Sant specified last week, the body was released to the family, they brought in their own independent pathologist to do an autopsy. And so, those results of both autopsies are not yet complete. Without going into any sort of gruesome detail, it’s not easy to determine, when you look at entry wounds and exit wounds, for sure, how many rounds.

    AMY GOODMAN: The Pasco police also said Zambrano was not shot in the back, contradicting an independent autopsy by the victim’s family that found two entry wounds on the back of his body—one on the back his right arm and another in his buttocks. Zambrano’s family has now hired the attorney for Michael Brown’s family in Ferguson, Missouri, Benjamin Crump, who visited Pasco to meet with them this week. Pasco is about, oh, three-and-a-half hours southeast of Seattle.

    All of this comes as the Mexican government reports 75 Mexicans have been killed by law officers in the United States since 2006.

    For more, we go to Pasco, Washington, where we’re joined by Felix Vargas, the chairman of Consejo Latino, a group of local businessmen in Pasco who are working with Zambrano’s family and helping to call for justice in his shooting death. Vargas is a retired U.S. diplomat and Army colonel.

    And we’re joined in Seattle by Jennifer Shaw, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington state and a member of the Community Police Commission in Seattle. She wrote a letter urging the Justice Department to launch an investigation into the fatal police shooting of Antonio Zambrano-Montes in Pasco, saying the local police probe is needlessly focusing on his activities prior to the incident.

    We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Let’s go directly to Pasco. Felix Vargas, explain what happened and the fact there’s so much video of this. It was during rush hour?

    FELIX VARGAS: Yes, it was. A crowded intersection, downtown Pasco, a gentleman is seen throwing rocks at cars. Police are called. There’s a minor scuffle. And then you see the gentleman running across the street away from the police. The police draw their weapons and fire an initial volley of shots at him. It appears that they hit him. He gets to the other side of the street, he turns left, heads west. The police are in pursuit of him, three, four yards behind him. He’s wounded. He turns around, appears to raise his arms up. He does not have a knife or a gun in his hand. And then he is effectively executed by the second volley of shots. In all, as you said, 17 shots were fired. The initial autopsy shows that five to six rounds made impact. We have a second autopsy, which was performed by the family’s forensic examiner, and that shows seven to eight impacts on the body. So, that is what has happened. It has really disturbed this community as never before.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Mr. Vargas, what has been so far the reaction of local authorities in terms of the police officers involved?

    FELIX VARGAS: Well, the authorities have promised to withhold judgment until a police investigation of the police shooting takes place. There’s a special investigative unit, which is set up, excluding the participation by the Pasco police. But that particular unit is talking to witnesses and doing their own investigation. They do emphasize that this will be an impartial, objective investigation. That is really the process, after which the Franklin County prosecutor will determine if there are sufficient grounds to levy charges against the three police shooters, and then the case will go to trial. There’s also a call for a coroner’s inquest after this particular investigation. It is simply not a credible investigation—I need to add that.

    AMY GOODMAN: Why isn’t it credible?

    FELIX VARGAS: It’s not credible because it involves a group of police officers, who are brothers in uniform of the perpetrators of the shooting. It is not credible because in the last six months we’ve had four incidents, including this one; in the three previous incidents, the police have been exonerated. There is one other example of a shooting here six months ago of a young man also who suffered from mental illness, as did Antonio Zambrano, and also suffered from substance abuse—similar circumstances, again, shot with excessive—by excessive use of force here by the police. There is an inherent conflict of interest here whenever you have a police organization investigating its own. We need a higher-level investigation here, and that can only come from the Department of Justice here, that the—you know, that the community can have some reasonable grounds to believe that it will be independent. So, it’s important that we have this.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And in terms of the general state of relations in your part of the state, there’s been, obviously, a growing population of Mexican, especially Mexican, population as a result of the large agriculture there in the area. Can you talk about the state of relations in Washington?

    FELIX VARGAS: Well, the state of relations is really quite good. We do have a city of 68,000, 60 percent of which are Hispanic. They’re drawn here primarily because of our very vibrant agricultural economy that we have here. And we really haven’t had any incidents. There is some unease with the police, because they don’t have enough certified language speakers. It is a police made up primarily of Anglo policemen. So, the relations are cordial. I wouldn’t say they’re warm. We have, as an organization, tried to improve that relationship and to build confidence within the community towards the police force. We met with the police chief two weeks before the incident to review his policies and procedures and to assure ourselves that we will not have an incident similar to the one in Ferguson. We received assurances that the training, the protocols were all in place to avoid this kind of situation. We’re greatly disappointed, really, in the leadership of the police chief, because we simply do not know if he knows what goes on within his police force.

    AMY GOODMAN: You are a leading member of the community, a businessman, former military. Are you calling for the police chief to step down?

    FELIX VARGAS: Not at this point. You know, there are things that have happened which caused us to believe that he’s not in control of his police force. It’s premature to do that. I think we need to let certain investigatory practices proceed. We would like to see active engagement by the Department of Justice in this regard. While the police chief has, I think, some lack in credibility, we’re not prepared to call for his—for him to step down at this point. We may do so later on.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And we’re also joined by Jennifer Shaw, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington state and a member of the Community Police Commission in Seattle. She wrote a letter urging the Justice Department to launch an investigation into the shooting of Antonio Zambrano-Montes in Pasco, saying the local police probe was needlessly focusing on his activities prior to the incident. Could you—Jennifer, could you summarize your concerns for us?

    JENNIFER SHAW: Well, sure, and thank you for reaching out to us. You know, we’re seeing across the country a real need for a culture change within our police departments. As Mr. Vargas points out, it is concerning to have police investigating their own, and particularly the notion of trying to find something wrong with the person that was shot as a justification for the shooting. We saw the same thing with Trayvon Martin. There was comments about he smoked pot. Other—you know, the comments about Michael Brown, that he had engaged in other criminal activity, at a time when the officer wasn’t even aware of it. So it’s really not relevant what the victim of the shooting was doing two weeks ago, or two weeks prior to the shooting, and to have that be what appears to be the primary focus is really concerning. It’s also concerning that the police officers that were involved in the shooting have still not been interviewed by the investigators.

    AMY GOODMAN: And so, what needs to happen right now, Jennifer Shaw?

    JENNIFER SHAW: Well, certainly, there needs to be a full and impartial investigation of this incident, but also there needs to be a review of the current policies and practices and training within the Pasco Police Department. What we’re seeing in Washington, and really across the country, is that police departments have been using outdated use-of-force policies. Their training is really much more focused on how to use force, not how to avoid using force. And so, tragically, we keep seeing these kinds of incidents.

    AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back to Sergeant Ken Lattin of the Kennewick County Police Department answering questions during Thursday’s news conference.

    REPORTER: Have you interviewed the three officers?

    SGT. KEN LATTIN: Good question. So as we’ve—that seems to be a big question each week. And we’ve got to have all the information before they sit down with those, so they’ve got to get those transcriptions done, so that the lead investigator that will sit down and interview with the officers has all the information. So, that—we’re not to that point yet. It’s still being set up.

    REPORTER: So all the other witnesses that you want to talk to would be interviewed first, all that material transcribed—

    SGT. KEN LATTIN: Absolutely.

    REPORTER: —and the three officers will be the last people you interview?

    SGT. KEN LATTIN: Correct.

    AMY GOODMAN: Jennifer Shaw, your comment on this? The witnesses will be interviewed first, and then the officers will be interviewed last.

    JENNIFER SHAW: Well, when you think of any other investigation of a shooting by an individual, of another individual, with witnesses around, imagine that the police would wait 10 days, two weeks, before interviewing the person who was doing the shooting. It seems unreasonable. It seems, actually, kind of dangerous, for public safety purposes, to wait that long for the witnesses—or, for the officers to sit down and kind of read through everything and come up with a story. I mean, the idea of an investigation is to find out what happened from everybody that was involved. And it seems like these officers are being given special consideration because they’re police officers.

    AMY GOODMAN: Jennifer Shaw, we want to thank you for joining us from the Washington ACLU in Seattle, and, Felix Vargas, for joining us from your home in Pasco, Washington, with Consejo Latino. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report, as we move on to our last segment. Juan?

    Police Killing of Unarmed Mexican Farmworker in Washington State Sparks Protest

    Truthout - Mon, 03/02/2015 - 13:36

    Authorities in Pasco, Washington, have revealed police fired 17 shots at Antonio Zambrano-Montes, an unarmed Mexican farmworker who was shot dead on February 10. Cellphone video shows Zambrano turning to face police and raising his hands before he is shot. The shooting has sparked weeks of protests. Live from Pasco, we speak with Felix Vargas, chairman of Consejo Latino, a group of local businessmen in Pasco who are working with Zambrano’s family. We also talk to Jennifer Shaw, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington state and a member of the Community Police Commission in Seattle.

    TRANSCRIPT:

    AMY GOODMAN: After our next segment, we’ll talk about Governor Scott Walker comparing unions to the self-proclaimed Islamic State. But first, this.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, for the second time in about two weeks, the Mexican government has expressed outrage over police shootings of unarmed immigrants by police officers in the United States. Mexican authorities say police in Grapevine, Texas, violated a decades-old treaty by waiting four days to inform them of the killing of Rubén García Villalpando. Police say they shot García early Saturday morning during a traffic stop, after he defied orders to halt and walked toward a patrol car with his hands in the air. García’s attorney and a local activist described their account of the shooting to news station KDFW.

    CARLOS QUINTANILLA: When the officers said, "Don’t move, mother F," he stayed there. And for one reason or another, Rubén begins to walk towards a police officer, and that one second passed, and the officer fired twice—pop, pop—and Rubén was dead.

    DOMINGO GARCIA: When this video is released, you will show that there is a man, who has no prior criminal record, a wife and four children, who puts his hands on his head, and is shot through twice because he asked the officer to treat him with respect and dignity and not to be calling him "mother F," multiple times.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: The shooting in Texas comes just 10 days after the police killing of Antonio Zambrano-Montes in Pasco, Washington. Zambrano was reportedly throwing rocks at police officers when he was killed. The incident happened at a busy intersection. Several eyewitnesses recorded cellphone video that shows Zambrano turning to face police, raising his hands before he’s shot. On Thursday, authorities confirmed how many times they fired at Zambrano. This is Sergeant Ken Lattin of the Kennewick County Police Department.

    SGT. KEN LATTIN: Ultimately—this was a question that you had had—we’ve determined that they fired their weapons 17 times. Seventeen rounds were fired. Of those, five or six rounds struck Mr. Zambrano. We say five or six rounds because there’s obviously been two autopsies: one by—conducted by the medical examiner that was brought in by the coroner, and then, as Mr. Sant specified last week, the body was released to the family, they brought in their own independent pathologist to do an autopsy. And so, those results of both autopsies are not yet complete. Without going into any sort of gruesome detail, it’s not easy to determine, when you look at entry wounds and exit wounds, for sure, how many rounds.

    AMY GOODMAN: The Pasco police also said Zambrano was not shot in the back, contradicting an independent autopsy by the victim’s family that found two entry wounds on the back of his body—one on the back his right arm and another in his buttocks. Zambrano’s family has now hired the attorney for Michael Brown’s family in Ferguson, Missouri, Benjamin Crump, who visited Pasco to meet with them this week. Pasco is about, oh, three-and-a-half hours southeast of Seattle.

    All of this comes as the Mexican government reports 75 Mexicans have been killed by law officers in the United States since 2006.

    For more, we go to Pasco, Washington, where we’re joined by Felix Vargas, the chairman of Consejo Latino, a group of local businessmen in Pasco who are working with Zambrano’s family and helping to call for justice in his shooting death. Vargas is a retired U.S. diplomat and Army colonel.

    And we’re joined in Seattle by Jennifer Shaw, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington state and a member of the Community Police Commission in Seattle. She wrote a letter urging the Justice Department to launch an investigation into the fatal police shooting of Antonio Zambrano-Montes in Pasco, saying the local police probe is needlessly focusing on his activities prior to the incident.

    We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Let’s go directly to Pasco. Felix Vargas, explain what happened and the fact there’s so much video of this. It was during rush hour?

    FELIX VARGAS: Yes, it was. A crowded intersection, downtown Pasco, a gentleman is seen throwing rocks at cars. Police are called. There’s a minor scuffle. And then you see the gentleman running across the street away from the police. The police draw their weapons and fire an initial volley of shots at him. It appears that they hit him. He gets to the other side of the street, he turns left, heads west. The police are in pursuit of him, three, four yards behind him. He’s wounded. He turns around, appears to raise his arms up. He does not have a knife or a gun in his hand. And then he is effectively executed by the second volley of shots. In all, as you said, 17 shots were fired. The initial autopsy shows that five to six rounds made impact. We have a second autopsy, which was performed by the family’s forensic examiner, and that shows seven to eight impacts on the body. So, that is what has happened. It has really disturbed this community as never before.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Mr. Vargas, what has been so far the reaction of local authorities in terms of the police officers involved?

    FELIX VARGAS: Well, the authorities have promised to withhold judgment until a police investigation of the police shooting takes place. There’s a special investigative unit, which is set up, excluding the participation by the Pasco police. But that particular unit is talking to witnesses and doing their own investigation. They do emphasize that this will be an impartial, objective investigation. That is really the process, after which the Franklin County prosecutor will determine if there are sufficient grounds to levy charges against the three police shooters, and then the case will go to trial. There’s also a call for a coroner’s inquest after this particular investigation. It is simply not a credible investigation—I need to add that.

    AMY GOODMAN: Why isn’t it credible?

    FELIX VARGAS: It’s not credible because it involves a group of police officers, who are brothers in uniform of the perpetrators of the shooting. It is not credible because in the last six months we’ve had four incidents, including this one; in the three previous incidents, the police have been exonerated. There is one other example of a shooting here six months ago of a young man also who suffered from mental illness, as did Antonio Zambrano, and also suffered from substance abuse—similar circumstances, again, shot with excessive—by excessive use of force here by the police. There is an inherent conflict of interest here whenever you have a police organization investigating its own. We need a higher-level investigation here, and that can only come from the Department of Justice here, that the—you know, that the community can have some reasonable grounds to believe that it will be independent. So, it’s important that we have this.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And in terms of the general state of relations in your part of the state, there’s been, obviously, a growing population of Mexican, especially Mexican, population as a result of the large agriculture there in the area. Can you talk about the state of relations in Washington?

    FELIX VARGAS: Well, the state of relations is really quite good. We do have a city of 68,000, 60 percent of which are Hispanic. They’re drawn here primarily because of our very vibrant agricultural economy that we have here. And we really haven’t had any incidents. There is some unease with the police, because they don’t have enough certified language speakers. It is a police made up primarily of Anglo policemen. So, the relations are cordial. I wouldn’t say they’re warm. We have, as an organization, tried to improve that relationship and to build confidence within the community towards the police force. We met with the police chief two weeks before the incident to review his policies and procedures and to assure ourselves that we will not have an incident similar to the one in Ferguson. We received assurances that the training, the protocols were all in place to avoid this kind of situation. We’re greatly disappointed, really, in the leadership of the police chief, because we simply do not know if he knows what goes on within his police force.

    AMY GOODMAN: You are a leading member of the community, a businessman, former military. Are you calling for the police chief to step down?

    FELIX VARGAS: Not at this point. You know, there are things that have happened which caused us to believe that he’s not in control of his police force. It’s premature to do that. I think we need to let certain investigatory practices proceed. We would like to see active engagement by the Department of Justice in this regard. While the police chief has, I think, some lack in credibility, we’re not prepared to call for his—for him to step down at this point. We may do so later on.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And we’re also joined by Jennifer Shaw, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington state and a member of the Community Police Commission in Seattle. She wrote a letter urging the Justice Department to launch an investigation into the shooting of Antonio Zambrano-Montes in Pasco, saying the local police probe was needlessly focusing on his activities prior to the incident. Could you—Jennifer, could you summarize your concerns for us?

    JENNIFER SHAW: Well, sure, and thank you for reaching out to us. You know, we’re seeing across the country a real need for a culture change within our police departments. As Mr. Vargas points out, it is concerning to have police investigating their own, and particularly the notion of trying to find something wrong with the person that was shot as a justification for the shooting. We saw the same thing with Trayvon Martin. There was comments about he smoked pot. Other—you know, the comments about Michael Brown, that he had engaged in other criminal activity, at a time when the officer wasn’t even aware of it. So it’s really not relevant what the victim of the shooting was doing two weeks ago, or two weeks prior to the shooting, and to have that be what appears to be the primary focus is really concerning. It’s also concerning that the police officers that were involved in the shooting have still not been interviewed by the investigators.

    AMY GOODMAN: And so, what needs to happen right now, Jennifer Shaw?

    JENNIFER SHAW: Well, certainly, there needs to be a full and impartial investigation of this incident, but also there needs to be a review of the current policies and practices and training within the Pasco Police Department. What we’re seeing in Washington, and really across the country, is that police departments have been using outdated use-of-force policies. Their training is really much more focused on how to use force, not how to avoid using force. And so, tragically, we keep seeing these kinds of incidents.

    AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back to Sergeant Ken Lattin of the Kennewick County Police Department answering questions during Thursday’s news conference.

    REPORTER: Have you interviewed the three officers?

    SGT. KEN LATTIN: Good question. So as we’ve—that seems to be a big question each week. And we’ve got to have all the information before they sit down with those, so they’ve got to get those transcriptions done, so that the lead investigator that will sit down and interview with the officers has all the information. So, that—we’re not to that point yet. It’s still being set up.

    REPORTER: So all the other witnesses that you want to talk to would be interviewed first, all that material transcribed—

    SGT. KEN LATTIN: Absolutely.

    REPORTER: —and the three officers will be the last people you interview?

    SGT. KEN LATTIN: Correct.

    AMY GOODMAN: Jennifer Shaw, your comment on this? The witnesses will be interviewed first, and then the officers will be interviewed last.

    JENNIFER SHAW: Well, when you think of any other investigation of a shooting by an individual, of another individual, with witnesses around, imagine that the police would wait 10 days, two weeks, before interviewing the person who was doing the shooting. It seems unreasonable. It seems, actually, kind of dangerous, for public safety purposes, to wait that long for the witnesses—or, for the officers to sit down and kind of read through everything and come up with a story. I mean, the idea of an investigation is to find out what happened from everybody that was involved. And it seems like these officers are being given special consideration because they’re police officers.

    AMY GOODMAN: Jennifer Shaw, we want to thank you for joining us from the Washington ACLU in Seattle, and, Felix Vargas, for joining us from your home in Pasco, Washington, with Consejo Latino. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report, as we move on to our last segment. Juan?

    Police Killing of Unarmed Mexican Farmworker in Washington State Sparks Protest

    Truthout - Mon, 03/02/2015 - 13:36

    Authorities in Pasco, Washington, have revealed police fired 17 shots at Antonio Zambrano-Montes, an unarmed Mexican farmworker who was shot dead on February 10. Cellphone video shows Zambrano turning to face police and raising his hands before he is shot. The shooting has sparked weeks of protests. Live from Pasco, we speak with Felix Vargas, chairman of Consejo Latino, a group of local businessmen in Pasco who are working with Zambrano’s family. We also talk to Jennifer Shaw, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington state and a member of the Community Police Commission in Seattle.

    TRANSCRIPT:

    AMY GOODMAN: After our next segment, we’ll talk about Governor Scott Walker comparing unions to the self-proclaimed Islamic State. But first, this.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, for the second time in about two weeks, the Mexican government has expressed outrage over police shootings of unarmed immigrants by police officers in the United States. Mexican authorities say police in Grapevine, Texas, violated a decades-old treaty by waiting four days to inform them of the killing of Rubén García Villalpando. Police say they shot García early Saturday morning during a traffic stop, after he defied orders to halt and walked toward a patrol car with his hands in the air. García’s attorney and a local activist described their account of the shooting to news station KDFW.

    CARLOS QUINTANILLA: When the officers said, "Don’t move, mother F," he stayed there. And for one reason or another, Rubén begins to walk towards a police officer, and that one second passed, and the officer fired twice—pop, pop—and Rubén was dead.

    DOMINGO GARCIA: When this video is released, you will show that there is a man, who has no prior criminal record, a wife and four children, who puts his hands on his head, and is shot through twice because he asked the officer to treat him with respect and dignity and not to be calling him "mother F," multiple times.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: The shooting in Texas comes just 10 days after the police killing of Antonio Zambrano-Montes in Pasco, Washington. Zambrano was reportedly throwing rocks at police officers when he was killed. The incident happened at a busy intersection. Several eyewitnesses recorded cellphone video that shows Zambrano turning to face police, raising his hands before he’s shot. On Thursday, authorities confirmed how many times they fired at Zambrano. This is Sergeant Ken Lattin of the Kennewick County Police Department.

    SGT. KEN LATTIN: Ultimately—this was a question that you had had—we’ve determined that they fired their weapons 17 times. Seventeen rounds were fired. Of those, five or six rounds struck Mr. Zambrano. We say five or six rounds because there’s obviously been two autopsies: one by—conducted by the medical examiner that was brought in by the coroner, and then, as Mr. Sant specified last week, the body was released to the family, they brought in their own independent pathologist to do an autopsy. And so, those results of both autopsies are not yet complete. Without going into any sort of gruesome detail, it’s not easy to determine, when you look at entry wounds and exit wounds, for sure, how many rounds.

    AMY GOODMAN: The Pasco police also said Zambrano was not shot in the back, contradicting an independent autopsy by the victim’s family that found two entry wounds on the back of his body—one on the back his right arm and another in his buttocks. Zambrano’s family has now hired the attorney for Michael Brown’s family in Ferguson, Missouri, Benjamin Crump, who visited Pasco to meet with them this week. Pasco is about, oh, three-and-a-half hours southeast of Seattle.

    All of this comes as the Mexican government reports 75 Mexicans have been killed by law officers in the United States since 2006.

    For more, we go to Pasco, Washington, where we’re joined by Felix Vargas, the chairman of Consejo Latino, a group of local businessmen in Pasco who are working with Zambrano’s family and helping to call for justice in his shooting death. Vargas is a retired U.S. diplomat and Army colonel.

    And we’re joined in Seattle by Jennifer Shaw, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington state and a member of the Community Police Commission in Seattle. She wrote a letter urging the Justice Department to launch an investigation into the fatal police shooting of Antonio Zambrano-Montes in Pasco, saying the local police probe is needlessly focusing on his activities prior to the incident.

    We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Let’s go directly to Pasco. Felix Vargas, explain what happened and the fact there’s so much video of this. It was during rush hour?

    FELIX VARGAS: Yes, it was. A crowded intersection, downtown Pasco, a gentleman is seen throwing rocks at cars. Police are called. There’s a minor scuffle. And then you see the gentleman running across the street away from the police. The police draw their weapons and fire an initial volley of shots at him. It appears that they hit him. He gets to the other side of the street, he turns left, heads west. The police are in pursuit of him, three, four yards behind him. He’s wounded. He turns around, appears to raise his arms up. He does not have a knife or a gun in his hand. And then he is effectively executed by the second volley of shots. In all, as you said, 17 shots were fired. The initial autopsy shows that five to six rounds made impact. We have a second autopsy, which was performed by the family’s forensic examiner, and that shows seven to eight impacts on the body. So, that is what has happened. It has really disturbed this community as never before.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Mr. Vargas, what has been so far the reaction of local authorities in terms of the police officers involved?

    FELIX VARGAS: Well, the authorities have promised to withhold judgment until a police investigation of the police shooting takes place. There’s a special investigative unit, which is set up, excluding the participation by the Pasco police. But that particular unit is talking to witnesses and doing their own investigation. They do emphasize that this will be an impartial, objective investigation. That is really the process, after which the Franklin County prosecutor will determine if there are sufficient grounds to levy charges against the three police shooters, and then the case will go to trial. There’s also a call for a coroner’s inquest after this particular investigation. It is simply not a credible investigation—I need to add that.

    AMY GOODMAN: Why isn’t it credible?

    FELIX VARGAS: It’s not credible because it involves a group of police officers, who are brothers in uniform of the perpetrators of the shooting. It is not credible because in the last six months we’ve had four incidents, including this one; in the three previous incidents, the police have been exonerated. There is one other example of a shooting here six months ago of a young man also who suffered from mental illness, as did Antonio Zambrano, and also suffered from substance abuse—similar circumstances, again, shot with excessive—by excessive use of force here by the police. There is an inherent conflict of interest here whenever you have a police organization investigating its own. We need a higher-level investigation here, and that can only come from the Department of Justice here, that the—you know, that the community can have some reasonable grounds to believe that it will be independent. So, it’s important that we have this.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And in terms of the general state of relations in your part of the state, there’s been, obviously, a growing population of Mexican, especially Mexican, population as a result of the large agriculture there in the area. Can you talk about the state of relations in Washington?

    FELIX VARGAS: Well, the state of relations is really quite good. We do have a city of 68,000, 60 percent of which are Hispanic. They’re drawn here primarily because of our very vibrant agricultural economy that we have here. And we really haven’t had any incidents. There is some unease with the police, because they don’t have enough certified language speakers. It is a police made up primarily of Anglo policemen. So, the relations are cordial. I wouldn’t say they’re warm. We have, as an organization, tried to improve that relationship and to build confidence within the community towards the police force. We met with the police chief two weeks before the incident to review his policies and procedures and to assure ourselves that we will not have an incident similar to the one in Ferguson. We received assurances that the training, the protocols were all in place to avoid this kind of situation. We’re greatly disappointed, really, in the leadership of the police chief, because we simply do not know if he knows what goes on within his police force.

    AMY GOODMAN: You are a leading member of the community, a businessman, former military. Are you calling for the police chief to step down?

    FELIX VARGAS: Not at this point. You know, there are things that have happened which caused us to believe that he’s not in control of his police force. It’s premature to do that. I think we need to let certain investigatory practices proceed. We would like to see active engagement by the Department of Justice in this regard. While the police chief has, I think, some lack in credibility, we’re not prepared to call for his—for him to step down at this point. We may do so later on.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And we’re also joined by Jennifer Shaw, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington state and a member of the Community Police Commission in Seattle. She wrote a letter urging the Justice Department to launch an investigation into the shooting of Antonio Zambrano-Montes in Pasco, saying the local police probe was needlessly focusing on his activities prior to the incident. Could you—Jennifer, could you summarize your concerns for us?

    JENNIFER SHAW: Well, sure, and thank you for reaching out to us. You know, we’re seeing across the country a real need for a culture change within our police departments. As Mr. Vargas points out, it is concerning to have police investigating their own, and particularly the notion of trying to find something wrong with the person that was shot as a justification for the shooting. We saw the same thing with Trayvon Martin. There was comments about he smoked pot. Other—you know, the comments about Michael Brown, that he had engaged in other criminal activity, at a time when the officer wasn’t even aware of it. So it’s really not relevant what the victim of the shooting was doing two weeks ago, or two weeks prior to the shooting, and to have that be what appears to be the primary focus is really concerning. It’s also concerning that the police officers that were involved in the shooting have still not been interviewed by the investigators.

    AMY GOODMAN: And so, what needs to happen right now, Jennifer Shaw?

    JENNIFER SHAW: Well, certainly, there needs to be a full and impartial investigation of this incident, but also there needs to be a review of the current policies and practices and training within the Pasco Police Department. What we’re seeing in Washington, and really across the country, is that police departments have been using outdated use-of-force policies. Their training is really much more focused on how to use force, not how to avoid using force. And so, tragically, we keep seeing these kinds of incidents.

    AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back to Sergeant Ken Lattin of the Kennewick County Police Department answering questions during Thursday’s news conference.

    REPORTER: Have you interviewed the three officers?

    SGT. KEN LATTIN: Good question. So as we’ve—that seems to be a big question each week. And we’ve got to have all the information before they sit down with those, so they’ve got to get those transcriptions done, so that the lead investigator that will sit down and interview with the officers has all the information. So, that—we’re not to that point yet. It’s still being set up.

    REPORTER: So all the other witnesses that you want to talk to would be interviewed first, all that material transcribed—

    SGT. KEN LATTIN: Absolutely.

    REPORTER: —and the three officers will be the last people you interview?

    SGT. KEN LATTIN: Correct.

    AMY GOODMAN: Jennifer Shaw, your comment on this? The witnesses will be interviewed first, and then the officers will be interviewed last.

    JENNIFER SHAW: Well, when you think of any other investigation of a shooting by an individual, of another individual, with witnesses around, imagine that the police would wait 10 days, two weeks, before interviewing the person who was doing the shooting. It seems unreasonable. It seems, actually, kind of dangerous, for public safety purposes, to wait that long for the witnesses—or, for the officers to sit down and kind of read through everything and come up with a story. I mean, the idea of an investigation is to find out what happened from everybody that was involved. And it seems like these officers are being given special consideration because they’re police officers.

    AMY GOODMAN: Jennifer Shaw, we want to thank you for joining us from the Washington ACLU in Seattle, and, Felix Vargas, for joining us from your home in Pasco, Washington, with Consejo Latino. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report, as we move on to our last segment. Juan?

    Police Killing of Unarmed Mexican Farmworker in Washington State Sparks Protest

    Truthout - Mon, 03/02/2015 - 13:36

    Authorities in Pasco, Washington, have revealed police fired 17 shots at Antonio Zambrano-Montes, an unarmed Mexican farmworker who was shot dead on February 10. Cellphone video shows Zambrano turning to face police and raising his hands before he is shot. The shooting has sparked weeks of protests. Live from Pasco, we speak with Felix Vargas, chairman of Consejo Latino, a group of local businessmen in Pasco who are working with Zambrano’s family. We also talk to Jennifer Shaw, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington state and a member of the Community Police Commission in Seattle.

    TRANSCRIPT:

    AMY GOODMAN: After our next segment, we’ll talk about Governor Scott Walker comparing unions to the self-proclaimed Islamic State. But first, this.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, for the second time in about two weeks, the Mexican government has expressed outrage over police shootings of unarmed immigrants by police officers in the United States. Mexican authorities say police in Grapevine, Texas, violated a decades-old treaty by waiting four days to inform them of the killing of Rubén García Villalpando. Police say they shot García early Saturday morning during a traffic stop, after he defied orders to halt and walked toward a patrol car with his hands in the air. García’s attorney and a local activist described their account of the shooting to news station KDFW.

    CARLOS QUINTANILLA: When the officers said, "Don’t move, mother F," he stayed there. And for one reason or another, Rubén begins to walk towards a police officer, and that one second passed, and the officer fired twice—pop, pop—and Rubén was dead.

    DOMINGO GARCIA: When this video is released, you will show that there is a man, who has no prior criminal record, a wife and four children, who puts his hands on his head, and is shot through twice because he asked the officer to treat him with respect and dignity and not to be calling him "mother F," multiple times.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: The shooting in Texas comes just 10 days after the police killing of Antonio Zambrano-Montes in Pasco, Washington. Zambrano was reportedly throwing rocks at police officers when he was killed. The incident happened at a busy intersection. Several eyewitnesses recorded cellphone video that shows Zambrano turning to face police, raising his hands before he’s shot. On Thursday, authorities confirmed how many times they fired at Zambrano. This is Sergeant Ken Lattin of the Kennewick County Police Department.

    SGT. KEN LATTIN: Ultimately—this was a question that you had had—we’ve determined that they fired their weapons 17 times. Seventeen rounds were fired. Of those, five or six rounds struck Mr. Zambrano. We say five or six rounds because there’s obviously been two autopsies: one by—conducted by the medical examiner that was brought in by the coroner, and then, as Mr. Sant specified last week, the body was released to the family, they brought in their own independent pathologist to do an autopsy. And so, those results of both autopsies are not yet complete. Without going into any sort of gruesome detail, it’s not easy to determine, when you look at entry wounds and exit wounds, for sure, how many rounds.

    AMY GOODMAN: The Pasco police also said Zambrano was not shot in the back, contradicting an independent autopsy by the victim’s family that found two entry wounds on the back of his body—one on the back his right arm and another in his buttocks. Zambrano’s family has now hired the attorney for Michael Brown’s family in Ferguson, Missouri, Benjamin Crump, who visited Pasco to meet with them this week. Pasco is about, oh, three-and-a-half hours southeast of Seattle.

    All of this comes as the Mexican government reports 75 Mexicans have been killed by law officers in the United States since 2006.

    For more, we go to Pasco, Washington, where we’re joined by Felix Vargas, the chairman of Consejo Latino, a group of local businessmen in Pasco who are working with Zambrano’s family and helping to call for justice in his shooting death. Vargas is a retired U.S. diplomat and Army colonel.

    And we’re joined in Seattle by Jennifer Shaw, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington state and a member of the Community Police Commission in Seattle. She wrote a letter urging the Justice Department to launch an investigation into the fatal police shooting of Antonio Zambrano-Montes in Pasco, saying the local police probe is needlessly focusing on his activities prior to the incident.

    We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Let’s go directly to Pasco. Felix Vargas, explain what happened and the fact there’s so much video of this. It was during rush hour?

    FELIX VARGAS: Yes, it was. A crowded intersection, downtown Pasco, a gentleman is seen throwing rocks at cars. Police are called. There’s a minor scuffle. And then you see the gentleman running across the street away from the police. The police draw their weapons and fire an initial volley of shots at him. It appears that they hit him. He gets to the other side of the street, he turns left, heads west. The police are in pursuit of him, three, four yards behind him. He’s wounded. He turns around, appears to raise his arms up. He does not have a knife or a gun in his hand. And then he is effectively executed by the second volley of shots. In all, as you said, 17 shots were fired. The initial autopsy shows that five to six rounds made impact. We have a second autopsy, which was performed by the family’s forensic examiner, and that shows seven to eight impacts on the body. So, that is what has happened. It has really disturbed this community as never before.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Mr. Vargas, what has been so far the reaction of local authorities in terms of the police officers involved?

    FELIX VARGAS: Well, the authorities have promised to withhold judgment until a police investigation of the police shooting takes place. There’s a special investigative unit, which is set up, excluding the participation by the Pasco police. But that particular unit is talking to witnesses and doing their own investigation. They do emphasize that this will be an impartial, objective investigation. That is really the process, after which the Franklin County prosecutor will determine if there are sufficient grounds to levy charges against the three police shooters, and then the case will go to trial. There’s also a call for a coroner’s inquest after this particular investigation. It is simply not a credible investigation—I need to add that.

    AMY GOODMAN: Why isn’t it credible?

    FELIX VARGAS: It’s not credible because it involves a group of police officers, who are brothers in uniform of the perpetrators of the shooting. It is not credible because in the last six months we’ve had four incidents, including this one; in the three previous incidents, the police have been exonerated. There is one other example of a shooting here six months ago of a young man also who suffered from mental illness, as did Antonio Zambrano, and also suffered from substance abuse—similar circumstances, again, shot with excessive—by excessive use of force here by the police. There is an inherent conflict of interest here whenever you have a police organization investigating its own. We need a higher-level investigation here, and that can only come from the Department of Justice here, that the—you know, that the community can have some reasonable grounds to believe that it will be independent. So, it’s important that we have this.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And in terms of the general state of relations in your part of the state, there’s been, obviously, a growing population of Mexican, especially Mexican, population as a result of the large agriculture there in the area. Can you talk about the state of relations in Washington?

    FELIX VARGAS: Well, the state of relations is really quite good. We do have a city of 68,000, 60 percent of which are Hispanic. They’re drawn here primarily because of our very vibrant agricultural economy that we have here. And we really haven’t had any incidents. There is some unease with the police, because they don’t have enough certified language speakers. It is a police made up primarily of Anglo policemen. So, the relations are cordial. I wouldn’t say they’re warm. We have, as an organization, tried to improve that relationship and to build confidence within the community towards the police force. We met with the police chief two weeks before the incident to review his policies and procedures and to assure ourselves that we will not have an incident similar to the one in Ferguson. We received assurances that the training, the protocols were all in place to avoid this kind of situation. We’re greatly disappointed, really, in the leadership of the police chief, because we simply do not know if he knows what goes on within his police force.

    AMY GOODMAN: You are a leading member of the community, a businessman, former military. Are you calling for the police chief to step down?

    FELIX VARGAS: Not at this point. You know, there are things that have happened which caused us to believe that he’s not in control of his police force. It’s premature to do that. I think we need to let certain investigatory practices proceed. We would like to see active engagement by the Department of Justice in this regard. While the police chief has, I think, some lack in credibility, we’re not prepared to call for his—for him to step down at this point. We may do so later on.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And we’re also joined by Jennifer Shaw, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington state and a member of the Community Police Commission in Seattle. She wrote a letter urging the Justice Department to launch an investigation into the shooting of Antonio Zambrano-Montes in Pasco, saying the local police probe was needlessly focusing on his activities prior to the incident. Could you—Jennifer, could you summarize your concerns for us?

    JENNIFER SHAW: Well, sure, and thank you for reaching out to us. You know, we’re seeing across the country a real need for a culture change within our police departments. As Mr. Vargas points out, it is concerning to have police investigating their own, and particularly the notion of trying to find something wrong with the person that was shot as a justification for the shooting. We saw the same thing with Trayvon Martin. There was comments about he smoked pot. Other—you know, the comments about Michael Brown, that he had engaged in other criminal activity, at a time when the officer wasn’t even aware of it. So it’s really not relevant what the victim of the shooting was doing two weeks ago, or two weeks prior to the shooting, and to have that be what appears to be the primary focus is really concerning. It’s also concerning that the police officers that were involved in the shooting have still not been interviewed by the investigators.

    AMY GOODMAN: And so, what needs to happen right now, Jennifer Shaw?

    JENNIFER SHAW: Well, certainly, there needs to be a full and impartial investigation of this incident, but also there needs to be a review of the current policies and practices and training within the Pasco Police Department. What we’re seeing in Washington, and really across the country, is that police departments have been using outdated use-of-force policies. Their training is really much more focused on how to use force, not how to avoid using force. And so, tragically, we keep seeing these kinds of incidents.

    AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back to Sergeant Ken Lattin of the Kennewick County Police Department answering questions during Thursday’s news conference.

    REPORTER: Have you interviewed the three officers?

    SGT. KEN LATTIN: Good question. So as we’ve—that seems to be a big question each week. And we’ve got to have all the information before they sit down with those, so they’ve got to get those transcriptions done, so that the lead investigator that will sit down and interview with the officers has all the information. So, that—we’re not to that point yet. It’s still being set up.

    REPORTER: So all the other witnesses that you want to talk to would be interviewed first, all that material transcribed—

    SGT. KEN LATTIN: Absolutely.

    REPORTER: —and the three officers will be the last people you interview?

    SGT. KEN LATTIN: Correct.

    AMY GOODMAN: Jennifer Shaw, your comment on this? The witnesses will be interviewed first, and then the officers will be interviewed last.

    JENNIFER SHAW: Well, when you think of any other investigation of a shooting by an individual, of another individual, with witnesses around, imagine that the police would wait 10 days, two weeks, before interviewing the person who was doing the shooting. It seems unreasonable. It seems, actually, kind of dangerous, for public safety purposes, to wait that long for the witnesses—or, for the officers to sit down and kind of read through everything and come up with a story. I mean, the idea of an investigation is to find out what happened from everybody that was involved. And it seems like these officers are being given special consideration because they’re police officers.

    AMY GOODMAN: Jennifer Shaw, we want to thank you for joining us from the Washington ACLU in Seattle, and, Felix Vargas, for joining us from your home in Pasco, Washington, with Consejo Latino. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report, as we move on to our last segment. Juan?

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