Bush Protested During Visit in Atlanta


By Scott Crutcher, Staff Writer, The Atlanta Progressive News

(APN) ATLANTA – President Bush was greeted by protesters this morning as he was in Atlanta at the Cobb Galleria Centre to flog his proposed legislation regarding military tribunals for terrorism suspects.

Top Pentagon lawyers and even prominent Republican hawks in the US Senate such as US Sens. John McCain, Lindsay Graham, and John Warner have questioned the constitutionality of Bush’s proposal.

Bush’s plan allows evidence obtained by torture to be used against detainees and also keeps some types of evidence secret from detainees and their defense attorneys.

Bush was comfortable in front of a carefully screened audience of partisan idolizers and pre-authorized media.

Governor Perdue gushed, “Georgia loves you, Mr. President!”

The event itself was sponsored by the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, which bills itself as “non-partisan” even though its website proclaims its support for repeal of the multi-millionaire estate tax, distributes “in-depth, common sense guides for privatizing services at any government level,” and supports private medical savings plans as opposed to universal health coverage.

Outside the venue, about 75 demonstrators sported a colorful array of large banners and signs and engaged in a variety of political street theatre.

Several wore bright orange prison uniforms with black hoods similar to those worn by Guantanamo detainees.

Two Buddhist monks chanted and sang.

One individual dressed as Dick Cheney acted as a puppeteer controlling another person costumed as George W. Bush. “Bush and Cheney” come to a lot of local protests, and today became a sensation in the corporate media’s coverage of today’s events.

“I feel like [Bush] is a poor leader. He’s doing a bad job. He just doesn’t care about working class people like my family. All he thinks about is big business owners and the wealthiest one percent. He’s not putting enough programs together to help people who are struggling. All he thinks about is going over to fight some unjust illegitimate war that’s killing thousands of people,” Brandon Barren of World Can’t Wait, told Atlanta Progressive News.

“I’m here because Bush is here talking about his vision for the U.S. in coming years and I am totally opposed to what he stands for…the lies he keeps repeating to the American people about Muslims and instilling fear of terrorism in the U.S. public. I think the transfer of the prisoners over from Europe was just a way for him to have a reason to keep Guantanamo prison camp open,” Randy Aronov, of the Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition (GPJC), said.

“He is completely on the wrong track. He has led us into an illegal war. He has demonized anyone who speaks out against him. I am against his war on the middle class, number one. Wages are down, jobs are gone, and people just can’t make it anymore. Gas prices are sky high. He’s in the oil business. He’s got buddies and he could do something about it today but he won’t. He and his bunch are guilty of war profiteering. They won’t allow any investigation into Halliburton’s war profiteering led by Cheney,” Levon Otwell, a local resident, said.

“He’s not listening to the world! He’s not listening to his own constituency—even Republicans are saying to him now, ‘You are not speaking for us. You are not acting like our president. You are following a failed policy and you are acting like you are too proud to admit it!’” Florence Dawson of Atlanta Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND) exclaimed.

“I’m against the Bush regime. I don’t believe in the war that’s going on right now and the war crimes that he’s imposed on the world.” Astha Ghimiri, of World Can’t Wait, said.

One of the groups that called for today’s protests was the International Action Center (IAC).

“Top on many peoples’ list why they are here is the ongoing death and destruction in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. sponsorship of the war on Lebanon, the attacks on the people of Gaza—so all these international issues,” Dianne Mathiowetz, local organizer with the IAC, told Atlanta Progressive News.

“But I think as well, the issues here at home. The Bush administration’s abysmal failure to meet the needs of New Orleans and the people of the Gulf Coast. A year later the destruction is almost untouched, unrepaired. There’s the issue of jobs, health care, declining educational standards, all the social service benefits, tax cuts for the rich, growing poverty, secret wiretapping, use of torture. I think the list is as endless as the number of people in the United States who are being impacted negatively by the Bush administration whether it’s the environment, women’s issues, or homophobia from the White House. It’s all part of a package that is imperiling the living standard, the civil liberties, and rights of people here in the United States, but has a global impact because globally it’s creating war and destruction,” Mathiowetz said.

Atlanta Progressive News asked Mathiowetz further about what she thought about the President’s admission on Wednesday that the U.S. has been detaining terrorism suspects in a secret global network of CIA interrogation prisons.

“This is an incredible thing. He is on this national tour to pump up the war on terrorists supposedly as the strong issue that his administration represents. So yesterday, after months of denying—not only denying but attacking the patriotism of the reporter at the Washington Post [Dana Milbank]] who put this story out months ago—he, so nonchalantly, totally admits to it. It is illegal. It’s a violation of international law and this president is guilty of war crimes, of crimes against humanity. He has broken multiple international treaties that the U.S. is bound to go by,” Mathiowetz explained.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) reported the protesters left after only a couple hours, when they realized the President’s motorcade would not be passing by. The AJC also reported the protesters were moved by police at one point when the crowd grew larger.

Atlanta Progressive News interviewed several protesters for their reaction to Bush’s assertion this week that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions–that deals with degrading treatment and due process rights for detainees–is “vague” and “unacceptable.”

“I think he’s just saying that because he’s violated a lot of those laws that’s pertaining to the Geneva Conventions with the prison torture and the war itself and the way he’s handling the whole thing,” Barren said.

“You know I think those talking points are acts of desperation. Whatever Karl Rove says he repeats. And that Geneva Convention, which is supported by the world with one other exception, is accepted and embraced by everyone. How dare he address that like that? That’s how I feel. I’m insulted that he would do that. He’s not acting like anybody’s president; he’s certainly not acting like mine,” Dawson said.

On the September 6, 2006 edition of the PBS Jim Lehrer News Hour, Eugene Fidell of the Institute for Military Justice commented on this specific topic, “The claims that the current prohibitions of Common Article 3 which is incorporated in the War Crimes Act are too vague to be enforced is, I think, without foundation…There are provisions in the Uniform Code of Military Justice that are at least as broad in their scope, for example the prohibition on oppression or maltreatment, those are in Article 93 of the code. The notion that these are simply too vague to permit a prosecution is very troublesome. What’s more troublesome is that by purporting to clarify a matter the effect will be to immunize past conduct and that is extremely disturbing.”

Recently, President Bush and US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld made recent comments equating Islamic fundamentalist terrorism with the crimes of secular dictators like Hitler and Lenin. Rumsfeld went so far as to compare those who criticize the Bush regime as those who wanted to appease the Nazis before World War II.

“This whole ‘Islamofascism’ charge that they’re trying to come out with to me is just ridiculous. If you look at them, if anything, they are the fascists,” Bob Bernstein, an activist with the GPJC, told Atlanta Progressive News.

Scott Crutcher is a Staff Writer for Atlanta Progressive News. He may be reached at scott@atlantaprogressivenews.com

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