Friday, August 29, 2008

Barack Obama is no MLK

As far as pure theatrics go, Barack Obama's acceptance speech at the Democratic convention was pretty good: 8,000 screaming admirers tingling at every mention of some vague, impending "change", while The Candidate lays out a platitude-filled agenda full of "hope" and "progress", with enough specifics to keep the partisan wonks (and corporate lobbyists) happy. That said, the idea that this speech or Barack Obama are deserving of even being mentioned in the same break as Martin Luther King, to me, is patently offensive.

While Martin Luther King was not without his flaws -- what man is? -- he backed up his beliefs with actual action, rather than just rhetoric, and took positions that were unpopular at the time, unlike Obama's tendency to say whatever pleases the audience before him. And while King's legacy has since been institutionalized and whitewashed (pun intended) to make him out as little more than an opponent of racism, he also in no uncertain terms denounced the imperialistic, murderous policies being pursued by the bipartisan political elite in Vietnam -- standing in stark contrast to Obama's meek criticism of the Iraq war as a strategic -- not a moral -- error, and his pledge to send more men and women off to die in the Afghan quagmire (among other places).

So while Democratic groupies are busy comparing Obama's address to King's "I Have a Dream" speech, consider another speech King gave in 1967 rarely mentioned by the media and political establishment:
I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.


[The Vietnamese] watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the hospitals, with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for one "Vietcong"-inflicted injury. So far we may have killed a million of them -- mostly children. They wander into the towns and see thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children, degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers.

What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building? Is it among these voiceless ones?

We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated in the crushing of the nation's only non-Communist revolutionary political force -- the unified Buddhist church. We have supported the enemies of the peasants of Saigon. We have corrupted their women and children and killed their men. What liberators?
I'll have more on the specifics of Obama's speech later this weekend, but for now, read the rest of MLK's speech and witness what a true opponent of war sounds like.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Questionable timing

The National Review has obtained a draft copy of the Republican Party's 2008 Platform language on energy and climate change that repeats the same talking points that you've probably heard aplenty over the last few months. For instance -- and to no real surprise -- it hails that paragon of free-market virtue (and recipient, by some estimates, of more than $145 billion in subsidies over the last 50 years), nuclear energy, as the answer to all of the U.S.'s energy and environmental concerns. But what I found interesting -- if a bit ill-timed -- was this:
Nuclear energy — a gift to mankind implanted in matter itself — is the most reliable zero-carbon emissions source of energy that we have. Unwarranted fearmongering that has no relationship to current technologies and safeguards has prevented us from starting construction of a single nuclear power plant in 31 years. Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy has for decades relied upon nuclear vessels, while other advanced nations have harnessed nuclear power to provide a major portion of their energy consumption. There is no reason why the United States cannot do the same. Confident in the promise offered by science and technology, Republicans will pursue dramatic increases in the use of safe, affordable, reliable — and clean — nuclear power.
So why do I say ill-timed? Because on August 7th, newspapers across the country ran variations of the following story:
Navy says sub leaked radiation since 2006

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A U.S. Navy submarine leaked trace amounts of radioactive water for two years as it made port calls in Japan and other Asian nations, the Navy said Thursday.

Last week, Navy officials told Japan that the USS Houston, a Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine, had made one port call -- in March -- while leaking the contaminated fluid.

But after reviewing records of the sub, the Navy told Japanese officials Thursday that the Houston had been leaking much longer, since June 2006, and had made port calls to Japanese bases at Sasebo, Yokosuka and Okinawa before the leak was discovered.

Officials also have told the governments of Malaysia and Singapore that the sub made port calls to those countries while leaking the radioactive water, Navy officials said. The Houston also made stops in Guam and Hawaii.
Granted, this was no Chernobyl, but would it have killed the platform writers to cite a different example -- or is it still too early for Republicans to say anything nice about France?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Obama-Biden '08: Imperialism with tact

As a general rule, whenever I happen to read a column by the New York Times' David Brooks, I tend to find myself believing the exact opposite of whatever it is he is trying to tell me. After all, we are talking about a man capable of writing this sort of tripe:
There's something about our venture into Iraq that is inspiringly, painfully, embarrassingly and quintessentially American. No other nation would have been hopeful enough to try to evangelize for democracy across the Middle East. No other nation would have been naive enough to do it this badly. No other nation would be adaptable enough to recover from its own innocence and muddle its way to success, as I suspect we are about to do.
So when David Brooks wrote that -- "for the good of the country" -- he was hoping Barack Obama would choose Joe Biden to be his running mate, I needed no further confirmation that the now-confirmed Obama/Biden 2008 ticket was the establishment pundit's wet dream. For while both Obama and Biden are critics of the Bush administration, they fully embrace the same inside-the-Beltway assumptions and beliefs about the role of U.S. military power in the world, but they also offer the advantage of being able to sell the goals of the U.S. empire with more credibility than the current emperor.

To those that love the idea of an Obama/Biden administration -- self-proclaimed "centrist" experts like Brooks and the people who fill respectable Washington think tanks -- Iraq was never an illegal or immoral war, but rather just a dumb one (or one that was merely "mismanaged"). That's why Biden is such an appealing choice to the television talking heads -- along with Obama, he promises to continue Bush policies like backing Israel's collective punishment of the Palestinians and expanding NATO to Russia's borders, but can do so with more class. In other words, an Obama/Biden administration offers a future of imperialism with tact, in contrast to the current White House's rather clumsy approach to international affairs.

With particular respect to Biden, he appears to be receiving much praise for his plan to divide Iraq into three countries along ethnic grounds. As typified in a post by Reason magazine's hipstertarian editor, Matt Welch, Biden's plans for Iraq are widely embraced by all very serious people because, 1) dividing Iraq along ethnic/religious lines requires some knowledge of the fact that there are ethnic/religious divides in Iraq, which places Biden ahead of most U.S. politicians, and 2) it appears proactive and less "defeatist" than merely declaring that the Iraq war was a criminal mistake and beginning to withdraw immediately. 

For an example of the latter, witness Welch deriding Bill Richardson's out-in-a-year plan for Iraq as "pie-in-the-skying" (and Richardson himself as "just not particularly smart") -- despite the fact that his withdrawal plan is overwhelmingly favored by the Iraqi people themselves -- while Biden is praised as "pretty dang sharp" for his "layer upon layer of knowledge about the history, present, and future of Iraq" (who knew he was a prophet now too?). You see, it's just not serious to say the United States has no business being in Iraq, or that decisions about Iraq should be made by Iraqis, because bad things could happen after the U.S. leaves, or something. Just remember how many people died after "we" left Vietnam (and forget how many people died while we were there)!

While the country of Iraq is something of a fiction (as are ultimately all nation-states), its borders having been drawn up by it's previous Western invaders in the early 20th century, that isn't an argument for U.S. policy makers to compound earlier Anglo-errors by forcibly imposing a three-state solution on Iraq -- especially seeing as how that two-state solution for a neighboring conflict hasn't worked out so well. One would think a politician proposing a form of central planning from afar and further meddling in the affairs of others wouldn't appeal so much to the editor of a libertarian magazine, but foreign policy does make for strange bedfellows.

And of course, not that this would matter to the would-be micromanagers of a country on the other side of the globe, but the Iraqi people themselves also happen to abhor Biden's plans for breaking up their country. As Reuters reports:
Senator Joe Biden may be one of the only U.S. politicians that can get Iraq's feuding Sunni, Shi'ite and Kurdish politicians to agree. But not in a good way.

Across racial and religious boundaries, Iraqi politicians on Saturday bemoaned Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama's choice of running mate, known in Iraq as the author of a 2006 plan to divide the country into ethnic and sectarian enclaves.

"This choice of Biden is disappointing, because he is the creator of the idea of dividing Iraq," Salih al-Mutlaq, head of National Dialogue, one of the main Sunni Arab blocs in parliament, told Reuters.

"We rejected his proposal when he announced it, and we still reject it. Dividing the communities and land in such a way would only lead to new fighting between people over resources and borders. Iraq cannot survive unless it is unified, and dividing it would keep the problems alive for a long time."
So much for that much-praised, bipartisan, Senate-endorsed plan for Iraq -- as well as claims that Biden portends anything other than a liberal internationalist, "humanitarian intervention"-loving Obama administration. As Welch's Reason colleague Dave Weigel notes:
Biden isn't a hawk in the way that John McCain is a hawk. He doesn't look to military intervention as the first solution to every foreign policy trip-up. But he still wants the United States to solve them all. Darfur? Check. The embargo on Cuba? Check. NATO expansion and aid to Georgia? Check. Biden amplifies Obama's long-held, and well-disguised, neo-liberal foreign policy. If you were leaning toward the Democrats because you're tired of leaders bellowing and demanding action from the actors in every foreign flare-up, forget it. That's going to be Biden's job description.
In short: whenever the media and "conservative" and "liberal" pundits are all in agreement on a certain politician's foreign policy credentials, expect Lockheed Martin's stock price to jump upon their election.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

When it rains, it pours

The conflict between Russia and Georgia -- besides killing a good number of innocent people and possibly enabling a new fraudulent "cold war", to the delight of defense contractors everywhere -- provoked a stunning amount of hypocrisy from U.S. officials. Consider Condoleeza Rice, speaking to to reporters on Monday:
"Russia is a state that is unfortunately using the one tool that it has always used whenever it wishes to deliver a message and that's its military power," Rice told reporters en route to an emergency meeting of NATO foreign ministers set for Tuesday. "That's not the way to deal in the 21st century."
This from a woman who sold a war on an impoverished country on the other side of the globe on the basis that maybe -- contrary to evidence available at the time -- Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear weapons program and was preparing to maybe, just maybe, nuke an American city? Hypocrisy truly knows no bounds among those in the upper echelons of power. As Salon's Glenn Greenwald writes
Whatever one's views are on the justifiability of each isolated instance, it's simply a fact that the U.S. invades, bombs, occupies, and interferes in the internal affairs of other countries far more than any other country on the planet. It's not even a close competition.
Just during the time Rice has served in the Bush administration, we bombed, invaded and occupied Afghanistan; did the same to Iraq; repeatedly bombed Somalia, killing all sorts of civilians; fed bombs to Israel as they invaded and bombed Lebanon; top political officials (led by John McCain and Joe Lieberman) have repeatedly threatened, and advocated, that the same be done to a whole host of other countries, including Iran and Syria. That's to say nothing of the virtually countless interventions and bombings in the pre-Bush, "peacetime" years -- from the Balkans and Panama to Somalia, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, and on and on and on.
But, as Greenwald notes, war isn't loved just by those in the White House, but by the elite media as well:
The most enduring and predominant rule of American politics is that every national politician must demonstrate their willingness, even eagerness, to start wars. On the day in 1989 that the first George Bush ordered the deadly U.S. invasion of Panama, The New York Times' R.W. Apple approvingly wrote on the front page that starting wars like that was "a Presidential initiation rite," and that "most American leaders since World War II have felt a need to demonstrate their willingness to shed blood to protect or advance what they construe as the national interest." Thus, proclaimed Apple, Bush's attack on Panama was an example of his "showing his steel" and "has shown him as a man capable of bold action."
Read the rest.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Kang and Kodos explain politics

If you like your humor black, this past week has been hilarious, as U.S. officials and politicians have all solemnly declared their moral outrage at Russia for violating the territorial integrity of a sovereign nation, something U.S. leaders would never -- never -- think of doing.

Then again, as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad alluded to earlier this week, it's not military invasions per se that offend U.S. leaders (obviously), but invasions launched by other countries without the U.S.'s blessing -- especially ones that lead to images of scared white people showing up on CNN.

“The days of overthrowing leaders by military means in Europe — those days are gone," Khalilzad sternly declared with a straight face -- and without the help of a laugh track.

That said, since it's Friday -- and I'm fleeing D.C. to head to the beach -- I'll spare you the long-winded analysis of U.S. hypocrisy and leave you with this clip from the Simpsons, which helps explain the utterly silly and patently unserious nature of the American political system more succinctly than I ever could.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

"Today, we are all Georgians"

Campaigning in my home state of Pennsylvania today, Republican presidential candidate John McCain told attendees of a rally that he had assured Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili that he had the support of all Americans:
"I told him that I know I speak for every American when I say to him, today, we are all Georgians."
Of course, whitewashed from McCain's account of the poor, defenseless Georgia besieged by the evil Ruskies is the inconvenient fact that, well, the Georgian government itself invaded the separatist, pro-Russian region of South Ossetia, but I digress.

I will say that it is darkly humorous to hear U.S. politicians -- apparently with no sense of irony -- wax eloquent about the sanctity of "international law" five years after the leaders of the both major political parties endorsed a criminal, illegal act of aggression against Iraq that has left hundreds of thousands of dead.

That said, there's no doubt that there has been plenty of crimes perpetrated by both sides in the Georgian-Russian conflict. Important from a U.S. perspective, however, is that one side -- Georgia -- has been armed with the finest in American military equipment as payback for its own participation in the occupation of Iraq.

That, of course, is why McCain claims to speak for all Americans in expressing solidarity for the corrupt thug Saakashvilli (the fact that his chief foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann was a lobbyist for Georgia until earlier this year doesn't hurt either), for the Georgian government, like its benefactors in the U.S. government, has no qualms about using violence to achieve its ends -- including against its own people, as evidenced in this video of Georgian police brutally suppressing an opposition rally:

(via Liberty & Power)

For more on the hypocrisy of the U.S. government's stance on the Russian-Georgian conflict, check out Chris Floyd's insightful take on recent events.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Interview with Mike Gravel

Last Friday, I spoke with former Senator Mike Gravel at an event here in Washington aimed at drawing attention to the case of Sami al-Arian. While some comments that Gravel made at the event seem to have attracted some of the wrong kind of attention, I thought I'd share the transcript of a brief interview  I had with Gravel following Friday's event at Busboys and Poets about al-Arian's case and the upcoming presidential election:
DAVIS: I was just wondering how you got involved in this case?

GRAVEL: It started at the beginning of the year, I was in New York and I met Leila [al-Arian]. I was on TV being interviewed and she was being interviewed also and I listened to the case and I couldn’t believe it. And so I got more involved, and then so I cut a couple spots… and then I got more and more involved, so now I’m absolutely outraged over the injustice. Outraged, I think you can tell.

DAVIS: I talked to Senator Leahy’s office earlier this week, and the person I was speaking with on the phone was immediately familiar with the case, but they wouldn’t say anything about what Senator Leahy was doing…

GRAVEL: So they are familiar with the case?

DAVIS: They are very familiar -- they said they’re still getting calls on it. But what do you make of the fact that they haven’t really done anything about it?

GRAVEL: Gutless. This is a great injustice. This a great, great injustice. And they’re afraid to get tagged with respect to the jewish community, AIPAC, you know. This all stems from AIPAC. This guy is just speaking out very effectively for the Palestinian cause, that’s what’s the root of this. And they’re trying to stifle that.

DAVIS: You know, coming in here you see people with Obama shirts out front and they’re selling Obama merchandise, and I’m sure a lot of people here think that if there’s a President Obama that injustices like this may not happen, or that he’ll fix them. Are you as confident as some people?

GRAVEL: No, no. There’ll be some improvement. I don’t think the Justice Department will as bad as it is right now, but don’t hold your breath for big change.

DAVIS: And just unrelated, who are you voting for?

GRAVEL: Well first off, not McCain, he’s a nutcase... It’s very difficult, very difficult.

DAVIS: What do you make of Bob Barr? I know you were running for the Libertarian nomination…

GRAVEL: Don’t ask me about that (laughing).

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Gravel off to Gitmo?

Self-proclaimed terrorism expert Steve Emerson -- a well noted plagiarist, fear monger, and Islamophobe -- is fulfilling his latest desperate attempt for media attention by claiming that former Senator Mike Gravel advocated "stalking" Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg at a recent event that I covered for Inter Press Service.

Here is what Gravel said at the event -- which was aimed at raising awareness of the case of imprisoned Palestinian activist Sami al-Arian -- that has so angered Emerson, as dutifully noted by Fox News:
“Find out where he lives, find out where his kids go to school, find out where his office is, picket him all the time,” Gravel said, in an audio tape obtained by the Investigative Project on Terrorism and provided to FOX News.

“Call him a racist in signs if you see him. Call him an injustice. Call him whatever you want to call him, but in his face all the time.”
“How do you deal with this kind of an injustice? I wouldn’t protest. I don’t believe in protesting. I think it demonstrates the failure of representative government. My answer to that problem is, I want to empower you as a lawmaker. … Don’t rely on your elected officials,” the former senator said.
Oh no! An elderly former lawmaker is urging people to protest the very government officials whose salaries they pay. And he's not all that sold on representative democracy -- get this man to the loony bin!

As I heard it, Gravel was calling people to picket a public official who -- albeit in his characteristically blunt manner. It also happened to be not so great advice, and not something I'd recommend people follow if they're really concerned about al-Arian's case (at least stick to picketing at the guy's workplace). That said, laughable is the notion that a 78 year old former senator would somehow be able to convince a bunch of generally well dressed middle-aged activists and writers such as Naomi Klein, assembled at a restaurant/bookshop in an increasingly yuppified part of Washington, to rise up and -- what? Yell mean things at a federal prosecutor?

Emerson, as usual, sees a threat:
“The question is whether he crossed the line in saying ‘find out where his kids go to school,’” said counter-terrorism expert Steve Emerson. “That to my mind and to government officials including those in the FBI crosses the line into a direct veiled threat."
As for inciting violence -- isn't that what Emerson's career has been all about? This, after all, is a man who has never found a crime he couldn't somehow blame on "radical Islamists" -- including the 1995 Oklahoma City bombings.

But the next quote is the real whopper:
[Emerson] said the evidence at the Al-Arian trial “overwhelming showed and incontrovertibly demonstrated that he was head of the Islamic Jihad network in the United States.”
Not to be pedantic, but the definition I get for "incontrovertible" is "not open to question -- indisputable", and well, a Florida jury plainly disagreed with Emerson's assesment. In fact, even after former attorney general John Ashcroft declared that al-Arian was one of the most evil, dangerous terrorists living among us -- just over a month before the beginning of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq -- a Florida jury in 2005 failed to convict to convict the outspoken Palestinian activist of a single crime, acquitting him of eight charges and deadlocking on another nine (with 9 to 10 jurors voting to acquit on every charge).

But I suspect that Emerson probably agrees with what one of the jurors who did not vote to acquit on all charges told Meg Laughlin of the St. Petersburg Times:
"Like another person on the jury, I was convinced Mr. Al-Arian was still working with the [Palestinian Islamic Jihad] after it was illegal. He was a very smart man and knew how not to be obvious. For me, the absence of evidence didn't mean there was no evidence."
But hey, who can blame Emerson for always trying to scare people? After all, professional fear merchants like him have made a killing by finding terror under every pillow, especially since 9/11. And unfortunately, tabloid outlets like Fox News and CNN will always be eager to bring people like him on TV to discuss how your dark-skinned neighbor just may be trying to kill you.

Just remember: be afraid!

Monday, August 04, 2008

"When You Have To Leave America To Be Free"

On Friday, I attended an event here in Washington aimed at raising awareness of the case of Dr. Sami Al-Arian, a Palestinian activist and former college professor who the Bush administration has accused of raising funds for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Attending the event was Al-Arian's wife and children, as well as former Senator Mike Gravel.

Today, Inter Press Service published my account of the event and the Bush administration's continued imprisonment of Al-Arian. Here's an excerpt:
WASHINGTON, Aug 4 (IPS) - Nearly three years after the U.S. government failed to convict Palestinian activist and former college professor Sami Al-Arian of any charges in one of the most high-profile terrorism trials following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he continues to be held in federal prison -- where, if convicted in an upcoming trial on criminal contempt charges, he faces the prospect of remaining for decades.

Al-Arian has been imprisoned since Feb. 20, 2003, after then-attorney general John Ashcroft declared in a press conference that he and four others were in league with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, "one of the most violent terrorist organisations in the world."

According to the U.S. government, Al-Arian operated several front groups for the Damascus-based terrorist group during the 1990s, raising money to finance suicide bombings that killed more than 100 Israelis. At his trial, prosecutors played graphic videos of suicide bombings and invited Israeli citizens to testify about their experiences surviving terrorist attacks -- attacks the government suggested were the end result of Al-Arian’s actions.

Prosecutors also showed jurors a 1991 video of a rally where Al-Arian can be seen shouting, "death to Israel and victory to Islam" in Arabic. Al-Arian, a former professor at the University of South Florida, maintains that he has never condoned violence against civilians, but that he does support the right to resist a "brutal military occupation" of Palestinian lands.

Indeed, even the prosecution conceded that -- after more than 10 years of tapping the phone conversations of Al-Arian and his family -- there was no evidence directly tying him to a single terrorist attack. As a result, in 2005 a Florida jury acquitted Al-Arian of eight charges and remained deadlocked on another nine, with two-thirds of the jury voting for acquittal on all charges.

Yet despite the lack of a single conviction, Al-Arian remains in prison -- where supporters say he has often been held in solitary confinement and denied access to his family and legal counsel -- for refusing to testify in a trial against a northern Virginia Islamic think tank.

"We don’t even know one day where he’ll be the next, and we don’t know how we’ll be able to visit him," said Al-Arian’s son, Abdullah, at a recent event here in Washington aimed at raising awareness of the case. "We just want this ordeal to be over."
Read the rest here. I'll post the transcript of my interview with Gravel later this week.

Give that man a medal!

The Associated Press reports:
LIMA, OH (AP) -- A white police officer was acquitted Monday in the drug-raid shooting death of an unarmed black woman that set off protests about how police treat minorities in a city where one in four residents is black.

The all-white jury found Sgt. Joseph Chavalia not guilty on misdemeanor charges of negligent homicide and negligent assault. He had faced up to eight months in jail if convicted of both counts.

Chavalia shot and killed Tarika Wilson and injured her year-old son who she was holding while SWAT officers stormed her house in January looking for her boyfriend, a suspected drug dealer.
Prosecutors said Chavalia, walking up a stairway in the house, recklessly fired into a bedroom where Wilson was with her six children. Her son, Sincere Wilson, was hit in the shoulder and hand. One of the boy's fingers was later amputated.

He fired three times at her even though he could not clearly see her or whether she had a weapon, said Prosecutor Jeffrey Strausbaugh.

Defense attorney Bill Kluge told jurors Monday that Chavalia should not be judged on what wasn't known until after shooting, including the fact that Wilson did not have a gun or pose a threat.

"It's Monday morning quarterbacking," he told jurors. "Put yourself in Joe's shoes that night."

The jury's decision, he said in closing statements, will affect officers across Ohio.

"What kind of world would it be if we didn't have police officers," Kluge said. "Joe was doing his duty."
Right. Pointing out that a woman who posed no threat was senselessly murdered is "Monday morning quarterbacking." I can't help but think of the line from Monty Python's Holy Grail, after John Cleese's character has killed dozens of people for no apparent reason: "let's not argue and bicker over who killed who..."

As for what would a world without police officers like Joe Chavalia would be like? I'm not sure -- but at least a 26 year old mother would be alive to see it.

Friday, August 01, 2008

How the system works

This week's installment of "how having a shiny badge elevates you above the mere peons who pay your salary" is brought to you courtesy of the Minneapolis police department:
A Minneapolis family is outraged that members of the SWAT team that mistakenly raided their house and fired upon them last December have been awarded medals for their bravery under fire.

Vang Khang and his family had the fright of a lifetime when they believed their home was being invaded by burglars, or worse. It was actually a SWAT team, conducting a high-risk search warrant -- on the wrong house.

Acting on tips from a gang informant, police forced their way into the North Minneapolis home in the early morning of December 16 and traded fire with a terrified Khang, police said.

On Monday, Police chief Tim Dolan awarded all eight SWAT team members medals for "bravery in action under fire," police spokesman Sgt. Jesse Garcia told

Based on information given from the unnamed former gang member, police had successfully raided three other houses earlier that evening, resulting in multiple arrests of gang members and the discovery of illegal drugs and weapons, Garcia said.

According to Garcia, the informant claimed to have lived in the final residence, Khang's home, with many high-level gang members.

"We had the right house and right address -- according to what the informant told us -- but it's unclear why she gave that address, since the family had no ties whatsoever to the gang," Garcia explained.

According to Heffelfinger, the Laotian family has owned and lived in the house for four years and had no knowledge of the female police informant. "Ironically, the house is located across the street from a police precinct," Heffelfinger said, "so, if [the SWAT team] had simply asked the precinct, they would have learned the family was not gang bangers."

"They were acting in good faith on a warrant that was properly drawn up, based off of what appeared to be good information," Garcia said. "Their bravery under fire should not be negated [because of the misinformation]."
Terrorize an innocent family? Here's a medal! Call it the U.S. government's way of covering up incompetence by simply calling it valor.

Case in point: President Bush awarding former CIA director George Tenet a "Presidential Medal of Freedom" for his part in selling an illegal war of aggression to the American public.

At least in the case of the Minnesota family, no one died as a result of the police's actions. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for Bush or Tenet.