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May 07, 2008

Must Read Post of the Day

If you do nothing else today, please read this.

We bloggers like to think we're important. All too often though, we just end up listening to the sound of our own bloviation. How many times do any of us do anything which has a lasting impact, that truly changes the world we live in?

How many of us can say we have ever saved a human life?

The United States is a spoiled and complacent nation. We tend to see liberty as our birthright, whining like spoiled children when we are expected to do what free men all over the world understand is the duty and responsibility of each generation: to defend our rights, lest our children grow up to know a world in which every word is uttered under the shadow of fear. We lap up the deranged ravings of journalists like Keith Olbermann when they froth at the mouth about how our civil liberties have been eroded under the evil Bush administration. But we in this country have no idea what having our "civil liberties eroded" really feels like:

While the USS Cole bombers are all free in Yemen, my friend the Yemeni journalist Abdulkarim al-Khaiwani will be sentenced May 21 in a bogus trial and likely will get the death penalty or a long prison term. He is charged with insulting the president and demoralizing the military with an article about the Sa’ada war. He is an internationally renowned journalist and one of Yemen’s most prominent and outspoken democracy advocates

...Since he was released [from prison] in 2005, Al-Khaiwani has been beaten, kidnapped, censored and imprisoned. His paper was cloned, his website blocked and his children threatened.

Al-Khaiwani was badly beaten during his arrest in June 2007. His daughter, six year old Ebba, was slapped by police so hard that she fell unconscious. After Al-Khaiwani’s arrest and release on bail, he was kidnapped and badly beaten again. The US State Department issued a statement from DC noting his abduction pointed to, “disturbing trend of intimidation and harassment of Yemen’s journalist community.”

Al-Khaiwani was charged on July 4 with aiding the rebel movement by publishing war news. As you may know, the war in Sa’ada has been called a state sponsored genocide with strong parallels to the Sudan. I published photos of the damage in Sa’ada caused by indiscriminate (or deliberate) government bombing. I interviewed rebel spokesman Yahya al-Houthi, and posted it. (This website is now banned in Yemen.) By the standard of “demoralizing the military”, I’d also be subject to the death penalty if I was in Yemen. So would half of the bloggers here in the US.

As al-Khawiani’s sentencing approaches on May 21, fear is growing in Yemen and internationally that a guilty verdict in his case will open the door for a brutal crackdown on Yemen’s already endangered journalistic community.

Here in America, journalists can and do insult the President:

Why are you wasting my time with Colbert, I hear you ask. Because he is representative of what too often passes for political courage, not to mention wit, in this country. His defenders -- and they are all over the blogosphere -- will tell you he spoke truth to power. This is a tired phrase, as we all know, but when it was fresh and meaningful it suggested repercussions, consequences -- maybe even death in some countries. When you spoke truth to power you took the distinct chance that power would smite you, toss you into a dungeon or -- if you're at work -- take away your office.

But in this country, anyone can insult the president of the United States. Colbert just did it, and he will not suffer any consequence at all. He knew that going in. He also knew that Bush would have to sit there and pretend to laugh at Colbert's lame and insulting jokes. Bush himself plays off his reputation as a dunce and his penchant for mangling English. Self-mockery can be funny. Mockery that is insulting is not. The sort of stuff that would get you punched in a bar can be said on a dais with impunity. This is why Colbert was more than rude. He was a bully.

They can, and all too often do, disparage and demoralize the military:

Challenge the good General on his testimony. Challenge him on the facts if you wish. But check the ad hominems at the door. Just because he wears the uniform of the day doesn't give you carte blanche to take cheap potshots at medals that commemorate battles where better men than you will ever be have fought and died for ideals they believed were worth fighting for, even if you do not.

How about a little respect? I don't see the good General treating his questioners with contempt. From where I sit, Mr. Cavett, you are beating up on the military precisely because you know they cannot - by law - fight back. How about a little decency, which used to be called ordinary politeness in the civilian world.

We listen to an almost endless amount of blather from American journalists about how they are 'speaking truth to power'. The truth is that they risk nothing and suffer no consequences for their so-called truth telling. It requires absolutely no courage to insult and demoralize those you know will not strike back at you.

Abdulkarim al-Khaiwani (unlike Keith Olbermann or any of his compadres else here in the U.S.) is a man who truly has been speaking truth to a brutally repressive dictatorship. He has paid dearly for his defense of journalistic freedom. In 2005, Jane mobilized the blogosphere in his defense.

In response to the uproar she created, the Yemeni government spared al-Khaiwani's life:

This is the guy I made the online petition for in March 2005 and the bloggers all helped and he got amnesty. Since then he and I have become good friends. He loves democracy as much as I do. And he’s paid the price for it.

Abdulkarim al-Khaiwani is a vivid reminder that liberty comes with a steep price tag: free men must be willing to risk their lives to defend their rights. Let the Yemeni government know that the world is watching, and that the United States of America does not condone the sadistic and brutal repression of Yemen's free press.

If for no other reason, do it to annoy Keith Olbermann. And pass the link on to everyone you know.

Posted by Cassandra at May 7, 2008 12:56 PM

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Heh, I woulda done it anyway, but if it's gonna annoy Olbermann, too.....consider it done.

Posted by: DL Sly at May 7, 2008 01:41 PM

A local boy was one of the 17 American sailors who lost his life aboard the USS Cole. Talk about getting shuffled off to Buffalo. Between the Yemeni government's criminal negligence and our State Department's utter fecklessness, the Clodfelter family is left to howl at the wind over the loss of their child. T'ain't right, sayeth I. T'ain't right at all.

Keith Olberman can eat my shorts.

Posted by: spd rdr at May 7, 2008 01:52 PM

Humans have this weird quirk of never valuing anything unless they have personally sacrificed or paid something for it. For people like Keith or Jane whose freedoms really are free to them, they have never and will never love it as much as those that have bought liberty with their own blood price.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 7, 2008 01:55 PM

Jane Fonday, of course.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 7, 2008 01:57 PM

Cass, I've said here before that we are free to say what we want because of people like your husband. Yet, those are the people that Olberman and Cavett, etc hold in such contempt.

Meanwhile, they truly seem to admire the Castro's and Arafat's of the world who are truly brutal and who really do deny people their rights and their lives.

Sometimes I am so amused at the vast number of people in this country who talk endlessly about how Bush is denying them their rights and suppressing dissent. He's obviously not doing a very good job of it since so many are talking about it.

Yet, I'm sure these same folks will have all kinds of excuses why Yemen shouldn't be criticized for what it is doing to Abdulkarim al-Khaiwani.

Thanks for you good work.

Posted by: Schnauzer at May 7, 2008 05:07 PM

It is all just proof of his fiendishly clever incompetence, Schnauzer.

That is what makes him so dangerous. A man so stupid that he chokes on a pretzel, so incoherent that he cannot speak a single sentence without mangling it hopelessly, so clearly intellectually inferior to the Democrats that he twice beat vastly smarter men in nationwide elections... a man who lied to all of Congress, outsmarting hundreds of men and women who had access to the same intelligence he did... clearly such a Dimwit must be stopped before he hoodwinks Germany and France into starting WWIII.

Posted by: Princess Leia in a Cheese Danish Bikini at May 7, 2008 06:28 PM

Also, he should clearly be Chimpeached for his incompetent suppression of dissent.

Because we all know he is suppressing dissent. Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins have been telling us for years. Steven Colbert won't stop whining about it. BUT HAS ANYONE ACTUALLY SEEN THE (**&^ SHRUB BRUTALLY OPPRESSING ANYONE???


Posted by: Princess Leia in a Cheese Danish Bikini at May 7, 2008 06:31 PM

Cass, I luvs you!!! And you are so eloquent.

Posted by: Jane at May 7, 2008 07:40 PM


It was a great post, Janie. I am always humbled by your work. Keep writing. You are doing serious things. I am proud to know you.

Posted by: Princess Leia in a Cheese Danish Bikini at May 7, 2008 08:11 PM

Ummm... guess I should have changed my moniker first :) Sorry. I am such a fool sometimes.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 7, 2008 08:12 PM

Princess Leia in a Cheese Danish Bikini? Gee Cass, I'm gonna have to come visit more often and next time, I'll wear my crumb cake ski pants.

Posted by: Jane at May 7, 2008 08:46 PM

Just great. Now I'm hungry again.

Posted by: spd rdr at May 7, 2008 11:04 PM

I signed on, of course. How could I not?

Posted by: camojack at May 8, 2008 01:17 AM

Whats up with the edible clothing? I skipped breakfast and now pictures of ...... are floating in my head, that darn Shrub I know it is his fault.

Seriously, great post Cass and great work Jane.

Peace Thru Firepower

Posted by: Sluggo at May 8, 2008 02:18 AM

You are always hungry, mr rdr :p

Posted by: Cassandra at May 8, 2008 05:08 AM

Sorry. I am such a fool sometimes.

Don't worry, Fool's Gold is shiny, Cass. Shinnyy.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 8, 2008 12:59 PM