Wednesday, August 30, 2006



On August 21st, at a White House press conference, President Bush warned that pulling out of the conflict in Iraq would threaten United States security. The President appeared to be using his bully pulpit as political turf marker in the upcoming fall elections, painting supporters of the continued occupation as being tough on terror compared to the unwise cut n run types who call for a reduced presence. In truth, if the President were keeping it real, his criticisms of vocal war critics who say cut the losses ASAP, are merely disguised attempts at silencing those who tell the truth about the poorly run mission in Iraq and its continued grim and dangerous state of affairs.

But, after he had sarcastically called the Democratic Party the “Democrat” party, he tried to slip in a common Bush administration subliminal ad, the discussion of Iraq and September 11th in the same sentence. Fortunately, an alert reporter decided to call the President out, asking, “what did Iraq have to do with that?”

The President, clearly miffed, answered “Nothing” adding that no one in the administration had ever suggested Saddam Hussein ordered the attack on New York and Washington.

Now really Mr. President, let’s not get huffy and muddle the truth like mint in a Mojito.

Perhaps no one in the administration ever publicly stated, word for word, that Saddam Hussein had a direct hand in the attacks of 9/11, but we do know that members of the administration were quick to look for, and use, any shred of evidence that could possibly be linked to the attacks, and that those shreds were then used as public justification, or associative P.R. if you will, for an invasion of that country and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, a long held and determined goal of key members of the Bush White House.

Outspoken opponents of the invasion have always dismissed the stated intentions of the Bush administration in Iraq. For one, opponents did not believe it was America’s duty to de-throne the murderous dictator that Saddam Hussein was. Others subscribed to the common belief that the war was about Iraqi gold, commonly known as oil. These were all debates that could have been held in an honest public policy forum. Instead, the Public Relations road to Iraq was sinister and down right sneaky. There were attempts to mislead, confuse and spook the American people. Individuals as well as politicians saw their patriotism questioned. Members of the administration along with a number of Republican leaders helped along by a media in passive mode and little vocal Democratic opposition were successful at lumping all the Allah worshiping nations together as one in the minds of millions of American voters, who were still hurting and angry after the attacks of 9/11. An underreported truth was the fact that top members of the Bush administration, neo-conservatives who had actually anointed Bush as a Presidential candidate and brought him up to speed on their version of foreign affairs, had long wanted to rid the world of Hussein, and use Iraq as the bargain Bazaar of American style democracy. The second in command, Dick Cheney himself, was an active member of a group run by William Kristol that included Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld among others, called Project for the New American Century, which as early as 1998, had called on then President Clinton for military action in Iraq that would overthrow Saddam Hussein.

Once in positions of power, the kingmakers like Rumsfeld and Cheney were not so naïve to think that the American people would support an unprovoked American invasion of Iraq. The tragic events of 9/11 provided the Bush Administration with the carte blanche the Administration needed for the invasion and a subsequent outpost for American style democracy.

The potholed road of deceit to Iraq began just hours after the 9/11 attacks. According to a 2002 CBS News report by correspondent David Martin, Donald Rumsfeld was already in the express lane.

Martin’s report cited notes taken by Don Rumsfeld aides that quoted the Defense Secretary as saying he wanted the “best information fast”. The notes continued with “judge whether good enough to hit Saddam Hussein”.

“Go massive” and “Sweep it all up. Things related and not” said Rumsfeld in the notes according to the CBS.

The Bush Administration campaign to convince Americans of a link between 9/11 and Iraq continued in speeches, television appearances and press conferences according to a report by Walter Pincus and Dana Milbank at the “Washington Post” in June 2004

-In the later part of 2001, Dick Cheney said it was “pretty well confirmed” that September 11th mastermind Mohamed Atta met with a senior Iraqi intelligence official before the attacks, in April 2000 in Prague.

-In May 2003, President Bush said “The liberation of Iraq is a crucial advance in the campaign against terror.” Of Iraq, the President said “we’ve removed an ally of al Qaeda and cut off a source of terrorist funding.”

-In September of 2004, Vice President Cheney said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “If we’re successful in Iraq…then we will have struck a major blow at the heart of the base, if you will, the geographic base of terrorists who had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11.”

-Cheney also said on the same episode of “Meet the Press” that “The Iraqi intelligence service had a relationship with al Qeda that stretched back through most of the decade of the 90’s.”

In a March 2003 prime time news conference where the President was discussing war plans for Iraq, the President mentioned September 11th eight times. The President mentioned Saddam Hussein several more times than that, often in the same sentence that he spoke of September 11th.

Unfortunately, no one really challenged the manipulative 9/11-Iraq charade flowing from the administration. Democrats appeared to be asleep actually falling for the associative allegations while the media had a field day, blasting dramatic background musical introductions to news reports and graphic “war on terror” banners and language as it prepared to embed reporters on tanks for what everyone thought would be a quick antiseptic war in Arab land.

A week after the March press conference, Steven Kull, director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland told the “Christian Science Monitor” “The administration has succeeded in creating a sense that there is some connection between September 11th and Saddam Hussein.”

The United States began military action in Iraq on March 20th, 2003.

By the fall of that same year in September, the BBC was confirming Kull’s earlier assertion, reporting that 70% of Americans polled believed that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the attacks of 9/11.

But, fast forward a few blood soaked years to August 2006 as more disturbing facts bubble to the surface and the war shows its more complicated side. A CBS/New York Times poll is reporting that 51% of Americans now think of the war in Iraq as “separate” from the overall war on terror and 63% think the war in Iraq has made Americans less safe from terrorism according to another poll conducted for the newsmagazine “Newsweek”

Most of the alleged relationships between the Islamic fundamentalist al Qaeda and the secular tyrannical regime of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq originally charged by Bush Administration members were disputed by the findings of the September 11th Commission in 2004. In fact, the 9/11 Commission found that Osama Bin Laden had at one time “sponsored anti-Saddam Islamists in Iraqi Kurdistan.”
Meanwhile, somewhere in a cave in Afghanistan or perhaps our ally Pakistan sits the Godfather of an organization that murdered 3,000 innocent people on a clear crisp September morning.

Another 3000 American lives, countless injuries, an estimated 40 thousand Iraqi lives and $300 billion later, a decidedly more unstable anti-American world has begged the awful question of us all, were we deceived?

Monday, August 14, 2006

East Village Observation: A Testament to Immigration Threatened

Architectural Testament to New York’s Immigrants Threatened
By Cody Lyon
On a warm Thursday evening at around 8pm, around 50 former parishioners, neighborhood activists and other community members gathered on a corner at a loosely organized vigil in New York’s East Village for the St. Brigid’s Roman Catholic Church building. Earlier that morning, a demolition crew from A. Russo Wrecking Company had begun the destruction of the old structure, knocking a large hole in the back of the yellow boxy building that has been sitting on the same corner for 158 years. The New York Archdiocese, which disbanded the parish in 2004, has said the building is unsafe, in danger of collapse, and that it plans to demolish the structure so that it can use the corner property for other purposes fitting its mission.

The humble, yet grand structure is a testament to working class immigrants who after escaping the Irish potato famine, made lives in New York and built a church they could be proud of. In later years, the church became home to many of the neighborhood’s new immigrants, Latino Catholics. The building stands on the corner of 8th Street and Avenue B casting its familiar golden yellow reflection on the new generations from other corners of the world, who play or pass leisure time directly across the street in Tompkins Square Park. Architect Patrick Keely’s ‘Gothic Carpenter’ structure has seen countless parishioners share faith and find community in what used to be a working class neighborhood known as the Dry Dock District. Over the years, the old church bore witness to the numerous transformations of an area that some still say is New York’s most colorful and arguably diverse. Trendy bars, boutiques and high rents are more accurate testaments to today’s East Village.

And with this change, comes a commonly New York dilemma.

The city’s changing face and church going habits have resulted in declining membership throughout most of the borough’s houses of worship. With declining memberships comes declining funding for individual up-keep and building usefulness and when paired with the rising value of the land they sit on, makes for heated battles between preservationists and building owners, who recognize the potential profits of land use and air rights.

Being the largest owner of religious properties in the city, The New York Archdiocese has been forced to re-align its finances, leading to difficult choices that have included the closing of several parishes, including St Brigid’s, which was disbanded in 2004. The properties that these buildings sit on have increased in value at a remarkable pace over the past few years, which could provide the Archdiocese with much needed revenue.

Andrew Dolkart, the James Marston Fitch Professor of Historic Preservation at Columbia University said of St Brigid’s slated demolition “the most recent parallel is St Thomas Roman Catholic Church in Harlem” the 1907 ecclesiastical church on St Nicholas Avenue designed by Thomas Poole. After closing the Harlem church, the Archdiocese actually began demolition of the structure for a housing development but was interrupted because of community opposition. That church remains standing, but padlocked, in deteriorating condition and still slated for demolition.

The increasingly heated battle in the East Village between those who want to save the building and The Archdiocese of New York has gained increasing attention over the past few weeks. One weekly community newspaper quoted an anonymous resident who said she hoped the building’s destruction would raise her property values. Most coverage has profiled efforts by community activists, preservationists and former parishioners to save St. Brigid’s. The Archdiocese has been vague in most of its responses to questions about future plans for the property.

At the Thursday vigil, as thunder roared, breezes blew and lightning crackled across the evening sky, candles were lit, and participants sang the Rosary in Spanish. Then, as the curious stopped by to listen, speakers that included City Council-person Rosie Mendez spoke to an increasingly informed group of East Village residents, many who were un-aware of the church’s planned fate.

“If they destroy this building, they destroy the history and architecture that it’s inside it and there is nothing that can bring it back” said Council person Mendez.

“ We’re going to be in court tomorrow, and we’re hoping we can stop this” Mendez shouted from the sidewalk, supported by crutches thanks to a broken ankle.

The former parishioner’s attorney had argued to save the building based on a technicality, that when the Archdiocese applied for a demolition permit last February, there was no properly convened board vote included former parishioners of St. Brigid’s.

Moments later, Mendez said of the men running the Archdiocese “they ultimately make the decisions.”

“I think a lot of communities in Manhattan are vulnerable, because of real estate speculation” Mendez said, noting that many Catholic church’s are located on prime Manhattan real-estate markets.

Some observers speculate that preservationists, neighborhood activists and former parishioners expect The New York Archdiocese to bankroll church preservation efforts.

Not so say opponents of the church’s destruction. In fact, The Committee to Save St Brigid’s Church points out that an anonymous donor once offered fair market value to the New York Archdiocese to purchase and restore the church, but, according to committee members, the Archdiocese refused to even meet with the individual.

Archdiocese spokesperson Joseph Zwilling told “Village Voice” in an August 3rd article that the Archdiocese does not exist to create monuments but instead to serve “the needs of people consistent with the Catholic mission and purposes of the Archdiocese of New York.”

Opponents of the church’s destruction see an archdiocese bowing to financial pressure caused in part by Priest scandal lawsuits. There is no denying the huge profits tucked into the land St Brigid’s sits on. So, as some demolition opponents see it, the Archdiocese quietly slipped in and began the destruction of St Brigid’s, un-announced. But, neighborhood eyes and ears on the ground quickly informed other concerned residents, leading to temporary halt in demolition, the evening vigil and sudden groundswell of opposition.

Harry Kresky, the lawyer representing The Coalition to Save St. Brigid’s, says he called the New York Archdiocese lawyer earlier that day, and asked for a delay in demolition while the court determined the church’s fate, to which an Archdiocese lawyer told him “no way” and hung up the phone.

Columbia’s Professor Dolkart said there had been examples in the past of church’s linking up with community groups to help raise money for the preservation of historic buildings offering The Universalist’s Church on Central Park West as an example.
Another alternative to demolition could be through private developer and community partnerships, as Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow Julia Vitullo-Martin told the “New York Sun” in June.

In her article, she said “sensitive development that uses various tools like the transfer of development rights to preserve a house of worship while building profitable housing to pay for it.”

Regardless of alternatives, prospects at the Thursday night vigil sounded grim.

That night, lawyer Kresky told the crowd that he wished he could be more optimistic and hopeful, but “they were dealing with powerful players” offering harsh speculation that although it was cardinals and bishops running the Archdiocese, they were out of touch with the hearts and humanity in the community.

In an emotional voice-cracking plea, neighborhood resident and Committee member Carolyn Ratcliffe told the crowd “the church’s destruction rips the heart out of all us.”

“That church represents what this community stands for, it’s a place where immigrants came, where they found support, where they made a life, that’s us” said Ratcliffe.

True, Manhattan’s East Village is a place where immigrants came, and still do. But, most of those who now make the international neighborhood home have access to greater economic resources than those who escaped the potato famine.

And, as the neighborhood changed around it, time was taking a toll on the St Brigid’s building. A huge crack in the north wall, threatens the support of the building’s roof. A few years ago, parishioners raised over $103 thousand with stoop and yard sales for repairs to the building and turning the money over to the Archdiocese. According to participants at the vigil, the Archdiocese never applied the funds to the building’s repair. But, some realistic estimates on repair costs have been as high as $7 million, a far cry from the $100 thousand or so that has been raised to save the church by former parishioners and opponents of the proposed destruction.

A few observers believe that the Archdiocese has access to enough cash to leave the building standing and that it is ignoring the concerns of the local community.

Later that evening, as the lightning became more frequent, Betty Brassell, a 50-year East Village resident originally from Augusta Georgia, said “it’s a shame anybody with money would want to tear that beautiful church down.” With that, raindrops began to fall, and Brassell shuffled alongside Rosie Mendez down Avenue B towards home.

Before everyone had left, Vigil participants were told that the workers would be back at 7 that next morning. Protesters would be there to greet them.

The next morning, the men from A Russo were back at the church some using crowbars to knock out imported lead stained windows from Bavaria. As protesters watched, choking back tears, screaming at the ongoing demolition, a protester of the demolition appeared on the roof. By 9 am, windows on one side of the building destroyed, rubble piling up outside the hole in the back, an order came from the Department of Buildings to stop work because of un-safe demolition conditions. As workers sat idle in the heat, a DOB official sat quietly in his air-conditioned car.

When asked how long the stop work order would last, he said, “at the most two or three days.”

Further downtown in a courtroom action was being taken that might save the building for a little longer.

At 2 pm down at 60 Centre Street, the group opposing the demolition of St. Brigids Church received the decision they’d been praying for. Judge Barbara Kapnick signed a court order, temporarily halting the demolition of St. Brigid’s Church, at least until August 24.

Later that night, many of the same vigil participants from the night before, gathered again, this time, directly across the street from the church for a celebratory pep rally. By the time Council Person Rosie Mendez arrived with lawyer Harry Kresky, a large group of bicyclists, were passing through on Avenue B finishing their own protest for cycling rights. Fist’s raised in triumph the group on the street, which had grown in size, engaged the passing group to join the chant “save St. Brigids, Save St. Brigid’s!”

For now, the church’s long-term fate remains a mystery.

“No comment” as to the situation at St. Brigid’s according to Lisa de-Bourbon, a spokesperson for the City’s Landmarks Commission, an organization that with city council approval, has the power to save the structure.

So, for a few more days, the yellow church built by Irish immigrants will continue its role as an architectural icon in an ever-changing international neighborhood. The structure will remain, providing a window into a past that may, or may not have been as exciting as the present the old church is now witnessing.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

America's Long Nightmare-Lieberman, Bush and Terror

America's Long Nightmare
by Cody Lyon

Relishing the “wave of voter revolt against Iraq” demonstrated by the victory of anti-war candidate Ned Lamont, the organization “” gave itself a pat on the back for the defeat of Senator Joseph Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut in an e-mail letter to supporters. The political action group, aligning Lieberman with the current President, told readers “our nation is awaking from the long nightmare of the Bush Presidency.”

Wow, if it were only that simple!

Move-On is still a long way from that de-luxe victory in the sky.

True, the defeat of Iraq invasion supporter Joe Lieberman, a three term Senator from the home state of enlightenment centers like Yale, deserves a victory cha cha dance by anti-Iraq war vocalists who feel the beat of victorious political drums. But, for the one quarter or so American voters who three years ago peered into the crystal ball of world events, and saw Iraq as a key that would unlock the lid to current Pandora’s box of horrors, this is no time to engage in bittersweet smirks.

The defeat of Joe Lieberman is a shot across the Political bow. But, it is hardly the most challenging battle that must be waged in the overwhelming quest to alter the mess our nation finds itself in now.

The challenge is to capture the attention of, and find a route into the hearts and minds of Americans across the country, so they fully understand and accept, that they were misled by an administration that manipulated intelligence and used shady, reckless and dishonest suggestive rhetoric to link fundamentalist radical terrorists to the secular tyrant we overthrew in Iraq. It all arrived in a neat little package called the "war on terror"

After Lieberman's defeat, The White House wasted no time in cranking up the manipulation machine again, hauling out Vice President Cheney who suggested to reporters that it might encourage “Al Queda types.”

The “New York Times” reported that Cheney said Lieberman was “pushed aside because of his aggressive posture in terms of our national security.”

But, in fact, our national security is less secure thanks to Iraq.

News of a foiled terrorist threat to airliners traveling from London to the United States, couldn’t come at a more politically opportune moment for the Bush administration who will, if the past is any indication, exploit this event as reason de jour to vote for like minded politicians who support their agenda.

The news channels will add spice and heat to the fire as they attempt to spike ratings, shipping star correspondents out of the real, war ravaged rivers of blood flowing in Iraq, Lebanon and Israel to report a story built on scary “what ifs” while warning travelers about long delays and frightening liquid explosives hidden in sports drinks.

In spite of all of this, there are signs that American’s are beginning to wake up and smell the political coffee, slowly realizing that it’s not freshly brewed, tossing this pot of Joe into the political sink for now.

What folks like Joe Lieberman failed to recognize as they kissed Bush and didn’t tell, is that they operate in states where large numbers of voters have seen through the Bush administration charade. It is unfortunate that back in the day, when real leaders could have made a difference in the turn of world events, there was silence or support for un-wise policy. As we speak, chops are being licked, as it becomes clear that Move-on... could move on up to another victory in the sky, if there were another one of those wealthy anti-war candidates on the streets of, say Manhattan, ready to knock the wind out of the Iraq war supporter Clinton's balloon, but only with the help of a truck-load of liberal bloggers. In the end, the sad truth is that our world is now a much more perilous place and our nation's current foreign policy has only contributed to the spills.

Wise leadership is what we are most hungry for.

Americans will not awaken to find that the Bush Presidency was a nightmare. Instead, we have to figure out a way to live with a less stable, more dangerous tragedy soaked world, a continuous barrage of anti-American hostility and an even more divided mean spirited domestic political system all thanks in great part to this administration’s policy.

It may feel good to see Joe Lieberman, a man many feel betrayed their core values, go down in defeat. But, this is high profile political revenge for supporting an unnecessary war that has left the Middle East a far more anti-American place, a place where, if we cut and run like a spoiled child there’d be even more hell to pay. So what's next for us?

The United States will have to live with and seek to repair the damage that has resulted from the sins of this reckless White House for many years to come. We will also live with the sins of powerful and less powerful private citizens who didn’t pay attention and have the where with all to ask tough questions. We’ll live with the sins of a neutered press that didn’t seize the moment and educate the public on the distinctions between 9/11, global terrorism and Iraq. And we will live with the sins of political figures like Joe Lieberman who apparently did not realize that being patriotic in Washington involves leadership and that a leader does not follow the example of a talented manipulator. Instead, being a leader requires that you have the courage to speak the truth.