Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.

A Tale of Two Political Prisoners – and You Can Help Both of Them

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

Woodfox has had his conviction overturned twice.”

There are two people who deserve your attention, today – right now. One has been held in solitary confinement for most of the past 41 years. The other has been fighting most of her life in defense of political prisoners – and has become one, herself. Albert Woodfox, of the Angola 3, is 66 years old. Lynne Stewart, the famed human rights lawyer, is 73, and suffering from Stage 4 breast cancer.

Albert Woodfox and two other Black men at Louisiana’s notorious Angola prison were convicted in the death of a prison guard in 1972, a case that became a cause célèbre for a variety of reasons, including the lack of physical evidence. The three had formed a unit of the Black Panther Party in the prison, in 1971. When the guard was killed, they were immediately put in solitary confinement, where two of them, Woodfox and Herman Wallace, remained for most of the intervening years under a sentence of life imprisonment. The third member of the Angola 3, Robert Hillary King, was released after 29 years of solitary confinement when his conviction was overturned and he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge. King has travelled the world speaking out for his imprisoned comrades and for the release of all political prisoners. The Angola 3 have been the subject of three films, one narrated by Samuel L. Jackson.

Woodfox has had his conviction overturned twice, most recently this past February, when a federal court found evidence of intentional racial discrimination in jury selection at Woodfox’s second trial, in 1998.

Amnesty International is asking the Louisiana attorney general not to appeal the judges ruling, so that Woodfox can be released or given a new trial. They’ve organized a “Take Action” letter writing campaign, which you can join by going to Angola3news.blogspot.com or takeaction.amnestyusa.org.

Lynne Stewart’s breast cancer was found to be spreading.”

Lynne Stewart is a people’s lawyer, who has put her own freedom on the line in the struggle to preserve all of our rights. In 2009, she was sentenced to 28 months in prison for having vigorously defended one of her clients, the so-called “Blind Sheik” Omar Abdel-Rahman, in the World Trade Center bombing case. When she appealed, Stewart’s sentence was increased to 10 years in federal prison – the system’s twisted revenge. At a prison near Fort Worth, Texas, Lynne Stewart’s breast cancer was found to be spreading. Her husband and longtime political partner, Ralph Poynter, says 10 years is a virtual death sentence. Lynne’s family and legions of supporters are asking that she be given compassionate release from prison so that she can at least have a chance at survival.

There is no time to waste. To join in asking for Lynne Stewart’s compassionate release, go to the International Action Center’s website, and sign the petition. That’s iacenter.org. You can also write directly to Lynne from the same address: iacenter.org.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20130320_gf_StewartAndWoodfox.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:10pm EDT

U.S.-Sponsored Genocides: From Guatemala to Congo

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

The genocide would have been impossible without the United States.”

The man who unleashed a genocide against the Maya Indians of Guatemala, former dictator and general Efrain Rios Montt, went on trial for his crimes against humanity in Guatemala City, this week. By all rights, the 86 year-old Montt should be joined in the dock by scores of still-living United States officials, including former President George Bush the First.

Back in 1954, the CIA overthrew the reformist government of President Jacobo Arbenz, whose land reform measures had angered the United Fruit Company. The U.S. termination with extreme prejudice of Guatemalan democracy ultimately led to a 36-year rebellion and civil war, with the Americans backing a succession of dictators. General Montt was the most monstrous. In the 1980s, his regime declared total war on the Mayan people of the country’s highlands. Whole villages were massacred and entire regions laid waste as the military attempted to drain the human sea in which the guerilla movement swam. Army documents show clearly that the native Maya were targeted for extermination because of their ethnicity; that all Maya – a majority of Guatemala’s population – were considered enemies of the state. Rios Montt is the first Latin American former head of state to be charged with genocide in his own country.

However, this crime is not Rios Montt’s, alone. The genocide would have been impossible without the United States, which had run the show in Guatemala since 1954 and had armed the general to the teeth. The U.S. corporate media like to call President Ronald Reagan the “Great Communicator” but, in Guatemala, he was the Great Exterminator, encouraging and financing General Rios Montt’s orgy of mass murder. Reagan described the racist butcher as “a man of great personal integrity and commitment” who was “getting a bum rap.” All told, a quarter million or more Guatemalans died in the 40 years since the CIA robbed them of their democracy and independence.

The Maya were targeted for extermination because of their ethnicity.”

In 1999, when the civil war was over, President Bill Clinton apologized for the harm done to Guatemala by the United States. But by then, Clinton had already set in motion a far larger genocide in the Democratic Republic of Congo – a U.S.-sponsored holocaust that has so far claimed 6 million lives. In a just world, Slick Willie would join an auditorium full of Obama, Bush and Clinton administration operatives who, over the space of 16 years, made eastern Congo the charnel house of the planet. Susan Rice would have a place of prominence in this vast assemblage of criminals, as among the most culpable for the worst bloodbath since World War Two.

In fact, there is no auditorium big enough to hold the all the living Americans who should justly be charged with genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. There are too many – great crowds of them from each administration, especially in the last ten years, since the invasion of Iraq. Imperialism in its last stages maintains an ever-lengthening Kill List.

Guatemala is coming to grips with its past, in a trial that will probably last a few months. The United States has an infinity of crimes to answer for. For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20130320_gf_GuatemalaToCongo.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:49am EDT