Three women were released from captivity on Friday, March 4. Depending on your perspective, each could easily be considered a profile in courage. However, considering the disparate tabloid press coverage, apparently only one -- Martha Stewart -- deserves our attention. Courage has nothing to do with it. The envious and hostile media has been after Stewart for years, eager to see her get a comeuppance for thinking she could compete with corporate men in a corporate men's world and get away with it.
What arrogance! A woman. A self-made woman. A self-made, Democrat woman. Whoop! Not since Saddam has there been such a gathering threat to profit-loving neighbors. Those who watched the sneering, green-eyed media coverage of Martha on her way up knew that, clearly, Martha was going down. Just a matter of time.
The moment came in June 2002 when the venerable New York Times hit the stands with an anonymous tip from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, chaired by Rep Billy Tauzin (R-La.) that Stewart was up to "insider trading" shenanigans. The rest of the media, especially the cable gang, followed the Times' lead and hopped on Stewart like chickens on a june bug. The 352/24 circus began -- a full year during which the government floundered around, occasionally throwing stuff up against Stewart hoping something would stick.
Stewart's crime? According to the Cato Institute's Alan Reynolds, Stewart was "convicted of conspiring to cover up a crime she was not accused of having committed -- insider trading." Reynolds also said Stewart was convicted of lying while not under oath about a stock sale that was perfectly legal. Strangely, the judge in the case, Miriam Cedarbaum, refused to allow Stewart's attorneys to tell the jurors that the sale of the stock was no crime.
Stewart's conviction did not qualify for a sentence of life without parole, but the media's wild speculation and non-stop lies and rumors succeeded in turning most Americans against Stewart, including the jury, whose members to this day think they sent a rich bitch to prison for insider trading.
Martha Stewart displayed magnificent courage by refusing to relinquish control of events after being framed by sleazy political hit men and their packs of dogs-in-heat media. Just two months after her conviction, Stewart opted to immediately serve her five-month prison term rather than endure the long wait for an appeal hearing, "so I can quickly return to the life and the work that I love," she said. That's exactly what she did, and CNN and FOX, deprived of a Stewart "perp walk" and disappointed that they would not see Stewart hauled to prison in shackles and chains, camped out on the prison grounds at Alderson, West Va., hoping to bring us "breaking news" that Stewart had been in a fight, had been sexually assaulted in the shower -- anything to show that she was getting what she so richly deserved.
But, alas, our Martha got kinder and gentler and bigger and better and richer and more admired with each passing day. The stock price of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. tripled in value, showering her with hundreds of millions of dollars, she began receiving her $900,000 salary upon her release, and not one, but two television shows waited in the wings for her. When she left at daybreak on that Friday morning, Stewart was wearing a poncho (shawl) that one of her new best friends hand-crafted for her.
Stewart waved merrily to reporters hurling juvenile questions at her -- "How does it feel to be out of jail?" "How do you f-e-e-e-l?" Stewart, although obviously elated, opted to control the hateful spin and condescending speculation that met her every utterance, and posted her feelings about being in and out of jail in her own words on her website within minutes of returning home.
The saga of Martha Stewart is far from over. The road she travels is fraught with corporate media land mines. Because, if the media has anything to do with it -- Martha's going down...
After serving a year-and-a-half in jail for fighting nukes and speaking out for peace, Jackie Marie Hudson was once again a free woman. No media were waiting for her that Friday afternoon as she left the federal prison in Victorville, Calif. But it did not matter to the 70-year-old nun that there were no flashbulbs popping -- no CNN airhead asking her how she felt. Unbowed, Hudson was eager to pick up the pieces of her life and resume her mission -- that of fighting nukes and speaking out for peace.
Few Americans are as courageous as Hudson or her two "partners in crime," Sisters Carol Gilbert, 57; and Ardeth Platte, 68. Armed with truth and fearless faith, and buoyed by a deep love for both God and country, the three Dominican nuns refused to be silenced as Bush and his neocon jackals bayed for war, their wicked lies about WMD intimidating the terrified masses. On October 6, 2002, the first anniversary of the U.S. destruction of Afghanistan, the three sisters walked boldly into the inner enclosure around a Minuteman III missile site near Greeley, Colorado. Since Bush opened up the international conversation about the horrors of WMD, they believed it was not only their responsibility, but their duty to expose just one of many weapons of mass destruction in the United States.
You just gotta love em. All three are members of the Plowshares Movement, an international disarmament movement inspired by Isaiah 2:4 to "beat swords into plowshares." They were dressed in white coveralls, or "mop-up" suits, with CWIT (Citizens Weapons Inspection Team) printed on the back and "Disarmament Specialist" printed on the front. The "dangerously irresponsible" act of vandalism for which they were prosecuted amounted to the three "symbolically" disarming the Minuteman by tapping on the silo's 110-ton concrete lid with household hammers before marking the silo walls with their own blood in the form of crosses. Rather than run away, they then sat down, prayed and sang hymns as they waited for John Ashcroft's patriot police.
Where were Hudson's fellow Americans on that day five months before Bush's deranged assault on Iraq? Where are they now? If they had listened to Hudson on the day of her sentencing when, from the courthouse steps, she asked -- "When someone holds a gun to your head or someone else's head, do you not have a right and a duty to enter that arena and stop that crime?" -- the world might be a far different, and much safer, place. Hundreds of thousands of lives lost, far more wounded in mind, spirit and body -- the concentric circles of grief and disease spreading wider and ever wider -- all a result of corporate greed and the lust for power.
Americans cringing in silent obedience. A most hideous crime. Wicked in the extreme.
Hudson, Platte and Gilbert refuse to be silenced. They stand united against being ruled by "evil tyrants who threaten and use weapons of mass destruction and ignore international law." They are the burr under Bush's war saddle. Hudson has been arrested for protesting the war five times, but Platte has been hauled off to jail at least 10 times, and Gilbert a whopping 13 times. Hudson fully expects her freedom to be cut short because she refuses to pay the $3,080.04 court-ordered restitution for her heinous crime. She says she refuses to "pay money to this morally bereft government which presently spends over one billion dollars a day to slaughter or in planning the slaughter of millions of innocent persons."
The road upon which these three brave nuns "walk the walk" is mostly uphill and their journey has been mostly alone. But they continue to implore their fellow Americans to "Hold our government accountable for disarmament of all of the US weapons of mass destruction, ban the barbaric war-making forever, establish an economy that allows for others to live with basic human necessities -- and save the environment from the ravages of military industrial complex contamination and destruction."
"The hope of the world," Sister Jackie Hudson said on the morning she left for prison, "rests on each of our shoulders. I promise to do my share...How about you?"
Later that evening on the other side of the world, another woman's courage was being put to the test. Exactly one month before, Italian reporter Giuliani Sgrena had been abducted in front of a Baghdad mosque after talking to refugees who had fled Fallujah in November during the US bombardment. Now, an abandoned Giuliani sat blindfolded in a car on a muddy Baghdad street, caught in an emotional vacuum between relief and fear, the parting words of her captors ringing ominously in her ears -- "Take care, because there are Americans who don't want you to go back."
CNN was first out of the box with the breaking news that insurgents had fired upon a vehicle carrying the just-released Italian reporter. There were fatalities, the female anchor panted excitedly, while showing a recent video of a tearful Sgrena pleading for her life. Oh the horror -- the horror! Another valiant reporter killed by evil terrorists in a roadside attack! Minutes later, and much calmer, the anchor said it was being reported that the "incident" occurred when the speeding vehicle refused to stop at a checkpoint on the road to the Baghdad airport, and that Sgrena was injured but still alive. An hour later, now stony-faced and petulant, she admitted okay, so there was no checkpoint -- but, she added hurriedly, there was a special patrol set up and the whole thing was just a regrettable "accident."
Those few inclined to believe Sgrena's account were quickly made to understand that she brought this depraved assault upon herself, for she had no business sneaking around in areas like Fallujah that were off-limits to unembedded journalists. Besides, Sgrena was no innocent victim. No sir. She was a "left-wing reporter" for Il Manifesto, a politically extreme Communist newspaper opposed to Bush's war in Iraq and, therefore, she did not support our troops. US media coverage was literally cut off in mid-sentence. Giuliani Sgrena was the Commie bitch who got away.
Giuliani's account was honest and straightforward. She recalls as she sat in the silent darkness, frightened and wondering what lay ahead, she had just started counting the seconds when she heard the welcome voice of Nicola Calipari, second in command of Italian intelligence..."Giuliana, Giuliana, this is Nicola, Don't worry....don't worry, you're free."
On the way to the airport, Giuliani said Calipari sat by her side in the back seat. "The driver had notified the embassy and Italy twice that we were heading to the airport, which I knew was controlled by the American troops," Giuliani said. "It was less than one klilometre, they told me...when...I remember only fire. At that point a rain of fire and bullets came at us, forever silencing the happy voices from a few minutes earlier. The driver started shouting...'We are Italians! We are Italians...' Nicola dove on top of me to protect me and immediately, and I mean immediately, I felt his last breath as he died on me."
To say there was mass confusion on the part of the US military brass caught with their pants down after the bungled assassination attempt is an understatement. The car was barreling through a checkpoint...The driver ignored warning shots...No checkpoint, but a special patrol set up to protect Ambassador Negroponte who flies everywhere he goes, but "might" be driving along the most dangerous stretch of road in Iraq that night...We were not informed the Italians were in the area with a released captive...We knew nothing...What Italian airplane warming up on the tarmac?...The automobile is not available for inspection -- but trust us, there was no hail of bullets; we only shot into the engine as a warning...
Italy's Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, was not amused. Washington spouted one explanation after another, and each was promptly debunked. Murdering Nicola Calipari was a serious mistake -- even more so than wounding Sgrena. Calipari was a trusted professional, a personal friend of Berlusconi's, and his wife worked in Berlusconi's office. In a March 9 speech, Berlusconi said the US knew of negotiations, knew Sgrena had been released and knew that Calipari had informed the proper US military authorities of his mission.
According to author Naomi Klein who has just returned from Rome where she talked to Sgrena at length, they were fired upon by a "gun at the top of a tank -- a tank parked by the side of the road." Sgrena told Klein that they were fired upon "from behind," and that the shell entered the back seat, killing Calipari instantly, with shrapnel entering her shoulder and puncturing her lung and wounding the other intelligence agent in the back seat. The only person who was not injured was the driver of the vehicle. There was no warning.
Klein also said the road on which Sgrena traveled that night was not the infamous "Baghdad Airport" road, arguably the most dangerous stretch of road in the world. It was secure. No Iraqis can access it, as it is reserved for ambassadors and top security officials. It was in the Green Zone, and the auto carrying the Italians had successfully gone through a checkpoint and had been cleared for safe travel to the airport.
Bush promised Berlusconi a "full investigation." However, as Wayne Masden writes in an Online Journal Special Report, since Bush has gone to great lengths to put the military (and himself by extension) outside the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC), and approved the assassination of anyone "deemed" to be a threat to US interests, the hit squad in the tank by the side of the road has been cleared of any wrongdoing.
From Bush's point of view, Giuliani Sgrena is clearly a threat to US interests. She is guilty of daring to be one of only a handful of reporters with the courage to tell the truth about war crimes committed again and again in Fallujah; to record the atrocities, the rapacious attacks on the innocent -- to tell of charred bodies of woman and children buried in mass graves; animals feeding on bodies left to rot in the streets. Masden also reports that Calipari and Sgrena had "intimate knowledge of the Iraqi resistance and how some loyalists of the US-supported Iraqi regime may have cooperated with the alleged Zarqawi forces to seize Western hostages and decapitate them on videos for propaganda purposes."
Sheila Samples is an Oklahoma freelance writer and a former civilian US Army Public Information Officer. She is a regular contributor for a variety of Internet sites. Contact her at: email@example.com. © 2005 Sheila Samples
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