,

President Obama must free Leonard Peltier

by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman
January 23, 2009

The welcome news that President Obama is taking steps to shut Guantanamo and right other Bush-era human rights abuses must quickly be joined by a proclamation of freedom for Leonard Peltier.

Peltier is the nation’s best-known native activist and has become a global symbol of abject injustice and prison abuse. Imprisoned in the late 1970s for allegedly murdering two FBI agents, Peltier has never been given a fair trial. Federal authorities have quashed or destroyed thousands of pages of evidence that might have freed Peltier decades ago.

The Leonard Peltier Defense Offense Committee points out that “Amnesty International considers Leonard Peltier to be a political prisoner whose avenues of redress have long been exhausted….Amnesty International recognizes that a retrial is no longer a feasible option and believes that Leonard Peltier should be immediately and unconditionally released.”

The committee adds that” Documents show that although the prosecution and government pointed the finger at Peltier for shooting FBI agents at close range during the trial in 1976, for three years the prosecution withheld critical ballistic test results proving that the fatal bullets could not have come from the gun tied to Leonard Peltier. This trial also denied evidence of self defense.”

The committee further states that: “the U.S. Prosecutor, during subsequent oral arguments, stated: “we can’t prove who shot those agents.” And that the Eighth Circuit found that “There is a possibility that the jury would have acquitted Leonard Peltier had the records and data improperly withheld from the defense been available to him in order to better exploit and reinforce the inconsistencies casting strong doubts upon the government’s case.”

The committee also says that “Judge Heaney, who authored the denial now supports Mr. Peltier’s release, stating that the FBI used improper tactics to gain Mr. Peltier’s conviction.”

Now 64 years old, Peltier is suffering from diabetes and a series of other serious ailments brought on by his decades in prison. He has great grandchildren he has never seen. His case is the centerpiece of the book IN THE SPIRIT OF CRAZY HORSE by Peter Matthiessen.

Reports from Betty Peltier-Solano, Leonard’s sister, now assert that Peltier was severely beaten during a recent transfer to the Canaan Federal Penitentiary. According to Peltier-Solano, he has been held in solitary confinement and limited to a single meal a day, a serious threat to his health due to his diabetes.

Over the decades Peltier has been a model prisoner, concentrating on his art and writing. His commitment to native American rights has been consistent throughout the years, though he’s been repeatedly denied media access.

Peltier is eligible for parole in the near future. His supporters fear this latest round of abuse may be designed to discredit him. The FBI recently sent a letter accusing Peltier of prompting this latest attack. Given Peltier’s age, poor health, immanent parole status and long-standing political commitments canont be viewed as a calculated absurdity. His sister writes that “currently, the FBI is actively seeking support for his continued imprisonment.”

The political involvement of the FBI is itself an issue the President must address. At very least Peltier should be freed on bail pending a new trial, with a concerted effort on the part of the new Department of Justice to unearth all suppressed evidence in this case.

Leonard Peltier has languished unjustly in prison far longer than those held in Guantanamo. It is time to set him free!

To find out more, contact the Leonard Peltier Defense Offense Committee at http://www.whoisleonardpeltier.info.


Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman have co-authored four books on election protection, which appear at https://freepress.org, along with Bob’s FITRAKIS FILES. Harvey’s HISTORY OF THE U.S. is at http://harveywasserman.com. This article was originally published by https://freepress.org.

TWO UPCOMING EVENTS FROM THE FREE PRESS

On Sunday, JANUARY 25 @ 7PM, come hear our friend
Dave Lippman Singer – Satirist – Social Justice Advocate
and George Shrub the world’s only singing CIA agent
Free Press office – 1021 East Broad Street
Donation requested $5-$10

AND DON’T FORGET:
Free Press Free Film Night – Tuesday, January 27 at 7:30pm
“MEAT THE TRUTH: The massive impact of livestock farming on climate change”
Sponsored by the Drexel East, Central Ohio Greeen Education Fund and the Columbus International Film & Video Festival

For more info:
253-2571
truth@freepress.org

Obama’s Marijuana Prohibition Acid Test

by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman
January 14, 2009

The parallels between the 1933 coming of Franklin Roosevelt and the upcoming inauguration of Barack Obama must include the issue of Prohibition: alcohol in 1933, and marijuana today. As FDR did back then, Obama must now help end an utterly failed, socially destructive, reactionary crusade.

Marijuana prohibition is a core cause of many of the nation’s economic problems. It now costs the U.S. tens of billions per year to track, arrest, try, defend and imprison marijuana consumers who pose little, if any, harm to society. The social toll soars even higher when we account for social violence, lost work, ruined careers and damaged families. In 2007, 775,137 people were arrested in the U.S. for mere possession of this ancient crop, according to the FBI’s uniform crime report.

Like the Prohibition on alcohol that plagued the nation from 1920 to 1933, marijuana prohibition (which essentially began in 1937) feeds organized crime and a socially useless prison-industrial complex that includes judges, lawyers, police, guards, prison contractors, and more.

A dozen states have now passed public referenda confirming medical uses for marijuana based on voluminous research dating back 5,000 years. Confirmed medicinal uses for marijuana include treatment for glaucoma, hypertension, arthritis, pain relief, nausea relief, reducing muscle spasticity from spinal cord injuries and multiple sclerosis, and diminishing tremors in multiple sclerosis patients. Medical reports also prove smoked marijuana provides relief from migraine headaches, depression, seizures, and insomnia, according to NORML. In recent years its use has become critical to thousands of cancer and AIDS sufferers who need to it to maintain their appetite while undergoing chemotherapy.

The U.S. ban on marijuana extends to include hemp, one of the most widely used agricultural products in human history. Unlike many other industrial crops, hemp is powerful and prolific in a natural state, requiring no pesticides, herbicides, extraordinary fertilizing or inappropriate irrigation. Its core products include paper, cloth, sails, rope, cosmetics, fuel, supplements and food. Its seeds are a potentially significant source of bio-diesel fuel, and its leaves and stems an obvious choice for cellulosic ethanol, both critically important for a conversion to a Solartopian renewable energy supply.

Hemp was grown in large quantities by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and many more of the nation’s founders, most of whom would likely be dumbfounded to hear it is illegal (based on entries in Washington’s agricultural diaries, referring to the separation of male and female plants, it’s likely he and his cohorts also raised an earlier form of “medicinal” marijuana).

Hemp growing was mandatory in some circumstances in early America, and again during World War II, when virtually the entire state of Kansas was planted in it. The current ban on industrial hemp costs the U.S. billiions of dollars in lost production and revenue from a plant that can produce superior paper, clothing, fuel and other critical materials at a fraction the financial cost and environmental damage imposed by less worthy sources.

On January 16, 1919, fundamentalist crusaders help pass the 18th Amendment, making the sale of alcohol illegal. The ensuing Prohibition was by all accounts a ludicrous failure epitomized by gang violence and lethal “amateur” product that added to the death toll. Its only real winner was organized crime and the prison-industrial complex.

In 1933, FDR helped pass the 21st Amendment repealing Prohibition, which ended a costly era of gratuitous social repression and gave the American economy—and psyche—a tangible boost.

Marijuana prohibition was escalated with Richard Nixon’s 1970 declaration of the War on Drugs. There was a brief reprieve when Steve Ford, the son of President Gerald Ford appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone barefoot and claiming that the best place to smoke pot was in the White House. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter’s last year in office, 338,664 were arrested for marijuana possession.

Ronald Reagan renewed the War on Drugs and declared his “Zero Tolerance” policy, despite his daughter Patti Davis’ claim the Gipper smoked weed with a major donor. Following Reagan, President George Herbert Walker Bush recorded a low of 260,390 marijuana possession arrests, but the numbers climbed again under Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, both of whom are reported to have smoked it themselves (though Clinton claims not to have inhaled).

On a percentage basis, at least as many American high school students smoke pot than students in Holland, where it is legal. In the midst of the drug war, U.S. students report virtually unlimited access to a wide range of allegedly controlled substances, including pot. Because so many Americans use it, and it is so readily available, the war on marijuana can only be seen as a virtually universal assault on the basic liberties of our citizenry.

In a 2005 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services survey, more than 97 million Americans admitted to having tried marijuana at least once. President-elect Obama makes it clear in his book Dreams From My Father that he has smoked—and inhaled—marijuana (he is also apparently addicted to a far more dangerous drug, tobacco). His administration should tax marijuana rather than trying to repress it. Like alcohol and tobacco, a minimum age for legal access should be set at 21.

As a whole, the violent, repressive War on Drugs has been forty years of legal, cultural and economic catastrophe. Like FDR, Obama must end our modern-day Prohibition, and with it the health-killing crusade against this ancient, powerful medicinal herb.


Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman have co-authored four books on election protection, available at https://freepress.org, along with Bob’s FITRAKIS FILES. Harvey’s SOLARTOPIA! is at http://harveywasserman.com. This article was first published by https://freepress.org.