Friday, December 11, 2009

On Civil Discourse

Dear supporters and subscribers:

Welcome to the NPPA’s new Blog.

The blog was to begin in January with an entry regarding Jack Coler’s birthday, however, a recent exchange of emails with the Leonard Peltier Defense-Offense Committee (LPDOC) concerning an out-of-control, foul-mouthed, self-appointed supporter who was not representing Peltier well in the court of public opinion, presented an opportunity to explore the concept of civil discourse and debate.

In an email dated 12/9/09 at 3:01pm the following was received from Jeff Armstrong, Communications Director, LPDOC:

(Name omitted) et al,

I have to agree that we should take the high road on this and not stoop to the level of Leonard’s framers and defamers. I’m not speaking for the LPDOC here, but I would like to see a more civil debate based on the facts of the case. I hope Ed Woods will reciprocate by withdrawing any objections he has filed with the IRS to hold up our 501 c3 status. Will he join us in calling for the release of 10,000 pages of FBI documents identifying informants and other participants in the FBI’s war on AIM? How about the “misplaced” Myrtle Poor Bear files? This is vitally important historical information whose suppression can only be justified by perpetuating the myth that Leonard Peltier and other AIM activists were violent criminals, rather than idealistic activists in a turbulent era.

Jeff Armstrong

Reply to Jeff Armstrong, Leonard Peltier and the LPDOC:

Jeff, Leonard, LPDOC:

First, thank you for the sincere and articulate reply and I would like to respond to the important points you’ve raised.

1) Continuing the Peltier debate in a civil, responsible and professional manner is crucial to ensure that those watching can make their own judgments concerning exactly what happened at Jumping Bull, and Peltier’s guilt.

2) Fundraising, etc.: The short answer is, no. This is an area where Peltier needs to be open and honest with his supporters and has been an ongoing issued both from outside observers and within the LPDOC (LPDC). As far back as 2003 LPDC leaders were calling for “transparency” concerning Peltier finances; and that has never happened (Editorial Essays 18,19 and 20 in the Debate Continues section, and A crucial premise here, of course, is the whole notion of tax-deductible donations. (Although, I did just notice that you have removed the—donations are tax deductible—comment from your website, and that’s a positive step.) But looking deeper into the issue and asking for donations for things like “legal expenses associated with Leonard’s case-filing and cost recovery fees and attorney travel, for example-as well as community outreach and public education efforts conducted on his behalf,” are not legitimate charitable donations. If Leonard wants to ask for money for those things, and people are willing to contribute, that’s fine (as long as he claims it as income), but not when it’s mixed with or implied that there are some others benefitting from this money. Claiming that “Our application for 501(c)(3) federal tax-exempt status is pending” is perhaps a true statement but it is disingenuous and misleading; it will be pending until the IRS turns it down because no matter what terms the Peltier issues are framed in, Leonard is not, and never will be, a charity case. Supporters must know that, and Leonard needs to show “transparency” regarding finances as some of his close supporters have repeatedly demanded.

3) FOIA: It’s been repeated a number of times in Editorial Essays that I would like to see that pages remaining be made public in the national archives. That would help quiet the endless speculation. However, the Freedom of Information Act regulations are cumbersome and I wouldn’t begin to understand all the fine points, but do fully understand the need to protect the identity of sources; they or their families would still be in jeopardy. But that’s something to be argued in the courts, as Leonard and his attorneys have done.

There is a important corollary to this however: A good example is the 6/26/75 FBI log on your related website one (1) page is there to support the premise that the Incident at Oglala was a pre-planned government move against AIM. Since Leonard has the entire document, why not, in all fairness, post the entire log and not just the one page that removes the context of the radio transmissions. I have personally asked the LPDOC for a copy of the complete document and they have never responded. This radio log will be the topic of an upcoming Editorial Essay entitled “the smoking gun.”

As you have seen, Aim is mentioned only a few times on the entire NPPA website, and mostly in passing. There are certainly other issues out there but Leonard is the focal point here.

Another, more recent point relates to statements made by Leonard, his attorney, Seitz, and the LPDOC after the parole hearing. I have asked, and will ask again for Leonard to post the Parole commission’s Notice of Action. That would resolve the question about exactly what the Commission had to say as they reached their decision. I’ve made an offer to transcribe the hearing as well. But without some real proof, Peltier supporters will not know what really happened at Lewisburg.

Betty Solano’s recent statement (November 10th Newsletter) that “…the U.S. Parole Commission on August 20 denied Leonard his well-deserved release on the basis of false and unsubstantiated claims by the FBI and the Justice Department” is so patently false that there has to be some reconciliation of the facts. The devil is in the details as it were. I was there and was pretty much privy to the entire event, and what Solano claims is not true. But we can straighten out this conundrum, as she also said, “Well, no more beating around the bush.” And I couldn’t agree more, so to put it more colloquially, Betty, Leonard, Et. Al., I’m calling your bluff. There is one very simple way to resolve this and I have offered to spend the time to transcribe the hearing recording. Post the Notice of Action and a transcript of the parole hearing so others can make their own judgments about who’s telling the truth.

I will tell you now, Jeff, if I am proven wrong, I will fold up my tent, head off into the sunset, shut down the NPPA website and not spend another moment of my life on Leonard Peltier.

4) Poor Bear: I would have no idea about any missing files or that Leonard has made such a claim. On a personal note my career was spent chasing bank robbers and the like and I had no access to anything officially connected to RESMURS or Peltier. Everything I have obtained and posted has come from either public sources (like all the court decisions), books, or the Internet and Leonard’s and others, public statements.

Why is Poor Bear even an issue anymore? That’s a rhetorical question of course, because she’s an issue that has been fully explored and resolved. She was never a witness against Leonard, she contributed nothing to his conviction, and even Leonard’s lawyer recognized that because in his opening statement he said she was a “witness whose mental imbalance is so gross as to render her testimony unbelievable.” So Leonard really cannot have it both ways.

And yes, there’s the extradition; but the Canadian Government after considerable review said that Peltier was legally extradicted to the United States. They had the final word on extradition.

AIM: That was a very good turn of a phrase and I can see why you are the communications director: “perpetuating the myth that Leonard Peltier and other AIM activists were violent criminals, rather than idealistic activists in a turbulent era.”

So then, we’re blaming their criminal actions on the times? No accountability for all the chaos they caused? Rather than go there, because frankly I don’t care about AIM, you would have to make a much larger argument to convince any reasonable people that AIM benefited those it claimed to help. And I know there are a lot of native people on the Ridge and elsewhere who would agree with that assessment. The history of AIM is not on your side of that argument and no matter how much Peltier and his supporters try to convince otherwise, all that has to be done is take a close look at AIM leadership, where they came from, where they went afterward and the path of destruction they left in their wake.

Having a reasonable and civil discourse and debate on the Peltier matter is a positive thing and I thank you for helping to promote that while we focus in on the details of Peltier’s guilt and the myth that has grown around the folklore. We can then let the undecided make up their own minds.


“In the Spirit of Coler and Williams”

Ed Woods