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summits across the state. The first occurred in San Antonio on December 1. About 70 people showed, all believing that the public has been shut out of their government, and now is the time for change. Additional forums will be held in Dallas and Houston. “There is a broad consensus growing among activists, Capitol insiders, and the public that our current system is out of control and shuts off access and input,” says Fred Lewis. “If the public will get off its rear end and fight for change we have a good chance of getting it.” TRIAL RUN “There aren’t any satellite trucks,” said a camouflage-clad public affairs officer, gazing around the mostly empty parking lot outside Fort Hood’s main gate. He sounded a tad disappointed. It was just past 6 a.m. on December 4, and still dark. About a dozen shivering reporters were gathered, waiting to be led into the world’s largest military base, where, a few hours later, pre-trial hearings would begin for three of the soldiers charged with committing infamous abuses at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison. The military had moved the trials from Baghdad to Fort Hood without explanation, and the army seemingly expected a battalion of press to descend on the post. But the crowd never came. The army’s directive that reporters wanting to cover the hearingswhich didn’t start till 9 a.m.arrive at the remote base by 6 a.m. likely thinned the media ranks. Those reporters who dragged themselves to the base in time saw a hint of how the government would prosecute the defendants, all reservists in a military police detachment based in Maryland. The three Fort Hood defendants are Sergeant Javal Davis, 27 \(accused of stepping on detainees’ hands and Specialist Sabrina Harman, also 27 \(caught smiling in photos with a dead body and with Charles Graner \(the alleged ring-leader for much of the abuse, and supposed father of Pfc. is on trial at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. Davis’ pre-trial hearing, the first of the three, lasted three hours. The attorneys spent much of the time haggling over which witnesses the military would allow to testify for the defense at trial. The army counsel, wearing perfectly pressed dark green dress uniforms, tried to convince the judge to limit the number of military intelligence officers and commanders from the prison who would testify. The government’s case is simple enough: the accused soldiers acted on their own and out of the chain of command. It’s essentially the “few bad apples” theory postulated by President Bush and Pentagon chieftains. Davis’ civilian attorney, Paul Bergrin, previewed his defense strategy by arguing that the defendants were under orders from military intelligence officers to soften up prisoners for interrogations. He theorized that the abuse was a direct result of U.S. military policy emanating from the Pentagon and White House. The judge in the cases, Col. James Pohl, ruled that the army had to produce roughly two-thirds of the military witnesses that Bergrin asked for, though he denied several key ones, including the military intelligence commander at Abu Ghraib, Thomas Pappas. Pohl declared that Pappas and other military intelligence higher-ups weren’t connected to the specific assault charges that Davis faces. “[But] Pappas approved the use of dogs [for interrogation] in violation of every law known to mankind,” pleaded a frustrated Bergrin in his heavy Brooklyn accent. “I’m not dealing with every law known to mankind,” shot back the folksy Pohl. “I’m just dealing with the laws that I know.” His ruling was final. Pappas wouldn’t testify. Graner will be the first to stand trial, beginning on January 7. Trials for Davis \(early FebA few more reporters, and perhaps a few satellite trucks, will likely be on hand for those. 12/17/04 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13