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By Dave Lindorff
The forces arrayed in Washington propelling the nation into a war against Syria, including the Pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, the cabal of neo-conservative pundits and “think” tanks, whose ranks include President Obama’s National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice, the arms industry, the oil industry and other groups, are very powerful, and it may well be that eventually sheer momentum will lead to a US bombing attack on Syria. But for the moment, a grass-roots anti-war campaign has triumphed.
In a fairly remarkable defeat to the UK Conservative Party's Prime Minister David Cameron, the British Parliament voted against intervention in Syria in a preliminary vote today. That could change in a subsequent vote, but, hey, at least they met, debated and voted! And that was after Cameron's government actually, publicly offered their legal basis for such intervention and an intelligence assessment [PDF] they claim supports it.
Meanwhile, back in these United States, John Nichols details the several bi-partisan --- and surprisingly robust --- Congressional letters calling on President Obama to seek Congressional approval before taking military action against Syria. So far, over 150 members of Congress have signed on to those efforts.
In all, the New York Times concluded this morning (even before the vote in Parliament): "momentum for Western military strikes against Syria appeared to slow."
While a healthy portion of the U.S. Congress members speaking up are progressive Democrats, interestingly (though, perhaps, not surprisingly?), there are far more Republicans, this time around, joining the effort to call on the President to wait for an Article 1, Section 8 declaration of war from Congress --- or, at least, some form of authorization from the Legislative branch --- as clearly envisioned (an actual conservative would say "required") by the U.S. Constitution.
It's nice to see Congress, this time around --- at least more than 150 of its members --- calling on the President to do the right thing. On the other hand, Congress has its own responsibility here...
They are currently not in session. And while one of the letters [PDF], written by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and signed by 53 colleagues as of Thursday, promises Obama: "We stand ready to work with you," and another Congressional letter [PDF], the one with the most signatories on it (140 as of Thursday afternoon), written by Rep. Scott Rigell (R-VA) vows: "Congress can reconvene at your request," the leadership in Congress --- Republican House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid --- haven't bothered to call members back to session. They are perfectly capable of doing so without waiting for a request from the President.
What democracy? What rule of law?: Americans Oppose Criminal US Syrian Attack, But Obama is Set to Launch It
By Dave Lindorff
By John Grant
Here we go again.
Polls suggest the American people are fed up after two full-bore wars and the killing of an ambassador in Benghazi following our escapade in Libya. Yet, the Obama administration seems poised to launch another war in Syria.
“We can’t do a third war in 12 years!"
By Dave Lindorff
Confronting the latest attack on our privacy and freedom: Lavabit's Profile in Corporate Principles and Personal Courage
By Alfredo Lopez
The term "collateral damage" is most frequently applied to the "non-targeted" death and destruction brought by bombs and guns. But it seems that our government, the master of collateral damage, is now doing it in "non-violent" ways. Take the recent situation at Lavabit.
By Dave Lindorff
Like an obnoxious drunk harassing everyone and spilling drinks at a party, the US has continued to make itself both loathed and laughed at in the wake of the revelations about the National Security Agency’s global spying program as revealed by NSA leaker Edward Snowden.
By Dave Lindorff
I have been deeply ashamed of my country a number of times. The Nixon Christmas bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong was one such time, when hospitals, schools and dikes were targeted. The invasion of Iraq was another. Washington’s silence over the fatal Israeli Commando raid on the Gaza Peace Flotilla--in which a 19-year-old unarmed American boy was murdered--was a third. But I think I have never been as ashamed and disgusted as I was today reading that US Attorney General Eric Holder had sent a letter to the Russian minister of justice saying that the US would “not seek the death penalty” in its espionage case against National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, promising that even if the US later brought added charges against Snowden after obtaining him, they would not include any death penalty, and vowing that if Snowden were handed over by Russia to the US, he would “not be tortured.”
So it has come to this: That the United States has to promise (to Russia!) that it will not torture a prisoner in its control -- a US citizen at that -- and so therefore that person, Edward Snowden, has no basis for claiming that he should be “treated as a refugee or granted asylum.”
Why does Holder have to make these pathetic representations to his counterpart in Russia?
Because Snowden has applied for asylum saying that he is at risk of turture or execution if returned to the US to face charges for leaking documents showing that the US government is massively violating the civil liberties and privacy of every American by monitoring every American’s electronic communications.
Snowden has made that claim in seeking asylum because he knows that another whistleblower, Pvt. Bradley Manning, was in fact tortured by the US for months, and held without trial in solitary confinement for over a year before being finally put on trial in a kangaroo court, where the judge is as much prosecutor as jurist, and where his guilt was declared in advance by the President of the United States -- the same president who has also already publicly declared Snowden guilty too...
For the rest of this article by DAVE LINDORFF inThisCantBeHappening!, the new independent three-time Project Censored Award-winning online alternative newspaper, please go to:www.thiscantbehappening.net/
Across the nation, Head Start programs have ended their school years early, canceled summer programs, cut staff pay and benefits, and have begun to announce reductions in the number of children who will be served in the fall. Programs serving meals to seniors have started to reduce days of home delivery and have closed or reduced hours for dining rooms. The long-term unemployed have lost federal jobless benefits, while job training programs that might have helped them are cut back. Federal funds for education have been cut, with particularly harsh results for schools most reliant on these resources: those on Indian reservations or near military bases. Students counting on college work-study jobs are learning they will not get them. Poor families or people with disabilities perilously close to homelessness after waiting years for a rental voucher have been told they will have to wait longer.
These are just some of the impacts of sequestration. At a time when we need to invest in education, rebuild infrastructure, protect people from hardship, and jumpstart economic growth that finally reaches most of us, sequestration is taking us backwards.
While many are reeling from these impacts of sequestration, the appropriations levels set by the House Republicans for FY 2014 are taking even bigger steps in the wrong direction. Their plan not only assumes next year’s budget continues the devastating sequestration reductions, but it ignores the Budget Control Act’s requirement that half of the $110 billion in additional annual cuts must be imposed on military programs and half imposed on the other areas of government. Instead, the Pentagon budget is increased by 5.4 percent over this year’s spending. In marked contrast, the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education are slashed 18.6 percent below this year’s funding, including sequestration. Other important domestic areas are also cut deeply: energy, conservation, and environmental protection programs are cut between 11 – 22 percent.
These are upside-down priorities.
Continuing deep cuts made even worse by shifting funds from vital programs to the Pentagon is wrong. These cuts to needed investments and protections passed in the House in a partisan vote trample on the core American values of providing opportunity for our children, security for our elders, and a strong future for all of our communities. Instead of more cuts to vital programs and more pork for Pentagon contractors, it is time to end tax breaks for the rich and for big corporations.
We urge you to oppose appropriations based on the House-passed levels. Congress should enact a budget based on the values of opportunity and security, to build an America that works for all of us.
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Voting on 2014 Defense Appropriations Bill may come as early as Wednesday afternoon
STOP FUNDING WAR BUSINESS AS USUAL!
Call your Representative!
Time to stop favoring the Pentagon over urgent human needs at home.
Ask Them to Vote NO! on HR 2397.
Call 202 224 3121 (Capitol Switchboard) and ask for your Rep.
To Find Out your Rep : http://www.
Background: On June 13, the House Appropriations Committee passed H.R. 2397, the FY 2014 Department of Defense Appropriations Act approving $512.5 billion for the Pentagon base budget (not counting the cost of military construction and nuclear weapons), and $85.8 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations, which is largely for waging war in Afghanistan. For text: http://www.govtrack.us/
Despite countless floor speeches full of moral platitudes about democracy, social justice and peace and hard evidence that the US' imperial model is unsustainable, the majority in Congress continues to vote for the needs of a powerful military industry at the expense of the needs of most Americans.
It is not just militaristic Republicans who are the problems. When the House of Representatives voted on the 2014 Defense Authorization bill last month, the majority of Democrats voted in favor (103-90). See Roll Call http://www.gop.gov/votes/113/ Defense Contractors Are Making the Noise!
The DoD Budget ignores the Budget Control Act’s requirement that half of the $110 billion in additional annual cuts must be shared between military and non-military programs. Instead, the Pentagon budget is 5.4 percent over this year’s spending while the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education are slashed 18.6 percent below this year’s already reduced funding. Energy, conservation, and environmental protection programs will be cut between 11 – 22 percent. These choices are neither wise nor fair.
Under sequestration it's business as usual for the Pentagon and upheaval for the poor and vulnerable as more cuts to critical human need programs are imposed to protect funding for war, weapons and spying. During this fiscal year, the cuts to programs like Head Start, Meals on Wheels, student grants, affordable housing, furthe cut into vitally important services for some of our most vulnerable people- including families, children, low income mothers, students and elders. Our allies at the Coalition for Human Needs are keeping track of the impact across all 50 states here: http://www.chn.org/background/
Below is a recent example of how the Pentagon and it's private sector partners deal with the sequester and waste billions of taxpayer dollars:
...Northrop Grumman’s political strategy “is entirely predictable — hire the right people, target the right people, contribute to the right people, then link them together with subcontractors and go for the gold,” said Gordon Adams, who served as the senior White House budget official for national security from 1993 to 1997 … To read more: http://www.publicintegrity.
Members of Congress Need to Hear From Us !
Call 202 224 3121 (Capitol Switchboard) and ask for your Representative
Tell them to Vote NO on another $598 bill Pentagon Spending Bill
It is not just militaristic Republicans who are the problems. When the House of Representatives voted on the 2014 Defense Authorization bill last month, the majority of Democrats voted in favor (103-90). See Roll Call http://www.gop.gov/votes/113/
Defense Contractors Are Making the Noise!
After nearly 12 years, the House is on the verge of a historic vote that would put a nail in the coffin of George W. Bush's War on Terror. The legal foundation for what has become a global, endless war is the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF). Later today the House will vote on an amendment by Congressman Adam Schiff that would bar any funds from being spent on the 2001 AUMF after December 31, 2014, when the war in Afghanistan is scheduled to conclude. This vote is the first time Congress will vote on repealing the 2001 AUMF and it is going to happen this afternoon! Your Member of Congress needs to hear from you!
Take 30 seconds and call your Member of Congress now!
Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected to your Member of Congress. Then tell them:
"I'm calling today to ask you to support the Schiff amendment #73 to the Defense Appropriations Act. After more than 12 years of war, it is time to repeal the AUMF. Thank you."
More than a decade ago, Congress responded to the attacks of 9/11 by passing the 2001 AUMF. No one could have imagined what would be done over the next 12 years allegedly under that authority. From drone strikes in Somalia and Yemen to special forces operations in the Phillipines, the AUMF has been interpreted to allow for a global, endless war against not just Al Qaeda but countless other groups, many of whom have no intention of attacking America. Congressman Schiff's amendment would simply say that after the war in Afghanistan ends in 2014, the AUMF will come to an end. America would still have ample ability to defend ourselves and protect our interests, but there would no longer be a sweeping legal authority to go to war anywhere, at anytime, against nearly anyone in the world.
Tell your Member of Congress you support ending the AUMF. Call at (202) 224-3121 now!
Thank you for working for peace,
-Stephen, Tom, and the Win Without War Team
By John Grant
We now have clarity from a full-bird colonel in judicial robes that Bradley Manning is to be charged with “aiding the enemy.” OK, not much of a surprise here. Colonel Denise Lind’s ruling seems pretty predictable.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee Releases Report on Presidential Utilization of 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force
Washington, D.C.— Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee released a report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) surrounding the presidential utilization to undertake military and other actions under the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which was enacted in response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.
“As the only Member of Congress to vote against the AUMF on September 14th, 2001, I have been deeply concerned about this overly-broad blank check for war,” said Congresswoman Lee. “I knew then, as I know now, that it gives any president the nearly unlimited authority to wage limitless war at anytime, anywhere, for any reason, in perpetuity. Until this report, we did not have a public accounting of the number of times that it had been cited. I’m certain this will prove a useful tool for my colleagues and the American people and help shine a spotlight on the uses of the AUMF.”
The report lists 30 instances where the AUMF has invoked by Presidents Bush and Obama, including to deploy troops in Ethiopia, Djibouti, Georgia, and Yemen, justify detentions at Guantanamo Bay, and conduct military commissions. The data from this report includes information gleaned solely from two publicly available GPO publications: Federal Register and Compilation of Presidential Documents.
“What continues to concern me, however, is that this information is based on what is only publically reported. We don’t know the further, full extent, including the ongoing use of lethal drones, surveillance, unlimited detention, and other actions where the AUMF has been used as justification,” said Congresswoman Lee.
Congresswoman Lee has consistently called for repeal of the AUMF; to that end, in the 113th Congress, Congresswoman Lee introducedHR 198. In addition to her ongoing efforts, this week, Congresswoman Lee will introduce an amendment to the 2014 Defense Appropriations Bill which would require the Department of Defense to produce a comprehensive report on the uses of AUMF, in both classified and unclassified forms, to bring further accountability and Congressional oversight on this issue.
The full text of the report can be viewedhere.
His 'Crime' is Patriotism, not Betrayal Like Hale's Philip Nolan, Snowden has Become a 'Man Without a Country'
By Dave Lindorff
In Edward Everett Hale's short story "The Man Without a Country," US Army Lt. Philip Nolan, following a court-martial, is exiled from his country, his citizenship snatched away, leaving him doomed to sail the seven seas confined to a Navy vessel, unable to make any country his home. His crime: being seduced by a treacherous leader to betray the US of A, the country of his birth.
Senate Set to Confirm New FBI Head Who Ok'd Waterboarding, Defends Mass Spying, Indefinite Detention
By Dave Lindorff
It’s little wonder that despite his disclosure of an unprecedented KBG-like or Stasi-like spying program targeting all Americans, fully half of all Americans polled are saying that National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden is a “spy” or “traitor” who should be brought to justice.
Why would this be, when a solid majority also say they oppose the spying program?
On this, the anniversary of the U.S.’s independence from Great Britain, some observations:
Biden/Obama full-court press on Snowden is a bad joke: The Real Traitors to America are in Washington and New York
By Dave Lindorff
It's hard to know whether to laugh or cry as the US goes all out to get its hands on National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.
New Bill Would Block War and Weapons to Syria Without Congressional Authorization -- Just Like the Constitution Does
From Rep. Peter Welch:
Welch Leads Bipartisan Coalition in Congress to Block U.S. Intervention in Syria
Legislation Would Block Intervention Without Prior Congressional Approval
Washington, DC (June 27th) - Rep. Peter Welch joined with Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY), Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), and Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) at a press conference today to unveil bipartisan legislation to block U.S. military intervention in Syria without an affirmative vote of Congress.
Specifically, Welch and his colleagues’ bill would require military intervention in Syria, including military assistance, to first be authorized by a joint resolution of Congress. It would exempt ongoing humanitarian assistance from the requirement of Congressional approval.
“It is vitally important that we recognize the lessons learned from Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Welch. “Syria is in a brutal and tragic civil war the roots of which go back hundreds of years. To the extent that America can help with humanitarian assistance to ease this tragic refugee crisis, we should do so. But sending military assistance to Syrian rebels, or intervening directly in this conflict, will lead to the Americanization of this Sunni-Shia conflict. If America walks down this path, Congress and the American people should first be part of a vigorous debate. Congress has the constitutional responsibility to authorize any action and it should do its job.”
Identical legislation has been introduced in the Senate by Senators Tom Udall (D-NM), Chris Murphy(D-CT), Rand Paul (R-KY) and Mike Lee(R-UT). Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is also a cosponsor of the House bill.
Welch recently traveled to the region on a congressional oversight trip from April 28-May 4. He visited a refugee camp on the Syrian-Turkey border.
By Dan DeWalt
“If people can't trust not only the executive branch but also don't trust Congress, and don't trust federal judges, to make sure that we're abiding by the Constitution with due process and rule of law, then we're going to have some problems here.”
By Dave Lindorff
Just for the sake of argument, let's suspend our disbelief for a moment and pretend (I know it's a stretch) that the Obama administration and the apologists for the nation's spy apparatus in Congress, Democratic and Republican, are telling us the gods' honest truth.
What the Government Doesn't Want You to Realize Lessons of the Snowden Revelations: You are the Target!
By Alfredo Lopez
If Edward Snowden's goal in blowing his whistle was to spark a public debate about privacy and surveillance, he has marvelously succeeded.
A Cure for War – With Limitations.
by Erin Niemela
Earlier this week I wrote an editorial proposing a 28th constitutional amendment to abolish war. The NSA scandal, I argue, is tied to the more pervasive problem of violent foreign (and domestic) policy, and we’ll continue to see government abuses so long as war and inter-state military violence are the acceptable choices for conflict management. David Swanson, author of the brilliant history, “When the World Outlawed War,” thoughtfully responded to my plea by urging us to recall and reignite the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928, an existing international pact renouncing war signed and ratified by the US president and Senate.
I agree with Mr. Swanson that any efforts to end war should point to existing law, and we agree that abolishing war is possible and necessary. However, the Kellogg-Briand Pact is not without its limitations, and a fresh, people-driven constitutional amendment could both address those limitations and offer current, culturally relevant and legally dispositive reinforcement.
By Dave Lindorff
It’s a pretty sad spectacle watching the US Congress toading up to the National Security Agency. With the exception of a few stalwarts like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and to a lesser extent Ron Wyden (D-OR), most of the talk in the halls of Congress is about how to keep the army of Washington private contractors from accessing too many of the government’s secrets (which need to be protected by government employees!), and about whether to try NSA whistleblower Ed Snowden for treason.
By Norman Solomon
House Speaker John Boehner calls Edward Snowden a “traitor.” The chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, labels his brave whistleblowing “an act of treason.” What about the leadership of the Congressional Progressive Caucus?
As the largest caucus of Democrats on Capitol Hill, the Progressive Caucus could supply a principled counterweight to the bombast coming from the likes of Boehner and Feinstein. But for that to happen, leaders of the 75-member caucus would need to set a good example by putting up a real fight.
Right now, even when we hear some promising words, the extent of the political resolve behind them is hazy.
By Dave Lindorff
A lot of people in the US media are asking why America's most famous whistleblower, 29-year old Edward Snowden, hied himself off to the city state of Hong Kong, a wholly owned subsidiary of the People's Republic of China, to seek at least temporary refuge.
Hong Kong has an extradition treaty with the US, they say. And as for China, which controls the international affairs of its Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, while granting it local autonomy to govern its domestic affairs, its leaders "may not want to irritate the US" at a time when the Chinese economy is stumbling.
These people don't have much understanding of either Hong Kong or of China.