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Rep. Keith Ellison, the Personification of the Phony, Pro-War “Progressive”

By Keith Ellison, Black Agenda Report

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

Hard right Republican Senator John McCain and Progressive Caucus co-chair Rep. Keith Ellison both support no-fly zones over Syria. That's because, on U.S. imperial policy, there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between between the pro-war Left and the Right.

 

Rep. Keith Ellison, the Personification of the Phony, Pro-War “Progressive”

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

Ellison is part of the pro-war Left, whose primary mission is make self-described liberals and leftists comfortable supporting imperial wars.”

Keith Ellison, the Black U.S. House member from Minneapolis who is co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, says the U.S. should push for a no-fly zone over rebel-held areas in Syria. Ellison, who is also one of only two Muslim members of Congress, appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, as did Republican Arizona Senator John McCain. It is a measure of how far to the right the Democratic Party has come under President Obama, that McCain, the war monger who likes to sing about bombing Iran, and Ellison, who claims to be a progressive, are in basic agreement over Syria. Both McCain and Ellison want no-fly zones, and both claim to prefer that there be no U.S. “boots on the ground” in country. Both are raving American imperialists who believe that the U.S. has not merely the right, but the obligation to intervene in the internal affairs of other countries. As Ellison, the phony progressive, puts it, “I don’t think the world’s greatest superpower, the United States, can stand by and do nothing” – which is, essentially, John McCain’s position.

Ellison has been advocating a no-fly zone for Syria for at least a year. Last May, he told U.S. News and World Report that so-called “safe zones” should be set up by the U.S. and its allies around the borders of Syria. Ellison made it quite clear that he sees such zones as a prelude to regime change. “I think the Libyan action was a good example of that,” he said.

Both are raving American imperialists.”

On U.S. imperial policy, there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between McCain, the hard-right Republican, and Ellison, who purports to be a progressive Democrat. Neither gives a damn about international law or the rights of smaller people’s to shape their own destinies. Ellison went to Saudi Arabia, the most socially backward rich country on the planet, and described the King as a “visionary leader.” He rejected George Bush’s troop “surge in 2007, by calling it “too little, too late.” Like Obama, he quibbles about whether U.S. wars are smart or dumb, too late or right on time, but never about the inherent right of the United States to wage war against the weaker nations of the world.

Ellison is part of the pro-war Left, which includes Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, whose primary mission is make self-described liberals and leftists comfortable supporting imperial wars. McCain can’t do that, but Ellison can. Amnesty International is shameless enough to use women’s rights as an excuse to support continued occupation of Afghanistan.

Much of the pro-war left has been forced by events to recognize that the U.S. and its allies are backing jihadist Islamic fundamentalist terrorists in Syria – people they wouldn’t like to have brunch with. Therefore, they now demand that the U.S. intervene to make sure that the jihadists don’t get their hands on chemical weapons. Thus, the pro-war left starts off by advocating U.S. intervention to facilitate the coming to power of the rebels, but in the end winds up demanding that the U.S. do whatever it can to stop these guys from taking power. Either way, it ends with U.S. intervention. John McCain and Keith Ellison pretend to be on opposite ideological ends, but they are like Jack and Jill walking up the same hill when it comes to the obligations and privileges of U.S. imperialism.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

 

Time to Renounce the “War on Terror”

By Norman Solomon

As a perpetual emotion machine -- producing and guzzling its own political fuel -- the “war on terror” continues to normalize itself as a thoroughly American way of life and death. Ongoing warfare has become a matter of default routine, pushed along by mainline media and the leadership of both parties in Washington. Without a clear and effective upsurge of opposition from the grassroots, Americans can expect to remain citizens of a war-driven country for the rest of their lives.

Across the United States, many thousands of peeling bumper stickers on the road say: “End this Endless War.” They got mass distribution from MoveOn.org back in 2007, when a Republican was in the White House. Now, a thorough search of the MoveOn website might leave the impression that endless war ended with the end of the George W. Bush presidency.

MoveOn is very big as online groups go, but it is symptomatic of a widespread problem among an array of left-leaning organizations that have made their peace with the warfare state. Such silence assists the Obama administration as it makes the “war on terror” even more resolutely bipartisan and further embedded in the nation’s political structures -- while doing immense damage to our economy, siphoning off resources that should go to meet human needs, further militarizing society and undermining civil liberties.

Now, on Capitol Hill, the most overt attempt to call a halt to the “war on terror” is coming from Rep. Barbara Lee, whose bill H.R. 198 would revoke the Authorization for Use of Military Force that Congress approved three days after 9/11. Several months since it was introduced, H.R. 198 only has a dozen co-sponsors. (To send your representative and senators a message of support for Lee’s bill, click here.)

The Marathon Bombings, Privacy and the Question "Why?"

 

By Alfredo Lopez


One thing is clear amidst the shower of confusion and contradiction that bathes the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing: the legal and technological structure of a police state is in place and can be quickly activated. As if on cue, while the hunt for the bombers was ongoing, the House of Representatives obligingly enhanced that police state capability by passing the draconian Cyber Intelligence and Protection Act (CIPA). If approved by the Senate and signed by the President, it will greatly expand the government's intrusion into all our lives.

Illegality of War Acknowledged in Congressional Record

Congressional Record article 3 of 5

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RECOGNIZING THE KELLOGG-BRIAND PACT -- HON. KEITH ELLISON (Extensions of Remarks - April 18, 2013)

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HON. KEITH ELLISON

OF MINNESOTA

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

Thursday, April 18, 2013

  • Mr. ELLISON. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the Kellogg-Briand Pact.
  • One of the busiest streets in Minnesota's state capital of St. Paul is Kellogg Boulevard. This street runs along the Mississippi River and was named after the only person from Minnesota to ever win the Nobel Peace Prize. Frank B. Kellogg was a Department of Justice prosecutor who was elected President of the American Bar Association and then served as a U.S. Republican Senator from Minnesota, followed by an appointment as U.S. Secretary of State for President Calvin Coolidge from 1925 to 1929.
  • Kellogg was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1929 for his work in co-authoring the Kellogg-Briand Pact that made war illegal, renounced the use of war, and committed nations to the peaceful settlement of disputes. The Kellogg-Briand Pact--also called the Pact of Paris, or the General Treaty for the Renunciation of War--was signed on August 27, 1928 by the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Japan, and several other countries.
  • The Pact prohibited the use of war as ``an instrument of national policy'' except in matters of self-defense. President Coolidge signed the Pact on January 27, 1929 and the U.S. Senate passed it by a vote of 85 to 1. On July 24, 1929 President Herbert Hoover declared the Pact in force. The Kellogg-Briand Pact provided the legal basis for prosecuting Nazi officials at Nuremburg and is still U.S. and international law, with 84 state signatories.
  • Mr. Speaker, some of my own constituents are currently planning a commemoration of the Kellogg-Briand Pact to mark its 85th anniversary and to recognize Frank B. Kellogg. The Minneapolis-St. Paul chapter of Veterans for Peace is taking part in a peace essay competition organized by the West Suburban Faith-based Peace Coalition. The competition asks the question, ``How can we obey the law against war?'' The best essays will be sent to members of Congress. I urge this body to welcome these essays and give them due attention. Everyone must do their part to help eliminate war and promote the cause of peace.

##

Here's the book that tells this story:
http://davidswanson.org/outlawry

And here's how to enter the essay contest or introduce it to your schools and youth groups:
http://warisacrime.org/content/peace-essay-contest-how-can-we-obey-law-against-war-top-prize-1000

 

Two scenes of terror this week, only one terrorism investigation: The Real Terrorists are the Corporate Execs Who’ve Bought the

 

By Dave Lindorff


The way I see it, we had two acts of terrorism in the US this week. The first took place at the end of the historic Boston Marathon, when two bombs went off near the finish line, killing three and seriously injuring dozens of runners and spectators. The second happened a couple days later in the town of West, Texas, where a fertilizer plant blew up, incinerating or otherwise killing at least 15, and injuring at least 150 people, and probably more as the search for the dead and the injured continues.

Money for Militarism, not for People: Obama’s Betrayal of Social Security

 

By Dave Lindorff

 

What’s wrong with the Obama administration’s proposal to change the way Social Security checks are adjusted for inflation from using the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to instead using something called a “chained” CPI?

Let’s start with the fundamental problem: Social Security is not a cause of the federal budget deficit, and will not be for years, even if nothing is done to raise more revenue for the program.

NO CUTS! NO TAX INCREASES ON ORDINARY PEOPLE! Chase Down Mega-Rich Tax Cheats and Recover the Offshore Trillion$

 

By Dave Lindorff


Hold everything!


I mean it. Stop talking about cutting school budgets, Social Security benefits, Medicare, Veteran’s pensions. Stop cutting subsidies to transit systems, to foreign aid. Stop cutting unemployment benefits. Stop it all.

Crashing the 2-Party System: The Way Forward is a Single-Issue Social Security Defense Party

 

By Dave Lindorff


The history of third parties in America is pretty dismal. The system is rigged against them, for one thing. But equally problematic is the lack of focus that leads to infighting and splits whenever a third party is created.


The Future's So Much More Fun than the Past: How to Avoid the Bummer Myth

 

By John Grant


“The elite always has a Plan B, while people have no escape.”
            - Ahmad Saadawi


You Have the Right to Remain Silent: The United Prison States of America

 

By Dave Lindorff


Willie James Sauls is unlikely to see the outside of a prison. Last fall a court in the state of Texas sentenced this 37-year-old man to 45 years in jail. His crime: he snatched the purse from an old woman. 


Which Members of Congress Are Standing Up for Economic Decency – And Which “Progressives” Aren’t

By Norman Solomon

Now we know.

Every member of Congress has chosen whether to sign a letter making a crucial commitment: “We will vote against any and every cut to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits -- including raising the retirement age or cutting the cost of living adjustments that our constituents earned and need.

The Democratic Party hierarchy doesn’t like the letter. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi has said that cutting Social Security would “strengthen” it, and President Obama’s spokespeople keep emphasizing his eagerness to cut Social Security’s cost of living adjustments. The fact that Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit is beside the austerity point.

Since mid-February, across the country, many thousands of people have sent personal notes, submitted petitions and made phone calls imploring members of Congress to sign the letter, initiated by Congressmen Alan Grayson and Mark Takano.

Twenty-eight members of the House of Representatives have signed the letter.

Here are their names: Brown, Cartwright, Castor, Clay, Conyers, D. Davis, DeFazio, Ellison, Faleomavaega, Grayson, G. Green, Grijalva, Gutierrez, A. Hastings, Honda, Kaptur, Lee, Lynch, C. Maloney, Markey, McGovern, Nadler, Napolitano, Nolan, Serrano, Takano, Velazquez and Waters.

If you don’t see the name of your Congress member on that list, you live in a House district without a representative standing up for economic decency.

Especially noteworthy are 49 members of the House who belong to the Congressional Progressive Caucus but have refused to sign the Grayson-Takano letter. In most cases, they represent districts with a largely progressive electorate. In effect, their message is: We like to call ourselves “progressive” but we refuse to clearly stand up to an Obama White House that’s pushing to slash Social Security and Medicare benefits. To see the names of those 49 members of Congress, click here.

CONGRESS REQUIRES A REPORT ON DOD DRONE SURVEILLANCE

http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/

Congress has directed the Secretary of Defense to report on the handling of surveillance data collected by military unmanned aerial systems operating in domestic airspace.  A provision in the 2013 continuing appropriations conference bill approved by the House yesterday explained:

"The conferees are aware of concerns that have been raised regarding the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and their sensors in domestic airspace. The conferees understand that the Air Force has policies and procedures in place governing the disposition of UAV collections that may inadvertently capture matters of concern to law enforcement agencies. These policies and procedures are designed to ensure constitutional protections and proper separation between the military and law enforcement. However, it is unclear if other Services and Defense agencies have similar policies and procedures in place, or if these policies and procedures need to be revised or standardized. Therefore, the conferees direct the Secretary of Defense to report to the congressional defense committees on the policies and procedures in place across the Services and Defense agencies governing the use of such collections and to identify any additional steps that need to be taken to ensure that such policies and procedures are adequate and consistent across the Department of Defense. This report shall be submitted not later than 90 days after the enactment of this Act."

The referenced Air Force policy on incidental collection of U.S. person data by its drones was reported in USAF Drones May Conduct 'Incidental' Domestic Surveillance, Secrecy News, May 8, 2012.

Three-Quarters of Progressive Caucus Not Taking a Stand Against Cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid

By Norman Solomon

For the social compact of the United States, most of the Congressional Progressive Caucus has gone missing.

While still on the caucus roster, three-quarters of the 70-member caucus seem lost in political smog. Those 54 members of the Progressive Caucus haven’t signed the current letter that makes a vital commitment: “we will vote against any and every cut to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits -- including raising the retirement age or cutting the cost of living adjustments that our constituents earned and need.”

More than 10 days ago, Congressmen Alan Grayson and Mark Takano initiated the forthright letter, circulating it among House colleagues. Addressed to President Obama, the letter has enabled members of Congress to take a historic stand: joining together in a public pledge not to vote for any cuts in Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.

Watch Your Wallet! Much Ado about Nothing in Budget Debate

 

By Dave Lindorff


By Dave Lindorff


All the sturm and drang in Washington over the March 1 deadline for a budget deal is an act. Two acts really.

A new video by Class War Films: 'Financial Crime'

 

Class War Films, the brainchild of three filmmakers, Lanny Cotler, and Paul and Jason Edwards, have offered to provide ThisCantBeHappening! with occasional short videos on topics like this, military spending, political fraud, financial crime, etc. They are working on creating a website, which will be called ClassWarriors.org, which should be functioning "soon" we are informed.

We're happy here at TCBH! to be able to help get their films out to a wider public.

 

Witnesses at a Drone Hearing

This coming Wednesday the House Judiciary Committee plans to hold a hearing on "Drones and the War On Terror: When Can the U.S. Target Alleged American Terrorists Overseas?"

This is odd for a number of reasons.

1. Congressional committees usually don't do anything at all on such matters.

2. The vast majority of the men, women, and children being killed have not been targeted.

3. The vast majority of the men, women, and children being killed or targeted have not been Americans.

4. The president's nominee to direct the CIA refuses to deny that the president claims the power to kill Americans when they are not overseas, not to mention non-Americans within the United States and anyone at all overseas.

5. The three Americans we know the president has targeted and killed by drone strike in no way match up with the justifications for theoretical strikes found in the "white paper."

6. The president is targeting and killing people with a variety of technologies, not just drones.

7. The only remotely legal or moral answer to the question asked by the hearing is "never."

All such concerns will, of course, be brushed aside.  Congress ought to question the administration on its program of drone killing, regardless of what title the hearing is given, right?  But this is where things get really odd.  The witness list doesn't include the president or a single person who works for him, no one from the CIA, no one from the White House, no one from the Pentagon, nobody from the Office of Legal Counsel. As far as we know, and it seems extremely likely to be the case, the committee has not subpoenaed any documents.  If it invited any government witnesses, it has not subpoenaed them or made any plans to figuratively or literally hold them in contempt.  Instead, all the witnesses are outside "experts" who won't know any more about what's going on than the rest of us.

A defender of this approach explained it to me thus: Senators and Representatives are often remarkably ignorant.  Senator Dianne Feinstein doesn't even know that all military aged males killed by drone strikes are being declared militants.  Congress Members don't even read newspapers.  If some smart experts testify at a public hearing, then elected officials can't deny as many facts.  Plus, inviting government witnesses would just produce stonewalling or lying. 

In my view, stonewalling and lying are reasons for subpoenas and contempt, not a complete abdication of the power of oversight.  It's not that I think glorified public newspaper reading is worse than nothing.  I just think more is called for.

On the other hand, the notion that Congress needs more information before it should act is ludicrous.  What sort of memo could legalize murder?  What sort of due process could be applied to murder to make it not be murder?  As long as Congress is bringing in experts to talk about what's already public knowledge, I'd like to propose a different type of witness.  If witnesses from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen are not deemed relevant, newspaper interpreters are not going to make them so.  I'd like to propose, then, as one of many actually useful witnesses a gentleman by the name of Leo Tolstoy, who had this to say well over a century ago:

"People are astonished that every year there are sixty thousand cases of suicide in Europe, and those only the recognized and recorded cases—and excluding Russia and Turkey; but one ought rather to be surprised that there are so few. Every man of the present day, if we go deep enough into the contradiction between his conscience and his life, is in a state of despair.

"Not to speak of all the other contradictions between modern life and the conscience, the permanently armed condition of Europe together with its profession of Christianity is alone enough to drive any man to despair, to doubt of the sanity of mankind, and to terminate an existence in this senseless and brutal world. This contradiction, which is a quintessence of all the other contradictions, is so terrible that to live and to take part in it is only possible if one does not think of it—if one is able to forget it.

"What! all of us, Christians, not only profess to love one another, but do actually live one common life; we whose social existence beats with one common pulse—we aid one another, learn from one another, draw ever closer to one another to our mutual happiness, and find in this closeness the whole meaning of life!—and to-morrow some crazy ruler will say some stupidity, and another will answer in the same spirit, and then I must go expose myself to being murdered, and murder men—who have done me no harm—and more than that, whom I love. And this is not a remote contingency, but the very thing we are all preparing for, which is not only probable, but an inevitable certainty.

"To recognize this clearly is enough to drive a man out of his senses or to make him shoot himself. And this is just what does happen, and especially often among military men. A man need only come to himself for an instant to be impelled inevitably to such an end.

"And this is the only explanation of the dreadful intensity with which men of modern times strive to stupefy themselves, with spirits, tobacco, opium, cards, reading newspapers, traveling, and all kinds of spectacles and amusements. These pursuits are followed up as an important, serious business. And indeed they are a serious business. If there were no external means of dulling their sensibilities, half of mankind would shoot themselves without delay, for to live in opposition to one's reason is the most intolerable condition. And that is the condition of all men of the present day. All men of the modern world exist in a state of continual and flagrant antagonism between their conscience and their way of life. This antagonism is apparent in economic as well as political life. But most striking of all is the contradiction between the Christian law of the brotherhood of men existing in the conscience and the necessity under which all men are placed by compulsory military service of being prepared for hatred and murder—of being at the same time a Christian and a gladiator."

It seems to me that the occasion of publicly discussing the U.S. government's targeting and killing U.S. citizens presents an opportunity for opening up even the narrowest of bigots to the contradiction between killing and protecting (whether or not one puts the latter in the religious terms of Tolstoy's day -- as I do not but most Congress Members sometimes pretend to).  Tolstoy may not be the ideal witness, as he's dead.  But he does have the advantage of having already posed to himself better questions than anyone would ask him if he were alive. (You know they'd be asking about the latest film adaptation of Anna Karenina.)

"'How can you kill people, when it is written in God's commandment: "Thou shalt not kill"?' I have often inquired of different soldiers. And I always drove them to embarrassment and confusion by reminding them of what they did not want to think about. They knew they were bound by the law of God, 'Thou shalt not kill,' and knew too that they were bound by their duty as soldiers, but had never reflected on the contradiction between these duties. The drift of the timid answers I received to this question was always approximately this: that killing in war and executing criminals by command of the government are not included in the general prohibition of murder. But when I said this distinction was not made in the law of God, and reminded them of the Christian duty of fraternity, forgiveness of injuries, and love, which could not be reconciled with murder, the peasants usually agreed, but in their turn began to ask me questions. 'How does it happen,' they inquired, 'that the government [which according to their ideas cannot do wrong] sends the army to war and orders criminals to be executed.' When I answered that the government does wrong in giving such orders, the peasants fell into still greater confusion, and either broke off the conversation or else got angry with me.

"'They must have found a law for it. The archbishops know as much about it as we do, I should hope,' a Russian soldier once observed to me. And in saying this the soldier obviously set his mind at rest, in the full conviction that his spiritual guides had found a law which authorized his ancestors, and the tzars and their descendants, and millions of men, to serve as he was doing himself, and that the question I had put him was a kind of hoax or conundrum on my part.

"Everyone in our Christian society knows, either by tradition or by revelation or by the voice of conscience, that murder is one of the most fearful crimes a man can commit, as the Gospel tells us, and that the sin of murder cannot be limited to certain persons, that is, murder cannot be a sin for some and not a sin for others. Everyone knows that if murder is a sin, it is always a sin, whoever are the victims murdered, just like the sin of adultery, theft, or any other. At the same time from their childhood up men see that murder is not only permitted, but even sanctioned by the blessing of those whom they are accustomed to regard as their divinely appointed spiritual guides, and see their secular leaders with calm assurance organizing murder, proud to wear murderous arms, and demanding of others in the name of the laws of the country, and even of God, that they should take part in murder. Men see that there is some inconsistency here, but not being able to analyze it, involuntarily assume that this apparent inconsistency is only the result of their ignorance. The very grossness and obviousness of the inconsistency confirms them in this conviction."

Congress would hear something worth hearing from this witness, I believe.  But so might twenty-first century U.S. peasants as well.

Congress: End Endless War and Stop Becoming “the Evil That We Deplore”

By Norman Solomon

Congress waited six years to repeal the Tonkin Gulf Resolution after it opened the bloody floodgates for the Vietnam War in August 1964.

If that seems slow, consider the continuing failure of Congress to repeal the “war on terror” resolution -- the Authorization for Use of Military Force -- that sailed through, with just one dissenting vote, three days after 9/11.

Prior to casting the only “no” vote, Congresswoman Barbara Lee spoke on the House floor. “As we act,” she said, “let us not become the evil that we deplore.”

We have. That’s why, more than 11 years later, Lee’s prophetic one-minute speech is so painful to watch. The “war on terror” has inflicted carnage in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and elsewhere as a matter of routine. Targets change, but the assumed prerogative to kill with impunity remains.

Meet 6 Politicians Getting Rich from America's Endless Wars

The "defense" industry is a powerful and influential lobby.

War is a racket, and perpetual war is a money-printing machine. Though the defense industry as a whole contributes relatively little to members of Congress compared to, say, the pharmaceutical lobby, it remains an incredibly powerful and influential lobby. Below are the six members of the House whose primary industry donor in the 2012 election cycle was the "defense" sector. (Numbers are from the Center for Responsive Politics, unless otherwise noted.)

1. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA): $566,100 in 2012 cycle defense sector donations.

It's impossible to talk about defense industry beneficiaries without mentioning Buck McKeon. He became the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee in 2009, and then the chairperson after the GOP took the House in the 2010 election. Donations from the defense sector to his 2012 campaign dwarfed all other House campaigns, with McKeon bringing in a whopping $566,100.

That big pile of money certainly seems to have made McKeon a friend to the military. As part of the House, McKeon doesn't have the opportunity to vote on Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel, but he still publicly opposed the appointment, due to Hagel's presumed willingness to back defense spending cuts. A statement on McKeon's website reads in part, “[Hagel's] refusal to shut the door on further defense cuts put him at stark odds with the current Defense Secretary and military leaders.” McKeon is also, predictably, against a round of planned automatic cuts to domestic spending and the military budget, known as the sequester, which he has said could “start costing lives.”

Regarding the US' longest war, McKeon thinks it hasn't gone on long enough. He has called the planned troop drawdown next year, “needlessly fraught with risk,” and said that “our hard-fought gains are fragile and reversible.” If that language sounds familiar, it's because he said almost the same thing regarding troops leaving Iraq. "I remain concerned that this full withdrawal of US forces will make that road tougher than it needs to be,” he said in a statement posted on his website. “These shortcomings could reverse the decade of hard work and sacrifice both countries have endured to build a free Iraq.”

McKeon is predictably hawkish on Iran,  consistently supports providing military aid to Israel, and is in favor of expanding military powers as contained in the 2012 NDAA act, which critics say allows for the indefinite detention of US citizens by the military.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee Introduces Bill to Create Department of Peacebuilding

Washington, D.C.—Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee introduced H.R. 808, the “Department of Peacebuilding Act of 2013” to create a cabinet-level Secretary and Department of Peacebuilding. The term “peacebuilding” refers both to activities that target the root causes of violence as well as the broad measures used to prevent violent conflict and create sustainable peace. 

“This culture of violence that we live in is unacceptable. On our streets and across the globe, the pervasive presence of violence has infected the lives of millions, and it is far past time we address it as a nation. We invest hundreds of billions each year in the Pentagon, in war colleges, military academies, and our national defense universities all to develop war tactics and strategies.  Now we need that kind of investment in peace and nonviolence here at home,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee.

What Mark Warner Asked John Brennan

When CIA nominee John Brennan faced the Senate Select Committee on So-Called Intelligence on Thursday, countless critical and cutting questions had been prepared by bloggers and journalists.  None of them were asked.

Brennan might have been asked why he'd lied about the killing of bin Laden or about the murder by drone program.  He had claimed that every target was known, even though he was fully aware that people were being targeted without identifying them (using so-called signature strikes).  He had claimed that there were zero collateral deaths, even though independent reports have produced hundreds of names, identities, and photographs, and even though the U.S. Ambassador in Pakistan told a delegation of peace activists that there was a U.S. government count of civilian deaths and he wouldn't reveal what it was.

Brennan might have been asked how in the world it can be legal, according to a "white paper" leaked on Monday, for a "high official" to order the murder of a human being, American or non-American, without judicial or legislative or public or international oversight -- or even with such oversight.  He might have been asked if he is one such high official. He might have been asked whether there was a memo to justify the murder of the three Americans thus far known to have been intentionally murdered, since none of them seem to fit the qualifications laid out in the "white paper."  He might have been asked what the procedure would be if two "high officials" disagreed on the desirability of murdering a particular American.  He might have been asked what authority would certify that a targeted victim could not be captured rather than killed.  He might have been confronted with the rise in hostility toward the U.S. government being generated.  He might have been asked about the United Nations investigation of the murder by drone program as criminal.

We Virginians were represented in the hearing room by Senator Mark Warner.  He claimed what he called the "honor" of introducing the nominee, and expressed his pride that Brennan lives in Virginia along with much of the "intelligence community."  Warner hyped his effort to create a U.S. Intelligence Professionals Day (which presumably we'll celebrate silently in our minds), praised Brennan in the vaguest of terms by reading through his resume, declared him ready to be confirmed pre-questioning, and outrageously asserted that Brennan backed "greater transparency" and "adherence to the rule of law."  A major news story in the preceding 24 hours had been the White House's refusal to tell the public or even the legislature exactly what it was pretending that the law was.

The most informative and valuable portion of the hearing was produced by Toby Blome, Ann Wright, David Barrows, JoAnn Lingle, Alli McCracken, Eve Tetaz, Joan Nicholson, and Jonathan Tucker, who took turns interrupting the proceedings to ask what needed to be asked.  The message that some Americans do not favor murdering children abroad was thus communicated to the world.  Many others were prepared to add their voices in that room, but Chairwoman Feinstein kicked everyone out except for a handful of Good Americans, and the hearing proceeded with a mostly empty room.  The "Intelligence" Committee is of course used to holding hearings in an entirely empty room with the door locked.

Senator Warner's chance to ask questions, despite having already declared his support, would come later in the hearing.  By that point, Warner had to work with not only Brennan's pathetic written answers to a series of weak questions presented to him prior to the hearing, but all of his answers to other Senators during the hearing up to that point.  Remarkably, during the hearing, on more than one occasion, Brennan claimed to have believed (despite voluminous public evidence) that torture was an effective tool.  He did not claim to have believed that as a child, or to have believed it 10 years ago.  He claimed to have believed it up until last week when he took the time to read part of the Senate committee's report, as he had been shamed and pressured into doing.  He said he was shocked to learn that torture was not an effective tool.  Also during the hearing, before Warner's turn came, Brennan repeatedly refused to call waterboarding torture and claimed that only a lawyer could make that judgment.  Note that he was asking to direct an agency involved in torturing people, identifying himself as a non-lawyer, and declaring that only a lawyer could determine what torture was.  Brennan also, by the time Warner's turn came around, had refused to list the nations in which the United States is murdering people.  He had also repeatedly confessed to having had "inside control" of the underwear bomber.

When Warner's 8 minutes began, one might think he would have had something important to ask about.  Couldn't you have thought of SOMETHING if it was you?  Even without prior experience on the committee (or law school) might you not have thought of something, ANYTHING, significant to ask about?  Wouldn't you have asked specific detailed questions about past performance, about torture, rendition, warrantless spying, lying, or killing people?  Aren't any of those topics worth touching on?

Warner framed his first question as a rambling, time-swallowing speech.  His question was: how can we be sure the CIA director is well informed?  The general vague answer he got to this line of questioning matched the generality and vagueness of the question.  If Mark Warner is afraid a CIA director might be uninformed, why not ask Brennan if he knows significant facts?  Why not ask him how many people have been killed and where?  Why not ask him how many are on the list to be killed?  Why not ask him what the criteria are for getting on the list?  Why not ask how young the youngest person on the kill list is?  Why not express any concern that an "informed high official" might be killing people with the same level of "intelligence" that put so many people into Guantanamo who have since been exonerated of any guilt?

Instead Mark Warner turned to vague questions about the federal budget.  Brennan's response included hyping the extensive "intelligence" efforts within the "defense" department.  Wow, what an opening!  The Pentagon is not supposed to be doing the "intelligence" work.  Everyone knows how disastrously the Pentagon violated that rule in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq.  Surely Warner would jump at this bait.

Warner instead moved on to asking Brennan, as many of his colleagues had already, how exactly Brennan would conduct himself in answering questions from the committee if, after he was confirmed, they were to actually ask him any questions. 

By the time Warner might have had a second turn to question the witness, Warner was nowhere to be seen.

He will however be seen at the University of Virginia on Monday and if you sign up you can attend.  Maybe YOU can think of something to ask HIM.  If you need ideas for what to ask and how, or just want to attend as a group, you should get together with a concerned citizen who's planning to attend by emailing shepherd@digitalelite.com

 

Here's who was arrested producing the most valuable part of the Brennan hearing

CODEPINK and other activists arrested during Confirmation Hearing as they call on Senate to Reject Brennan as head of the CIA

During the Thursday Senate Intelligence Committee hearing where Senators questioned John Brennan, CODEPINK peace activists derailed the hearing by speaking out in opposition to the nomination. The activists highlighted Brennan’s atrocious record when it comes to the deadly drones, kill lists, torture and rendition. They held up red-painted hands to symbolize the blood Brennan has on his hands and signs calling for his nomination to be rejected. Brennan was forced to stop speaking several times as activists were carried out of the room by Capitol Hill police. The 8 arrestees include Toby Blome, Ann Wright, David Barrows, JoAnn Lingle, Alli McCracken, Eve Tetaz, Joan Nicholson, and Jonathan Tucker, 4 of whom had recently returned from a trip to Pakistan to meet with drone victims. Immediately after the arrests, Chairman Dianne Feinstein called for the clearing of the room, ordering everyone out of the hearing room and not allowing any protesters to return. Protesters chanted “Reject John Brennan” as police led them out of the hearing.

Alli McCracken, a 24-year-old who was a part of the delegation to Pakistan, spoke out when Brennan entered the hearing room and admonished him for his direct role in the deaths of so many innocent Pakistanis. “John Brennan has blood on his hands. He terrorizes children and families throughout the world,” McCracken said, holding a sign that read “Drones Create Enemies.”  “My generation has been at war for half my life. We deserve better!”

CODEPINK member Toby Blome, who held up bloodied hands and a rag doll representing children killed in drone strikes, flew into Washington DC from San Francisco just for this hearing. “John Brennan is responsible for the death of many innocent people and should not be rewarded for these crimes,” says Blome, “It is our responsibility to speak up and reject him, even if our elected representatives will not.”

“Brennan is unfit for office because he’s the architect of the unconstitutional and secret predator drone killings that violate due process and our moral sensibilities,” says CODEPINK cofounder Medea Benjamin, author of Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control.

CODEPINK held a demonstration outside the Senate, with an 8-foot cardboard cutout of John Brennan and a large drone replica. Members of many different peace organizations attended to speak out about the loss of innocent lives at the hands of Brennan’s deadly drone program. Photos are available on the CODEPINK Flickr site.

Also rejecting Brennan is a list of 100 religious leaders, human rights attorneys, and veterans’ groups.

CODEPINK members will be available for interview before and after the hearing.  

Congresswoman Barbara Lee Introduces Bill to Audit the Pentagon

Washington, D.C.—Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee introduced the “Audit the Pentagon Act of 2013” for increased transparency and accountability in the defense budget. This bipartisan bill will cut the budget of any Federal agency by five percent that does not receive an independent audit for the previous year. To protect benefits for the nation’s veterans, military personnel accounts and the Defense Health Program would be exempt from cuts.

“The American people want some basic measure of accountability in the way the Pentagon spends tax dollars,” said Congresswoman Lee.  “The Department of Defense’s refusal to provide an audit is a recipe for financial disaster. As the daughter of a veteran, I grew up believing in the power and patriotism of the U.S. military, but being patriotic does not mean blindly accepting bloated Pentagon spending.” 

Progressive Caucus Leaders Introduce Measure to Replace Sequester and Create Jobs

WASHINGTON — Ten members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, led by Co-Chairs Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), introduced The Balancing Act this afternoon, which cancels the across the board “sequester” budget cuts, achieves a fair and balanced approach to long-term deficit reduction and creates 1 million jobs all over the country. Since 2011, budget deals in Washington have let wealthy corporations and the Pentagon off the hook while cutting more than $1.7 trillion from programs America’s working families need to survive. The Balancing Act brings relief to working Americans by making sure the Pentagon and the nation’s biggest corporations pitch in and do their part to get our economy working again.
 
“Almost $2 trillion has been cut over the past two years from teachers, firefighters, police officers, loans for college students, and infrastructure investments,” Rep. Ellison said.

First Constitutional Amendment to be Introduced in Congress Stating Corporations Are Not People & Money Is Not Speech

Reps. Nolan & Pocan Respond to Over 500 Municipal Resolutions Calling for “We the People” Amendment

On Monday, February 11, Move to Amend will join members of Congress as they introduce Move to Amend’s “We the People Amendment” an amendment that clearly and unequivocally states that: 1) Rights recognized under the Constitution belong to human beings only, and not to government-created artificial legal entities such as corporations and limited liability companies; and 2) Political campaign spending is not a form of speech protected under the First Amendment.

Turning tide? Lawmakers look to Pentagon for budget cuts

McClatchy Washington Bureau

By James Rosen | McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON --As another debt-deal deadline looms this winter in Congress, an unusual alliance of lawmakers has joined forces to put the Pentagon budget under greater scrutiny and to end the almost carte blanche status it enjoyed in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

In a letter last month to President Barack Obama and congressional leaders, 11 Democratic and 11 Republican lawmakers asked that Defense Department spending be put squarely on the table in the coming clashes over debt reduction.

Talk Nation Radio: Stephen Zunes on Kerry, Hagel, Brennan, and Obama Part II

Stephen Zunes is a Professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of San Francisco, where he chairs the program in Middle Eastern Studies. Recognized as one the country’s leading scholars of U.S. Middle East policy and of strategic nonviolent action, Professor Zunes discusses the nominations of John Kerry, Chuck Hagel, and John Brennan, and the direction charted for the second term of Obama's presidency.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

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