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AfPak: Congress Clears Its Throat

This week Congress continues its formal consideration of the Administration's request for "supplemental" money for the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with a decision expected Wednesday by the Rules Committee on what amendments will be allowed. Regardless of the outcome on the actual money - it's widely expected that the money will eventually go though - this is a key window for Congressional action. There's never a bad time for Members of Congress to try to exert more influence over foreign policy, but a particularly good time is when there is a request for funding pending - the Administration must perform concern about what Members of Congress think, there are opportunities for limiting amendments, and the media and public will be paying more attention to any debate. Likewise, there's never a bad time to call or write your Member of Congress expressing concern about U.S.

1, 2, 3 What Are We Fighting For? The War Crimes Song-and-Dance Routine

By Dave Lindorff

We’re been here before, many times.

The US causes massive civilian deaths through its indiscriminate use of heavy air power, and then tries to claim it’s the enemy’s fault for “hiding” among the civilians and “using them as shields.”

In Vietnam, where the US was fighting against a local revolutionary movement that was seeking to overthrow the puppet regime backed by America, American planes routinely bombed and napalmed villages, claiming that the Viet Cong were hiding amongst the peasants. Women, old men and children would die in droves—several million of them by the time that war was over--and we’d be told it was all the fault of the Communists, who, we were told, had no regard for innocent life.

The Big "Con": Taliban About to Defeat Pakistan, Take Control of Nukes, and It's Another 9/11

The Big "Con": Taliban About to Defeat Pakistan, Take Control of Nukes, and It's Another 9/11 By Michael Collins | Intelligence Daily

(The Intelligence Daily) -- A strange feeling of déjà vu arises while listening to the administration sell further U.S. military intervention in Pakistan (our Predator drones are already there).

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen claimed in late March that Pakistan's intelligence service has "close links with al Qaeda and the Taliban network."  In fact, Mullen warned, the Pakistani intelligence service, ISI, is "offering logistical support to them (the Taliban)."

Cheney May Be Willing To Testify Under Oath About Torture Program

Cheney May Be Willing To Testify Under Oath About Torture Program | Think Progress | Submitted By Bob Fertik | Democrats.com

Senate and House Democrats should immediately schedule a date for Cheney to testify under oath.

Today on CBS´s Face the Nation, Vice President Cheney vigorously defended the Bush administration´s torture policies and his belief that by rejecting them, President Obama is raising "the risk to the American people of another attack." Cheney said that the Bush administration´s interrogation policies will one day be viewed as "one of the great success stories of American intelligence."

When host Bob Schieffer asked Cheney whether he would be willing to testify to Congress under oath, Cheney initially hedged, but then indicated that he would be willing to do so:

Obama Set to Revive Military Commissions

Obama Set to Revive Military Commissions
Changes Would Boost Detainee Rights
By Peter Finn | Washington Post

The Obama administration is preparing to revive the system of military commissions established at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, under new rules that would offer terrorism suspects greater legal protections, government officials said.

The rules would block the use of evidence obtained from coercive interrogations, tighten the admissibility of hearsay testimony and allow detainees greater freedom to choose their attorneys, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Pentagon’s Black Budget Grows to More Than $50 Billion

Pentagon’s Black Budget Grows to More Than $50 Billion
By Noah Shachtman | Wired

The Pentagon wants to spend just over $50 billion on classified programs next year, newly-released Defense Department budget documents reveal. “That’s the largest-ever sum,” according to Aviation Week’s Bill Sweetman, a longtime black-budget seer — a three percent increase over last year’s total.

The Obama Administration is Becoming a Stand-Up Comedy Act

By Dave Lindorff

What a joke the Obama administration is becoming, as it keeps trying to prop up failing industry after failing industry.

First we had the president becoming First Car Salesman, offering federal guarantees for GM and Chrysler car warrantees so that potential car customers wouldn’t turn away from those two companies’ showrooms fearing that the manufacturers would go bust and leave them holding the bag. Then he started touting the cars themselves, saying they were “great products” and that people should go out and buy them.

Government Could Destroy Records in Hundreds of Guantanamo Cases

Government Could Destroy Records in Hundreds of Guantanamo Cases
By Chisun Lee | Pro Publica

Although the lawyers are forbidden to reveal classified details, they could include prisoners' personal accounts of abuses [3] and interrogation procedures [4] that have recently been described in secondhand reports. These voices have been missing, the New York Times noted [5] today, because the government refuses to disclose prisoners' statements and their lawyers operate under a gag order.

A stockpile of documents about hundreds of Guantanamo Bay detainees, some written by the prisoners themselves, could be destroyed under a little-known provision of a federal court order the Bush administration obtained in 2004.

For four years, records in the prisoners' habeas corpus lawsuits challenging the legality of their detentions have been piling up in a secure federal facility in the Crystal City neighborhood of Arlington, Va. Because much of the information is classified, the 750 or so attorneys representing the prisoners are required to do and store all their work on-site.

The provision is part of a broad order [1] (PDF) issued at the very outset of the habeas cases -- at the last official count in January, 220 cases remained -- that set rules for how sensitive documents and attorney access should be handled. It calls for the government to destroy all classified records given to, prepared by or kept by prisoners' lawyers -- including originals and copies of writings, photographs, videotapes, computer files and voice recordings -- when the cases end. (Bolding mine. ~Chip :) )

Bernie Sanders on Ed Show: "Dems Have Super-Majority To Demand Single-Payer Universal Health Care"

Broadcast 04/29/09, as posted at Health Care Now!

National Lobby Day and Rally for Single-Payer in DC, Wednesday, May 13, noon-2 PM, Upper Senate Park, Washington, DC

Sebelius Aims To Settle Concerns About Single-Payer Health System

Michael Munk details Obama's political odyssey on his single-payer health care positions:

According to Quentin Young, MD, whose partner in his practice has been Barack Obama's personal physician since the Senator moved into Hyde Park, in Obama's early years in politics, he used to say he was all for single-payer. Then in 2006, the Senator started to say he was still for it, but that it would never happen without a solid Democrat majority in Congress. Then during the presidential campaign, he said that that option would be included in the mix of plans he supported.

Today, he finally made it clear that now he is committed to protecting the profits of health insurance companies and was opposed to single payer! Read on...

Sebelius Aims To Settle Concerns About Single-Payer Health System | CaliforniaHealthline.org | Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com

At a House Ways and Means Committee hearing Wednesday, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that the Obama administration does not support taking over the health care system entirely, but hopes to create a public insurance option that would compete with private insurers, the Los Angeles Times reports.

She said, "Dismantling the private market and having an entirely public option, a single-payer system, I think is not something that the president supports."

Obama’s Mixed Messages On Torture

By Andy Worthington

At a press conference to mark his first 100 days in office, President Obama declared, “We have rejected the false choice between our security and our ideals by closing the detention center at Guantánamo Bay and banning torture without exception.” I have looked at the President’s misleading statement about Guantánamo, and analyzed his progress -- or lack of it -- in closing the prison in a previous article, and in this second article I’m going to focus on his assertion that the new administration has been responsible for “banning torture without exception.”

Secretary Doomsday and the Empathy Gap: The Everyday Extremism of Washington

Secretary Doomsday and the Empathy Gap: The Everyday Extremism of Washington | TomDispatch.com
By Tom Engelhardt

A front-page New York Times headline last week put the matter politely indeed: "In Pakistan, U.S. Courts Leader of Opposition." And nobody thought it was strange at all.

In fact, it's the sort of thing you can read just about any time when it comes to American policy in Pakistan or, for that matter, Afghanistan. It's just the norm on a planet on which it's assumed that American civilian and military leaders can issue pronunciamentos about what other countries must do; publicly demand various actions of ruling groups; opt for specific leaders, and then, when they disappoint, attempt to replace them; and use what was once called "foreign aid," now taxpayer dollars largely funneled through the Pentagon, to bribe those who are hard to convince.

Last week as well, in a prime-time news conference, President Obama said of Pakistan: "We want to respect their sovereignty, but we also recognize that we have huge strategic interests, huge national security interests in making sure that Pakistan is stable and that you don't end up having a nuclear-armed militant state."

To the extent that this statement was commented on, it was praised here for its restraint and good sense. Yet, thought about a moment, what the president actually said went something like this: When it comes to U.S. respect for Pakistan's sovereignty, this country has more important fish to fry. A look at the historical record indicates that Washington has, in fact, been frying those "fish" for at least the last four decades without particular regard for Pakistani sensibilities.

Judge Bybee and the Challenge of Removing a Stain on the Legal System

By Dave Lindorff

In December 2001, an appellate judicial panel in the state of New York ruled that Yonkers City Court Judge Edmund G. Fitzgerald had to step down from his bench and leave his position following his disbarment for allegedly “misusing” $9000 in a client’s account prior to his election as a judge. In 2007, the North Carolina courts faced something of a dilemma when state judge James Ethridge, who had been disbarred the prior October by the North Carolina State Bar for “swindling an older woman of her house and savings” as an attorney six years earlier, refused to quit his judicial position. Under state law in North Carolina, judges are required to be licensed lawyers, so Judge Ethridge was barred from holding court or signing court orders, but he continued to collect his salary. Only the state’s Judicial Standards Commission, or the state legislature, through an impeachment, could remove him from his job.

Catholic Democrats Offer Statement of Support to Notre Dame for Inviting Obama to Deliver Commencement Address

Catholic Democrats Offer This Statement of Support for Notre Dame in their decision to invite President Barack Obama to deliver the university’s 2009 Commencement address. No need to be Catholic to sign. Click here.

Source: No Criminal Case Likely Over Torture Memos

Source: No Criminal Case Likely Over Torture Memos
By Devlin Barrett, Associated Press Writer | ABCNews.com

Justice Department officials have stopped short of recommending criminal charges against Bush administration lawyers who wrote secret memos approving harsh interrogation techniques of terror suspects. A person familiar with the inquiry, who spoke on condition of anonymity, says investigators recommended referring two of the three lawyers to state bar associations for possible disciplinary action. The person was not authorized to discuss the inquiry.

The person noted that the investigative report was still in draft form and subject to revisions. Attorney General Eric Holder also may make his own determination about what steps to take once the report has been finalized.

US Troops Urged To Share Faith in Afghanistan

US Troops Urged To Share Faith in Afghanistan | Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com

US army 'does not promote religion'

The US's highest ranking military officer has said it is not the US military's position to promote any specific religion, after Al Jazeera revealed footage of troops apparently preparing to convert Afghans to their Christian faith.

First Victim on Road to Abu Ghraib: Rumsfeld Was Behind Torture of John Walker Lindh

By Dave Lindorff

Should Congress or the US Department of Justice—or perhaps Spanish Investigating Magistrate Baltasar Garzón—ever decide to seriously prosecute those in the US who are responsible for the Bush/Cheney administration’s policy of torturing captives in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and the so-called “War” on Terror, they should go back and examine the case of imprisoned American John Walker Lindh, the young man who was captured with Taliban fighters back in the early days of the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

Stopping Pakistan Drone Strikes Suddenly Plausible

Until this week, it seemed like the conventional wisdom in Washington was that stopping U.S drone strikes in Pakistan was outside the bounds of respectable discussion.

That just changed. Or it should have.

Make NO Mistake, Obama Wants Justice Too

Make NO Mistake, Obama Wants Justice Too
By Mike Kuykendall | indigentahole

A lot of my fellow progressive friends and I have been complaining a lot about some of the positions the Obama administration has been taking lately, especially their apparent lack of a burning desire to prosecute the blatantly criminal conduct of the Bush administration.

But here's the thing- I figured out the politics here. It took me a while, and until I got it I fumed at the new President, thinking my vision of a real progressive in the White House was a pipe dream. I'll clue you guys in - the secret is the mixed message. Let me explain.

The Lobby Wants War With Iran

The Lobby Wants War With Iran
By Justin Raimondo | Anti-War.com

The Israel lobby has been running into a few problems lately, but it’s nothing they don’t think they can handle: a charge of treason, a strong suspicion of obstructing justice, and a gathering storm of criticism from a few dissident intellectuals and policy types. Nothing to get too exercised about. Having felled Charles "Chas" Freeman, smitten Gen. Zinni, and sidelined those in the Obama administration who question the nature and utility of America’s "special relationship" with Israel, the Lobby’s flagship organization, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), is primed to hold their national conference in Washington next week, with Jane "This Conversation Doesn’t Exist" Harman slated to address the gathering.

The focus of the conference, and the legislative centerpiece of the event, will be passage of the Iran Diplomatic Enhancement Act, which would ban US companies from providing Iran with refined petroleum products, and seeks to punish European companies — particularly the Swiss, who come in for two specific mentions in the text of the bill — for doing so.

To begin with, the name affixed to this piece of legislative legerdemain is a prime example of congressional doublethink: will it really enhance diplomatic relations with Iran to impose draconian sanctions, the equivalent of an economic chokehold and a prelude to a military blockade? Hardly, and that is very far from its clear intent.

This bill is all about provoking the Iranians, effectively sabotaging efforts to engage in a mutual dialogue with Tehran. Why the egregious packaging? Well, it seems the American people are sick and tired of war, and preparations for war, and so it is far less incriminating if a member of Congress can say he (or she) voted for "the Iran Diplomatic Enhancement Act" than it is to admit they supported isolating Iran economically.

Fighting A High-Tech War With A Low-Tech Mule

Fighting a high-tech war with a low-tech mule
US Marines and soldiers are training to fight in Afghanistan, where mules and donkeys can haul supplies and weapons to places where Humvees and helicopters can't easily go.
By Gordon Lubold | CSM

Tucked at the base of a small mountain in the eastern Sierras is a makeshift paddock where a handful of US Marine Corps instructors reach deep into the history of warfare to give their charges a critical skill when they deploy to Afghanistan: how to pack a mule.

It is a peculiar course to teach in a military that is widely considered the best-trained, most capable, and highest-tech in the world.

But as the US girds to deploy more than 21,000 additional troops to Afghanistan this spring and summer, the military is having to prepare for a decidedly different kind of fight from the one in Iraq.

Torture and Treason: Can We Face Up To What Has Been Done In Our Name?

Torture and treason: Can we face up to what has been done in our name?
By Robert C. Koehler | The Smirking Chimp

The Gitmo intelligence crew was being told, from the highest levels of the Bush White House and the Pentagon -- think Cheney, think Rumsfeld -- to keep slamming these guys' heads against the wall, to keep pouring water down their throats, to keep tormenting them with dogs and insects, until they blubbered, in their pain and terror, a word or two that would justify the long-planned (and completely pointless) invasion of Iraq. This drags the torture "debate" out of the fog that mainstream pundits are paid to generate -- does it work? is it legal? is it cruel? is it counterproductive? -- and exposes something that is troubling at the level of the soul, and begs only one question. Is it treason?

None dare call it . . . what is that word again?

It's a word I associate with the McCarthy era and patriotic fanaticism; its commission is the cardinal sin against the nation-state and, as such, not only too easily flung at an ideological opponent but a frayed, simplistic concept, in that humankind ought to be reaching beyond national identities for global allegiance and a security that doesn't devalue life anywhere on the planet. It's a word I avoid. Certainly I've never accused anyone of it. Till now.

Buying Brand Obama

Buying Brand Obama
By Chris Hedges | Truthdig

Barack Obama is a brand. And the Obama brand is designed to make us feel good about our government while corporate overlords loot the Treasury, our elected officials continue to have their palms greased by armies of corporate lobbyists, our corporate media diverts us with gossip and trivia and our imperial wars expand in the Middle East. Brand Obama is about being happy consumers. We are entertained. We feel hopeful. We like our president. We believe he is like us. But like all branded products spun out from the manipulative world of corporate advertising, we are being duped into doing and supporting a lot of things that are not in our interest.

The Torture Timeline


The Torture Timeline
By Annie Lowrey | Foreign Policy

Having trouble keeping track of all the memos, executive orders, and policy decisions that led the United States into the moral low ground? FP brings you the ultimate guide to the Bush administration's journey to the dark side.

In the past 10 days, the revelation of once classified memos and Senate reports has greatly elucidated how torture happened. This timeline shows the key relevant legal and military events. New information is marked in italics.

2001

September 11: Afghanistan-based terrorist organization al Qaeda attacks the United States. Nearly 3,000 people die.

September 14: A congressional resolution authorizes U.S. President George W. Bush to use "all necessary and appropriate force" to combat the countries and groups behind 9/11. Vice President Dick Cheney promises that the United States will use "any means at our disposal" to combat terrorism.

Democracy Now!: Obama Reluctance on Bush Prosecutions Affirms Culture of Impunity

More video below the fold: click "Read more" for Part 2

60 Anti-Torture Activists Arrested at White House

U.S. Park Police have arrested about 60 anti-torture activists in front of the White House | Watch Videos here

Sgt. David Schlosser says the protesters violated a permit regulation that required them to remain in motion on the center portion of a sidewalk. The protesters, wearing orange jumpsuits to represent Guantánamo Bay detainees who have been cleared for release, remain in custody.

Earlier, protesters marched from the U.S. Capitol to protest detention policies in the United States and what they call the government's refusal to prosecute torture. Read more.

U.S. May Revive Guantánamo Military Courts

U.S. May Revive Guantánamo Military Courts
By William Glaberson | NY Times

Still, during the presidential campaign Mr. Obama criticized the commissions, saying that “by any measure our system of trying detainees has been an enormous failure,” and declaring that as president he would “reject the Military Commissions Act.”...Anthony D. Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said that Mr. Obama had pledged to return the country to the rule of law and that “continuing with the military commission system would be a retreat from that promise.”

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