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In what could become an historic decision, a Federal judge has ruled that non-Afghan citizens rendered by the U.S. to Bagram prison in Afghanistan have a constitutional right to challenge their detention in American civilian courts.
The decision by Federal Judge John Bates was a stunning rejection of unlimited power for the executive branch of government espoused by former President George W. Bush and his successor, President Barack Obama.
Casualties caused by IEDs in Afghanistan on the rise
By Tom Vanden Brook | USA TODAY
Roadside bombs cause 75% of casualties to coalition forces in Afghanistan, up from 50% two years ago, prompting urgent pleas from commanders there for more armored vehicles to protect troops, according to data and interviews.
The growth in casualties caused by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) worries Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who meets Friday with a task force meant to speed Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles to war zones, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said.
"The secretary is concerned that with IED casualties in Afghanistan on the rise and tens of thousands of additional U.S. forces flowing into country that we have enough MRAPs to protect our troops from this increasing threat," Morrell said.
Watch "Inside Guantanamo" on Sunday, April 5th, 8 PM CST or Wednesday, April 8, 7 PM CST - Check your local listings.
“Now, I’d like to speak clearly and candidly to the American people . . .”
I believe him, with a passionate urgency — this new president, swept into office on a surge of hope and anger. I believe him without cynicism. After all, he has a terrifying job to do, a toxic legacy left to mop up. I cut him slack, listen for the sound, in his words, of the turning of the ship of state. How does he plan to engage the future? He’s an intelligent and, I think, courageous leader. And he has a global constituency to back him up. All he has to do is speak to it, clearly and candidly . . .
I was numb to the lies and simplistic rhetoric of George W. Bush. But when Barack Obama tries to fill those incredibly small shoes, to rev up the same constituency of true believers (the constituency that didn’t vote for him) and sell the same war — new! improved! — to the American people, I am not numb. The hope in my heart bursts into flying shrapnel. You’re making a serious mistake, Mr. President.
Obama White House Close to Settling Missing Emails Case
By Nick Baumann | Mother Jones
The long saga of the missing White House emails may be finally nearing its end. The Obama administration and two nonprofits that are suing it over millions of missing Bush-era emails have called a truce. A joint motion (PDF) and proposed order (PDF) filed by Justice Department lawyers and the plaintiffs, the National Security Archive and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), call for an indefinite stay of the case so the two sides can continue settlement negotiations. Both the White House and the nonprofits will have to withdraw their pending motions (including a White House motion to dismiss the case) and update the court on settlement proceedings in three months. But the whole ordeal could be over well before that—if contentious issues are resolved in the next few days or weeks.
Two watchdog groups that sued the Bush administration over the loss of 14 million e-mails filed court papers seeking a stay of their lawsuit while they negotiate a settlement with the Obama administration to resolve the matter.
“There is good cause to grant this motion and stay the case, as the parties have already begun to engage in discussions to resolve the issues raised in these cases through settlement, and more time is needed to conduct these discussions,” says the motion filed by Jones Day, the attorneys who represent George Washington University’s National Security Archive in their lawsuit filed against the Bush administration. “The interests of justice will be furthered by allowing the parties ample time to discuss the possible resolution of these cases without further litigation.”
Anne Weismann, chief counsel for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the Bush White House, said she was "pleased the [Obama] administration is willing to work with us to find a resolution to this lawsuit outside of litigation.
"Hopefully through this process we can finally learn what happened to the millions of missing emails from the Bush administration and restore for the American public their rightful legacy," Weismann added.
The American Civil Liberties Union has called on the Obama administration to end debate ahead of a approaching court deadline in their Freedom of Information Act case which seeks the release of three Office of Legal Counsel memos that are believed to have authorized torture of prisoners in CIA custody.
The memos were written by Stephen Bradbury in May 2005 when he was a lawyer at the Justice Department.
On Wednesday, The New York Times reported that Obama officials are hotly debating whether to release the memos. White House Counsel Gregory Craig and Attorney General Eric Holder are apparently in favor of releasing the memos "as quickly as possible to distance the new administration from the most controversial policies of the Bush years."
I'LL HAVE A "DRAUGHT DODGER!"
Canadian Parliament votes again to let U.S. war resisters stay
by Mike Ferner | April 1, 2009
Two days ago, for the second time in 10 months, Canada's House of Commons told Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative government, including Immigration Minister, Jason Kenney, to stop deporting U.S. soldiers resisting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The vote united the three opposition parties, the Liberals, the Bloc Quebecois and the New Democratic Party in a close 129-125 vote.
Last week, the War Resisters Support Campaign rallied for former Army soldier, Kimberly Rivera, the first female U.S. soldier to go to Canada. Nearly 100 people filled the chairs and lined the aisles at the Steelworkers hall in Toronto for Rivera, her husband and three children, the youngest born in Canada six months ago.
The "One" campaign against global poverty reports:
The Senate Budget Committee, chaired by Senator Kent Conrad, wants to cut $4 billion from the president's International Affairs Budget - the part of the budget funding almost all of our anti-poverty work.
In response to President Obama's Nowruz overture, Iranian officials said: words are nice, but that what Iran is looking for is concrete changes in U.S. policy. Remarkably, such Iranian statements were presented in much of the U.S. press as evidence that Iranian officials aren't interested in improving relations. Another interpretation is at least plausible: Iran is looking for concrete changes in U.S. policy.
Treating a request for changes as an insult would make sense if we agree to assume that the U.S. is congenitally incapable of making concrete changes in U.S. policy towards Iran. But of course, that's not true at all. On the contrary, the U.S. finds itself like a kid in a candy store, confronted by so many choices for concrete policy changes to improve relations with Iran that one hardly knows where to begin. Here, by way of example, are twelve steps the U.S. could take to improve relations.
By Joan Wile, author, "Grandmothers Against the War: Getting Off Our Fannies and Standing Up for Peace" (Citadel Press, May 2008)
I poured my hopes into you, Barack. I gave and gave from my limited fixed senior income to you. I hate calling strangers, but I did -- in Ohio and Pennsylvania, saying over and over that you would bring peace, that you would restore our good name throughout the world. I wrung my hands through the Hillary attacks, publishing satirical articles, songs and one-acts on the Internet to humiliate her. Oh, my God, the stress of those months as the polls undulated up and down. It's a wonder I didn't have a stroke.
And, then, Hallelujah, you did it. I rejoiced in your victory and thrilled at your inauguration. Your own grandmother couldn't have been more proud and joyful than I was.
By Dave Lindorff
We are witnessing one of the fastest betrayals of the Democratic Party base in modern memory, as President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party leadership in the Senate slither away from a crucial constituency, the labor movement, and from support of labor’s key legislative agenda item: passage of a bill, “The Employee Free Choice Act,” which would restore a measure of fairness to labor relations.
Twenty-eight years ago, Ronald Reagan used the severe economic downturn of 1980-82 to implement an economic philosophy that not only gave force and meaning to a wide range of initiatives but also offered a way back to sustained economic growth. Is there a similarly powerful animating idea behind Obamanomics?
I believe there is -- and it's not a return to big government.
The expansive and expensive forays of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve Board into Wall Street notwithstanding, President Barack Obama's 10-year budget (whose projections may prove wildly optimistic if the economy fails to rebound by early next year) presents a remarkably conservative picture. In 10 years, taxes are expected to fall to around 19% of GDP, a lower level than the late 1990s. Spending is expected to drop to around 22.5% of GDP, about where it was under Ronald Reagan -- including nondefense discretionary spending at about 3.6% of GDP, its lowest since data on this were first collected in 1962.
The real distinction between Obamanomics and Reaganomics involves government's role in achieving growth and broad-based prosperity. The animating idea of Reaganomics was that the economy grows best from the top down. Lower taxes on the wealthy prompts them to work harder and invest more. When they do so, everyone benefits. Neither Reagan nor the apostles of supply-side economics explicitly promised that such benefits would "trickle down" to everyone else but this was broadly understood to be the justification.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Saturday that he was in "full agreement" with President Obama's newly announced strategy for Afghanistan, saying it was "exactly what the Afghan people were hoping for" and promising to "work very closely" with the United States to implement the plan.
After months of tension between the Afghan leader and officials in Washington, especially over civilian casualties caused by Western military forces, Karzai seemed pleasantly surprised by Obama's prescriptions for Afghanistan's problems, calling his plan "better than we were expecting."
BILL MOYERS: Yeah, the corporate state is here.
WILLIAM GREIDER: The corporate state is here. And I'd say, let's not argue over that. The fact is, if the Congress goes down the road I see them going down, they will institutionalize the corporate state in a way that will be severely damaging to any possibility of restoring democracy. And I want people to grab their pitch forks, yes, and be unruly. Get in the streets. Be as noisy and as nonviolently provocative as you can be. And stop the politicians from going down that road. And let me add a lot of politicians need that to be able to stand up. Our President needs that to be able to stand up.
For years best-selling author William Greider sounded the alarm about Washington's unholy alliance with Wall Street and the failure of the Federal Reserve and other regulators to take preventive measures to avoid disaster. Now, he offers some suggestions to the question everyone is asking: "What do we do now?"
Today President Obama announced his plan to send upwards of 20,000 more American troops to Afghanistan. Peace Action began organizing grassroots activists and lobbying against the escalation in late February.
Welcome to Vietnam, Mr. President
By Ray McGovern
I was wrong. I had been saying that it would be naïve to take too seriously presidential candidate Barack Obama’s rhetoric regarding the need to escalate the war in Afghanistan. I kept thinking to myself that when he got briefed on the history of Afghanistan and the oft proven ability of Afghan “militants” to drive out foreign invaders—from Alexander the Great, to the Persians, the Mongolians, Indians, British, Russians—he would be sure to understand why they call mountainous Afghanistan the “graveyard of empires.”
The Duke Law School Blog just coughed up this airball:
"Whatever else we might say about the signing statement that President Obama issued, each of its objections could be raised by a President who disagrees with [the] expansive theory of presidential power that the Bush Administration accepted."
That shot is rejected by a review of the objections Obama raised. No doubt Obama describes his expansive theory of presidential power in different words than Bush's VP's lawyers did, but his signing statement works the same way Bush's did. Taking something that we understand in practice and awaiting a description of it in theory is like trying to win a basketball game on the plane ride home.
A progressive Congressional staffer once told me: "The first rule of Congress is - if you have the opportunity to vote both ways on the same issue, do it."
In "narrowing" the goals for the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, President Obama appears to have obeyed the first rule of Congress. In his speech on Afghanistan, Obama had it both ways.
He asserted that "we have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future" and that "we are not in Afghanistan to control that country or to dictate its future."
By Dave Lindorff
George Santayana once famously said, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” But what about those who don’t just ignore history, but who hire and take counsel from those who committed historic follies in the past?
Back in November 1999, Congress passed legislation pushed by then Sen. Phil Gramm (R-TX), rescinding the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act. The measure, backed by the Clinton administration, and overwhelmingly passed by the Senate (90-8) and the House (362-57), opened the way for banks to merge with investment banks and insurance companies, and led directly to the current financial cataclysm.
President Obama is expected to "announce" his "new" Afghanistan strategy Friday - the traditional Washington day for burying things. But there aren't likely to be many surprises. The Administration has been dribbling details out to the news media, and what has been foreshadowed includes: more troops, more civilians, narrower goals; a renewed concession, perhaps, that there is no military solution.
AIG is chump change -- let's find corporate America's hidden billions
It's time to reform offshore banking, and see what untaxed wealth big business is hiding in overseas tax shelters.
By Joe Conason | Salon
The popular urge to claw back the bogus bonuses paid by American International Group is irresistible and fully justified, but should the Treasury someday retrieve every single bonus dollar, that total of $165 million will make no difference to anyone except a few disgruntled traders. From the jaded perspective of the financiers, the uproar over the AIG bonuses may provide a welcome distraction from far more important (and lucrative) abuses in the world's offshore tax havens.
Floridians Gathering in Melbourne This Saturday to Say: "Hey, Obama, Yes, We Can! Troops Out of Afghanistan!"
When: Saturday, March 28, 2pm
Florida Mass March - Front Street Park to Melbourne City Hall
Join several hundreds from more than 10 cities, Miami to Atlanta, in demanding our government fund human needs instead of war and corporate greed. Bail out the people and the troops, not the banks. ("Hey, Obama, yes, we can. Troops out of Afghanistan.") In addition to sending a message to elected officials, our coming together for this mass march for peace will stir the consciousness of the broader public, educate the uninitiated, and cultivate a new bond between citizens, peace and justice activists and those from more than 60 local, statewide, and national groups.
Here's a news awareness question you might not hear on NPR's "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me." (A search on the NPR website yielded no results.)
On March 13, a US citizen attending a peace demonstration was shot in the head by a soldier of a foreign army. Eyewitnesses report that the American and his companions weren't doing anything and hadn't done anything that would justify the use of force, let alone shooting him in the head.
Here's your news awareness question: name the country.
The American remains hospitalized in critical condition, reported The Independent Tuesday, describing him as "fighting for life" following three brain surgeries. He suffered a multiple fracture to his skull, severe injury to the frontal lobe of his brain, and a collapsed eye socket. Part of his right frontal lobe had to be removed.
By Dave Lindorff
As the country contemplates a major reform and restructuring of the way we run our national health care system (if it can even be called that), it needs to be pointed out that the mammoth health insurance industry is nothing but a parasite on that system.
Health insurance companies add zero value to the delivery of health care. Indeed, they are a significant cost factor that sucks up, according to some estimates such as one by the organization Physicians for a National Health Program, as much as 31 percent of every dollar spent on medical services (a percentage that has been rising steadily year after year).
Insurance companies are damaging in more ways than simply cost, though.
At one point last week, the price of a barrel of crude oil -- which had risen as high as $147 last July and, with the global economic meltdown, hit a low of $32 in 2009 -- rebounded above $51. Prices at the local gas pump are expected to rise as well in the coming weeks. However, given a worldwide falloff in oil use, these price jumps may not hold for long. Still, cheap or not, oil and natural gas (as well as coal) are what drives global civilization, and that's clearly not going to change any time soon.
By Dave Lindorff
Wait a minute! Did I hear correctly? Did Treasury Secretary and former New York Federal Reserve Bank screw-up Tim Geithner really tell a House Financial Services Committee today that he needed “new powers” to allow the federal government to take control of non-bank financial corporations whose actions threaten the financial system or the economy and “break them up”?
The subject under discussion at the hearing was AIG, and Geithner and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, under attack for those AIG “bonus payments” to executives, were trying to talk tough about the evil insurance giant.
But aren’t the powers that Geithner is calling for exactly the powers that he and Bernanke already have in the case of the banking industry?
Yes they are.
It's 1 PM in Washington. Do you know where your foreign policy is?
President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton are getting big praise around the world for their new Charm Offensive. As far as I'm concerned, the praise is justified. I heard our Secretary of State interviewed on the BBC a few weeks ago about our diplomatic outreach to Iran on Afghanistan. And the BBC was all, what makes you think Iran is going to help you on Afghanistan? And Hillary was all, you know, actually Iran helped us tremendously in Afghanistan after 2001. Our Ambassador in Afghanistan and the Iranian Ambassador were meeting practically every day. I just about fell off my chair. You'd have thought Hillary was applying for a job at the National Iranian American Council.