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Barack Obama's speech in Cairo was celebrated in the media as a profound statement of a new direction for U.S. foreign policy. But when you look beneath the rhetoric, there's far more continuity with the last eight years of war and occupation than most people who supported Obama last November would have guessed.
SocialistWorker.org asked two leading voices of the antiwar movement--Jeremy Scahill, author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army and the Rebel Reports blog, and Anthony Arnove, author of Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal, and coauthor, with Howard Zinn, of Voices of a People's History of the United States--about Barack Obama's record after five months in office.
NPR reported this from an interview this morning with HHS Secy. Kathleen Sebelius:
"Asked if the administration's program will be drafted specifically to prevent it from evolving into a single-payer plan, Sebelius says: "I think that's very much the case, and again, if you want anybody to convince people of that, talk to the single-payer proponents who are furious that the single-payer idea is not part of the discussion."
Obama said at the AMA convention Monday:
By Dave Lindorff
President Barack Obama, referring to the violent attacks on protesters against the controversial election results in Iran’s just-completed presidential election, this week lectured Iran’s government, saying, “Peaceful dissent should never be subject to violence.”
Referring to the tens and hundreds of thousands of frustrated and angry Iranians who have taken to the streets accusing Iranian authorities of rigging the election in favor of incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Obama said that “the Iranian people and their voices should be heard and respected."
But there is a certain hypocrisy going on here.
Despite President Barack Obama's oft-stated commitment to government openness and transparency, he's not ready to tell us who gets into the White House to meet with him.
Some meetings will be secret, said spokesman Robert Gibbs, telling reporters that for the moment, the Obama White House is following the lead of its predecessor and resisting requests from the media and others for visitors' logs.
"I think there are obviously occasions on which the president is going to meet privately with advisers on topics that are of great national importance," said Gibbs, defending the arguments made by the Bush-Cheney Administration.
As a candidate last year, Mr. Obama decried his predecessor for running "the most secretive administration maybe in our history." Read more.
Democracy NOW! Bob Fertik of Democrats.com With Amy Goodman On Defeating the $106 Billion War Supplemental
Bob Fertik, president of Democrats.com and the co-founder of AfterDowningStreet.org speaks with Amy Goodman about the defeating the $106 billion supplemental war funding bill. The conversation begins at 55:39 in the video.
AMY GOODMAN: We wrap up now to look at the $106 billion supplemental war funding bill that Congress votes on today. The White House and Democratic leadership have been trying to muscle through the bill, which would support escalating the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In May, fifty-one antiwar Democrats opposed an earlier version of the bill. Now House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been trying to pressure some of those Democrats to switch their votes in order to get the necessary votes to pass the bill. California Democratic Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey says the White House has also threatened to pull support from freshman antiwar Democrats who vote no on the bill.
In addition to funding military escalation in Iraq and Afghanistan, the bill also includes money for the IMF, the International Monetary Fund, as well as flu pandemic preparedness.
For more, we’re joined here in our firehouse studio by Bob Fertik, the president of Democrats.com, co-founder of AfterDowningStreet.org.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, Bob. We don’t have much time. What do you understand is happening right now in the Congress around this war appropriations bill today?
BOB FERTIK: Amy, there’s a crucial vote this morning in the House. All the Democrat—all the Republicans are expected to vote no. If we get thirty-nine Democrats to vote no, we will be able to defeat the supplemental bill, at least for the time being. There are thirty-six Democrats, progressive Democrats, who have committed to voting no. As you said, fifty-one voted no earlier in May. So we need everybody to pick up the phone, call their representative at (202) 225-3121, and can ask them to vote no.
The Iranian government would be unlikely to give any nuclear weapons to the militant groups it supports—Hamas and Hezbollah—because it paid much money to develop the warheads, and because if the groups used the weapons, it would invite sure catastrophic retaliation against Iran if traced back there. Like all autocratic rulers, Iran’s fundamentalist leadership’s most important objective is staying in power, and getting nuked into cinders does not facilitate that goal.
The real reason that the U.S. government is so concerned about Iran is not its threat to the United States but its threat to Israel—both nuclear and non-nuclear through support for the militant groups. But frankly, that should not be the U.S. taxpayer’s problem. The American Constitution allows for the U.S. government to “provide for the common defense” of the United States, not to provide a defense for Israel.
One election in Iran will not significantly change U.S.-Iran relations—only a change in U.S. thinking and policy will do so.
Historically, the U.S. government, under both Republican and Democratic presidents, has painted relatively poor third world regimes that don’t toe the empire’s line as “evil”—Moammar El-Gadhafi’s Libya in the 1980s, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in the 1990s, North Korea’s Hermit Kingdom since the 1950s, and Islamist Iran since the Iranian Revolution in 1978. Most of these faraway lands haven’t provided—or will be unlikely to provide—much of an actual threat to U.S. territory or Americans in it. But during and after the demise of the Soviet Union, to justify the bloated U.S. world-girdling empire and bloated military establishment, these minor autocratic regimes had to be demonized and their threats elevated.
Bill Maher's audacious commentary starts around 4:00 on healthcare, banksters, carbon dioxide reduction, BHO-TV, reform, energy, and George W. Bush on torture, deregulation, preemptive war, tax cuts for the rich.
In unusually firm remarks, the chief of the United Nations mission in Afghanistan said there was an “urgent need to review” the Special Operations forces here.
The official, Kai Eide, called the political costs of civilian casualties from special operations raids “disproportionate to the military gains,” and said the Special Operations forces needed to become “more Afghanized.”
His comments, made in a video conference call from Kabul with NATO ministers in Brussels on Friday and released on Saturday, were the latest sign of just how worried some United Nations and military officials are that the fallout from civilian casualties is jeopardizing the American-led mission in Afghanistan.
Special Operations forces, which conduct raids against high-level insurgent targets, have been criticized for relying heavily on airstrikes when they come under fire from militants during raids and house searches in villages.
An aide to Mr. Eide said that his call to have the forces “Afghanized” means having Afghans conduct the raids. Read more.
PFC Matthew Wilson did not plan to re-enlist so he could be home
By Chad Livengood | News-Leader.com
After bouncing around in foster homes across southwest Missouri during the latter half of childhood, Pfc. Matthew W. Wilson wanted to be a family man.
He got married last August and in December, his new bride, Ashlynn, gave birth to a boy, Matthew Gunnar.
In January, the 19-year-old ammunition handler was deployed to Afghan-istan. He did not plan to re-enlist once he returned home, so he could be with his family full time, said his wife's relatives.
"When he formed a family with Ashlynn, that was the core of his existence," said Trish Gore, an aunt of Ashlynn's who lives in New Mexico.
But Wilson did not live to see his first Father's Day. He died Monday from wounds suffered from a roadside bomb explosion. Read more.
New UN Report Denounces America's Human Rights Record
by Stephen Lendman
On May 26, the UN Human Rights Council issued a report titled "Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Including the Right to Development - Report of the Special Rapporteur (Philip Alston) on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions."
Alston was damning in his criticism regarding "three areas in which significant improvement is necessary if the US Government is to match its actions to its stated commitment to human rights and the rule of law:"
Let's face it, even Bo is photogenic, charismatic. He's a camera hound. And as for Barack, Michelle, Sasha, and Malia -- keep in mind that we're now in a first name culture -- they all glow on screen.
Before a camera they can do no wrong. And the president himself, well, if you didn't watch his speech in Cairo, you should have. The guy's impressive. Truly. He can speak to multiple audiences -- Arabs, Jews, Muslims, Christians, as well as a staggering range of Americans -- and somehow just about everyone comes away hearing something they like, feeling he's somehow on their side. And it doesn't even feel like pandering. It feels like thoughtfulness. It feels like intelligence.
For all I know -- and the test of this is still a long, treacherous way off -- Barack Obama may turn out to be the best pure politician we've seen since at least Ronald Reagan, if not Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He seems to have Roosevelt's same unreadable ability to listen and make you believe he's with you (no matter what he's actually going to do), which is a skill not to be whistled at.
Right now, he and his people are picking off the last Republican moderates via a little party-switching and some well-crafted appointments, and so driving that party and its conservative base absolutely nuts, if not into extreme southern isolation.
[Here's the New Yorker article this is reporting on. -DS]
CIA Head Says Cheney Almost Wishing US Be Attacked
Associated Press | Google News
CIA Director Leon Panetta says former Vice President Dick Cheney's criticism of the Obama administration's approach to terrorism almost suggests "he's wishing that this country would be attacked again, in order to make his point."
Panetta told The New Yorker for an article in its June 22 issue that Cheney "smells some blood in the water" on the issue of national security. Read more.
FutureGen moves forward with Department of Energy support
By Kelsey Volkmann | St. Louis Business Journal
A proposed $2.4 billion coal-fueled, near-zero emissions experimental power plant in Mattoon, Ill., is moving forward with the preliminary backing of the U.S. Department of Energy and the allocation of $1 billion in stimulus money.
The FutureGen Alliance, comprised 11 member companies, including Peabody Energy Corp., and President Barack Obama’s Energy Secretary, Steven Chu, have signed an agreement to restart plans for preliminary design activities, final cost estimate analysis and funding for the plant, which stalled under the Bush administration. Read more.
A plan to create a new Pentagon cybercommand is raising significant privacy and diplomatic concerns, as the Obama administration moves ahead on efforts to protect the nation from cyberattack and to prepare for possible offensive operations against adversaries’ computer networks.
President Obama has said that the new cyberdefense strategy he unveiled last month will provide protections for personal privacy and civil liberties. But senior Pentagon and military officials say that Mr. Obama’s assurances may be challenging to guarantee in practice, particularly in trying to monitor the thousands of daily attacks on security systems in the United States that have set off a race to develop better cyberweapons. Read more.
Congressional negotiators have agreed to drop amendments to a supplemental approrpiations bill that would have banned the release of photos depicting alleged detainee abuse and would have restricted bringing Guantanamo detainees to the United States.
The agreement on those issues should speed passage of the bill, which provides $79.9 billion for the Pentagon to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Another $10.4 billion would go to the State Department and other “international affairs and stabilization” efforts in Pakistan.
The agreement came after President Barack Obama wrote a five-paragraph letter promising to fight to prevent disclosure of the photos. The letter noted that an appeals court on Thursday agreed to stay a lower court ruling ordering the photos release so that the Obama administration could appeal to the Supreme Court. Read more.
N.M. Conference of Churches urges torture investigation
Trip to the White House is part of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture
By Gwyneth Doland | New Mexico Independent
A Santa Fe woman is among 33 religious leaders meeting in Washington this week to urge President Obama to establish an independent, non-partisan commission to investigate U.S.-sponsored torture of detainees since 9/11.
The Rev. Holly Beaumont, the Santa Fe-based legislative advocate for the New Mexico Conference of Churches, traveled to the capital on Wednesday as part of a delegation from the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. Rev. Beaumont spoke with NMI from Washington, D.C. Here is an excerpt from the conversation: Read more.
The U.S. Department of Justice is asking a federal appeals court to reconsider its decision to allow a Boeing Co. subsidiary to be sued for allegedly flying terrorism suspects to secret prisons overseas to be tortured.
In April, a panel of judges from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that the lawsuit dealing with the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" program could proceed. Read more.
In the words of ACLU attorney Ben Wizner, a lead counsel on behalf of the five detainees suing Jeppesen Dataplan, President Obama now "owns the state secrets privilege."
Wizner is correct. Remember precisely what it is that the government wants the 9th circuit to decide: that the U.S. government can dismiss any federal or civil case before it reaches the phase of discovery simply because the government asserts that the national security interests of the United States would be compromised if the case proceeds.
That's the same expansive state secrets privilege that presidents for 50 years have enjoyed -- but it's precisely the privilege that Obama, not two months ago, expressed an anxiety about: "I actually think that the state secret doctrine should be modified. I think right now it's over-broad." Obama did not elaborate. During the presidential campaign, he criticized the use of the privilege as a justiciability doctrine to dismiss entire cases, rather than as an evidentiary doctrine, used to prevent the disclosure of highly-sensitive pieces of evidence.
Why is Obama hardening up his position? If the privilege in weakened, it exposes the government to perpetual liability resulting from the mistakes of the past eight years. Read more.
The decision by Johnson Toribiong, president of the obscure Pacific nation of Palau, to take in up to 13 Uighurs -- Muslim Chinese -- currently being held at Guantanamo is meeting some resistance from the general population.
As ABC News' polling director Gary Langer points out, proportional to population, sending 13 Uighurs to Palau is like sending 188,993 Uighurs to the United States. Read more.
ACLU Files Lawsuit Seeking Disclosure Of Still-Secret Torture Documents | Press Release
Case Marks Launch Of Group's "Accountability For Torture" Initiative
The American Civil Liberties Union today filed a lawsuit seeking the disclosure of still-secret records relating to the torture of prisoners held by the U.S. overseas. The requested documents include legal memos authored by John Yoo and Steven Bradbury, who were lawyers in the Bush administration Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), as well as documents sent by the Bush White House to the CIA. The government has failed to turn over the documents in response to a December 2008 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
"The information already in the public domain makes clear that the torture policies were devised and developed at the highest levels of the Bush administration, but there are still unanswered questions about precisely what the policies permitted, how they were implemented and who specifically signed off on them," said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project. "This lawsuit is an effort to fill some of the gaps in the narrative."
Today's lawsuit marks the launch of the ACLU's new "Accountability for Torture" initiative, which has four goals: comprehensive disclosure of information relating to the Bush administration's torture policies; the creation of an accurate and comprehensive historical record; the appointment of an independent prosecutor to investigate issues of criminal responsibility; and recognition and compensation for torture victims.
We are finally beginning to learn the full scope of the Bush administration's torture program. Government documents show that hundreds of prisoners were tortured in the custody of the CIA and Department of Defense, some of them killed in the course of interrogations. Justice Department memos show that the torture policies were devised and developed at the highest levels of the Bush administration.
The ACLU is committed to restoring the rule of law. We will fight for the disclosure of the torture files that are still secret. We will advocate for the victims of the Bush administration's unlawful policies. We will press Congress to appoint a select committee that can investigate the roots of the torture program and recommend legislative changes to ensure that the abuses of the last eight years are not repeated. And we will advocate for the appointment of an independent prosecutor to examine issues of criminal responsibility.
We can't sweep the abuses of the last eight years under the rug. Accountability for torture is a legal, political, and moral imperative. Much more to read.
The Obama administration is moving to appeal a ruling that some detainees at a military air base in Afghanistan can use U.S. civilian courts to challenge their detention. Read more.
I'm at the Center for a New American Security's day-long conference today to learn a few things about Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. I won't be live-blogging the whole thing, but one interesting note came just after General David Petraeus's keynote speech. Yesterday, Fox News passed along a report from Republican Congressman Mike Rogers that detainees in Afghanistan and particularly at Bagram Airforce base are, on the orders of the Obama administration, being read their Miranda Rights -- the "right to remain silent," etc., afforded to domestic criminal suspects -- which could somehow compromise their intelligence value. (This is, presumably, because 'mirandizing' suspects would make them legally ineligble for "enhanced interrogation," which is already prohibited by executive order.)
A Fox News correspondent at the CNAS conference lucked out after Petreaus' speech and managed to be called on for one of three allowed questions; he asked the general, who supervises Afghanistan as the head of U.S. Central Command, about the Miranda reports. "This is the FBI doing what the FBI does," Petraeus replied. "These are cases where they are looking at potential criminal charges. We're comfortable with this." He denied that his soldiers and other relevant American agents are reading Miranda rights to detainees, some of whom are detained as enemy combatants, while others are high-value anti-terrorism targets. (A U.S. federal court recently ruled that some Bagram detainees have the same habeas rights as prisoners in Guantanamo Bay.) Read more.
By Dave Lindorff
My bank, a small regional institution that was not involved in sub-prime lending, and that was not a recipient of any TARP bailout money, cut off my home equity line of credit two weeks ago. They did it abruptly, with no notice—I only discovered it had happened when I tried to get a $500 advance from it to cover a payment I was making on my credit card. When I asked what was going on, the local branch manager informed me that “we are closing out a lot of credit lines while we reassess the value of houses in this region, which have been falling.”
Wartime Contracting Report: We Have Big, Costly Problems
By Robert O'Harrow, Jr. | Government, Inc. Blog
As promised, here's the new report by the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the organization formed by Congress to examine where all the money went.
It's a sad reminder about just how bad the contracting system has been in recent years, and all the billions that have been wasted because of poor oversight, poor planning and plain old corruption.
"The environment in Iraq and Afghanistan has been and continues to be susceptible to waste, fraud, and abuse," the report said.
The report, called "At What Cost? Contingency Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan," contains the interim findings of the commission, which will issue a final report next year. It underscores the gloomy finding about the troubled federal procurement system from a host of other analysis in recent years.
It'll be the subject of a hearing today by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's national security and foreign affairs subcommittee. Read more.
By Linda Milazzo
This evening at a Washington DC fundraiser, in a statement that can best be described as regressive American exceptionalism, former Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich said of himself:
"I am not a citizen of the world. I think the entire concept is intellectual nonsense and stunningly dangerous!"
Witness the video below of Mr. Gingrich's pronouncement that defines in two simple sentences the elitism, racism and egotism that have destroyed his Republican Party:
It appears that Mr. Hamdan is the latest victim of the U.S. government’s practice of asking foreign governments to detain terrorism suspects whom the federal government cannot itself detain and interrogate under U.S. law — a practice known as “proxy detention.” By asking other countries to detain on our behalf, the U.S. government apparently believes it can avoid the constraints of the U.S. Constitution, allowing federal agents to interrogate individuals held in secret, incommunicado detention, without charge or access to a lawyer, and subject to torture.
In only two weeks a U.S. citizen will go on trial in the United Arab Emirates. The American man, who lived in Los Angeles for the better part of 20 years and built his family and business there, reports having been severely tortured while in the custody of the State Security forces of the United Arab Emirates. Yet, his own government has said nothing publicly to inquire about or protest his treatment. There is only one plausible explanation for the federal government’s silence on the issue: our nation was complicit in the detention and torture that took place.
The case presents a simple yet profound question for the Obama Administration: whether it will actually end the human rights abuses of the Bush Administration, or instead simply stand silent while they continue.
More than eight months ago Naji Hamdan was arrested by State Security forces in the U.A.E. He was detained without charges or access to a lawyer until the ACLU filed a lawsuit in U. S. court seeking his release from incommunicado detention. One week later, he was transferred into U.A.E. criminal custody, officials disclosed his location and the torture stopped.
In criminal custody, Mr. Hamdan told both his family and the U.S. consular officer who visited him that he had been severely tortured: repeatedly beaten on his head, kicked on his sides, stripped and held in a freezing cold room, placed in an electric chair and made to believe that he would be electrocuted, and held down in a stress position while his captors beat the bottoms of his feet with a large stick. During this horrific process, he said whatever the agents wanted him to say, and those statements may now be used against him in a criminal trial in the U.A.E.
Saturday marked the 65th anniversary of D-Day. Obama was on hand at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer in northern France, as was France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy, Britain’s Prince Charles, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
“No man who shed blood or lost a brother would say that war is good,” said Obama, reading from his trusty teleprompters. “But all know that this war was essential. For what we faced in Nazi totalitarianism was not just a battle of competing interests. It was a competing vision of humanity.”
It was an essential war because it was designed that way. Corporations associated with the Morgan-Rockefeller international investment bankers subsidized and facilitated the rise of Nazi totalitarianism and industry. “General Motors, Ford, General Electric, DuPont and the handful of U.S. companies intimately involved with the development of Nazi Germany were — except for the Ford Motor Company — controlled by the Wall Street elite — the J.P. Morgan firm, the Rockefeller Chase Bank and to a lesser extent the Warburg Manhattan bank,” writes economist, historian, and author Antony C. Sutton in his book, Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler. Read more.
Obama's Outreach to Muslims: Empty Rhetoric, Same Old Policies
By Stephen Lendman
As well as anyone, Edward Said understood the West's long-standing antipathy to Islam - reflected in Samuel Huntington's "The Clash of Civilizations" article in the summer 1993 issue of Foreign Affairs and later a 1996 book.
He wrote that future conflicts won't be "primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural....the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future" - demagogically suggesting a benevolent, superior West confronting a belligerent, hostile, inferior Muslim world. In other words, good v. evil.
Corporations behind efforts to label Sotomayor ‘racist’
By Larisa Alexandrovna and Muriel Kane | Raw Story
Corporate interests posing as a grassroots conservative group are behind attacks on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, a RAW STORY investigation has found.
The Committee for Justice (CFJ), an astroturf group established by big business in July 2002 to create an appearance of popular support for President Bush’s judicial nominees, is now leading the effort to oppose the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the US Supreme Court. Read more.
President Barack Obama has decided to delay the transfer of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (al-Quds) amid a heightening row between the US and Israel.
Sources in the White House revealed on Friday that the US policy towards Israeli-Palestinians issue had not been changed and that the US embassy would remain in Tel Aviv for at least six more months.
The US Congress ratified the Jerusalem Embassy Act in October 1995, which states that Jerusalem be recognized as the capital of Israel. The act also states that the United States had to move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem no later than 31 May 1999.
However, the decision has been delayed every six months due to the Palestinian-Israeli row over the city.
The status of Jerusalem has been among the thorny issues in the stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, with the Israelis claiming the city as their "eternal, undivided capital" -- a position not recognized by the international community. Read more.