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Human rights activists expressed disappointment with President Obama's decision to restore revamped military commission trials for detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
As TomDispatch readers are well aware, James Carroll is a man who knows something about the dangers of mixing religious fervor, war, and the crusading spirit, a subject he dealt with eloquently in his book Constantine's Sword: The Church and the Jews. A former Catholic priest turned antiwar activist in the Vietnam era, he is a weekly columnist for the Boston Globe, and was perhaps the first media figure to notice -- and warn against -- a presidential "slip of the tongue" just after 9/11, when George W. Bush referred briefly to his new Global War on Terror as a "crusade." He was also possibly the first mainstream columnist in the country to warn against the consequences of launching a war against Afghanistan in response to those attacks -- the disastrous results of which we now see daily.
Carroll's focus on fundamentalist religion and violence is long standing. In print and in other ways, he has spoken out and worked against militarism and intolerance, and has focused on the ways in which religion and violence are increasingly merging into a toxic brew capable of setting our planet aflame. Most recently, he's publicly put both his own practice of Catholicism and the perilous state of his church -- perched as it is at the edge of a fundamentalist precipice with a new Pope who threatens to push it into the void -- under a microscope.
As part of its plans to close Guantanamo Bay, the Obama administration is considering holding some of the detainees indefinitely and without trial on US soil, US media reported Thursday.
President Barack Obama's "administration is weighing plans to detain some terror suspects on US soil -- indefinitely and without trial -- as part of a plan to retool military commission trials that were conducted for prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay," The Wall Street Journal said....
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who met with White House Counsel Greg Craig this week about the Guantanamo plans, told the Journal that the administration was namely seeking authority for indefinite detentions granted by a national security court.
by Dave Lindorff
In reversing himself and declaring that the US government will not release further photos in its possession of torture being practiced on captives held by the US military and the CIA, President Obama is sounding increasingly like the Bush/Cheney administration before him.
It may well be that, as Obama says, release of those photos could lead to anger in the Islamic world and perhaps to recruitment gains among groups like Al Qaeda that are attacking American troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, but this is only true because at the same time, the Obama administration is opposing taking any legal action against the people who authorized and promoted that torture.
US Iraq Casualties Jump to 72,175
Compiled by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com
US military occupation forces in Iraq under Commander-in- Chief Obama suffered 11 combat casualties in the eight days ending May 13 as the official total jumped sharply to at least 72,175 with an update of "non-combat" victims. The total includes 34,696 dead and wounded from what the Pentagon classifies as "hostile" causes and more than 37,479 dead and medically evacuated (as of April 4, 2009) from "non-hostile" causes.*
The actual total is over 100,000 because the Pentagon chooses not to count as "Iraq casualties" the more than 30,000 veterans whose injuries-mainly brain trauma from explosions and PTSD - diagnosed only after they had left Iraq.**
In the first hour of his administration President Barack Obama affirmed his dedication to the rule of law:
Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils that we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man -- a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience sake.”
In his first full day in office President Obama said: “Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this administration."
The remarkable campaign and inspiring oratory of the first African-American to be elected to the planet’s most powerful public office sparked worldwide optimism and hope for new and creative approaches to serious national and international challenges.
Bush's 'Smoking Gun' Witness Found Dead
IndictBushNow files Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to get to bottom of story
The cover-up of Bush-era crimes is taking a shocking but not unexpected turn. A fateful move has been made and it is certain to backfire.
A prisoner who was horribly tortured in 2002 until he agreed - at the demand of Bush torturers - to say that al-Qaeda was linked to Saddam Hussein is suddenly dead. Several weeks ago, Human Rights Watch investigators discovered the missing inmate and talked to him. He had been secretly transferred by the administration to a prison in Libya after having been held by the CIA both in secret “black hole prisons” and in Egypt.
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.
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 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 | 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:
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
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.
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.
Although the lawyers are forbidden to reveal classified details, they could include prisoners' personal accounts of abuses  and interrogation procedures  that have recently been described in secondhand reports. These voices have been missing, the New York Times noted  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  (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 :) )
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
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."
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.”
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.
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
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 | Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com
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.
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.
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.