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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.
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 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
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
More video below the fold: click "Read more" for Part 2
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.
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.”
Debate Over Interrogations Sharply Divided Bush White House
By Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane | NY Times
Acutely aware that the agency would be blamed if the policies lost political support, nervous C.I.A. officials began to curb its practices much earlier than most Americans know: no one was waterboarded after March 2003, and coercive interrogation methods were shelved altogether in 2005....The real trouble began on May 7, 2004, the day the C.I.A. inspector general, John L. Helgerson, completed a devastating report. In thousands of pages, it challenged the legality of some interrogation methods, found that interrogators were exceeding the rules imposed by the Justice Department and questioned the effectiveness of the entire program.
Obama administration seeks extraordinary military powers in Pakistan
By Bill Van Auken | WSWS
In his testimony, Gates also revealed that, even after the planned closure of the Guantanamo detention center, the US government may still imprison up to 100 of the inmates without charges or trials. The administration asked Congress for $50 million to build prison facilities in the US for detainees it claims are dangerous but cannot be tried, principally because the supposed evidence against them was extracted through torture.
The Obama administration is increasingly treating its growing intervention in Pakistan as a separate counter-insurgency war for which it is demanding the same kind of extraordinary military powers obtained by the Bush administration in Afghanistan and Iraq.
President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have announced that they intend to keep the promise of former president George W. Bush to send $242 million in military aid to Georgia in the 2010 budget.
This comes at the very time that NATO war games are being prepared in Georgia, right on Russia's southern border. Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev sounded the alarm about the NATO military operations saying, "“Military exercises can’t be conducted where the war has been recently unleashed. Those who took a decision to conduct them will bear responsibility for their negative consequences."
Russia vows to help South Ossetia and Abkhazia protect their borders against a new Georgian attack that could well come following the NATO war games and efforts by the US to rearm Georgia after their failed attack on Russia last summer. NATO is accusing Russia of destabilizing the Southern Caucasus region by building up its military stronghold on the Georgian breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
The absurdity of NATO blaming Russia for securing their southern border, at the very time the US and NATO are surrounding them, indicates the real agenda underway.
You say torture works? Prove it
by Don Williams
The usual suspects--Dick Cheney, Fox News, even some at Newsweek--are suggesting that waterboarding and other tough interrogation techniques just might have made us safer during the Bush years. As if there's still reason to debate the use of torture, kidnapping and black box prisons.
There's one compelling reason we should not embrace this cold, sly notion. His name is al-Libi (Al-LEE-bee). It means "the Libyan," and there are many people so named in the Arab world. The fact that Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi is not the most famous of them all is an indictment of American media and politics, including the Democrats, for his lies, obtained under torture, led to the death and displacement of millions. I keep waiting for Obama to utter al-Libi's name. What's he waiting for? Until he and others do, it's up to us to shout it from the rooftops.
Won't you join me? It's not hard to say. Al-Libi. So shout it out. In doing so, we just might rescue the soul of the nation. Email me at DonWilliams7@charter.net to find out how making al-Libi famous could end the debate over torture.
Al-Libi is not a nice man. He's a terrorist and a trainer of terrorists. Yet even he should never have been tortured, not only because torture's wrong, which it is, but because the lies al-Libi told to end his CIA-sponsored abuse were used to bomb, invade and occupy Iraq, a terrible mistake in the opinion of most, and one for which we've paid and continue to pay dearly.
There have been hints in the press that the Obama Administration has been considering conditioning U.S. aid to Israel on a real freeze of Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank. There's a conventional wisdom that suggests that doing this would touch a "third rail of politics." But the conventional wisdom might not have been accurate; if it once was accurate, it might not be accurate any more.
WorldPublicOpinion.org has just released a poll showing that three-quarters of Americans oppose Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank. This number is up 23 points from 2002.
Even among respondents who say they sympathize with Israel more than the Palestinians, 64% say Israel should not build settlements in the West Bank.
A RebelReports guest post by Avi Lewis of Al Jazeera:
I hosted a panel on Al Jazeera English the other day about Obama’s first 100 days of policy around torture, rendition and detention. It yielded a moment of inconvenient truth.
Former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer, the architect of the rendition program under Bill Clinton, said what many Democrats know but would rather not hear: that when it comes to sending people to face torture in other countries, the Clinton administration may be as vulnerable to indictment as the Bush administration.
Obama's Decision Shields Bush Administration Officials From Prosecution
By Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com
Commenting on the NYTimes article, "U.S. to Drop Spy Case Against Pro-Israel Lobbyists," Michael Munk wrote:
There was more to this story.
The indictment alleged that in early 2002 David Satterfield, (former deputy chief of the United States Mission in Baghdad and lead US negotiator on the phoney US-Iraq security treaty that Bush - and now Obama - hope would legitimate permanent US bases in Iraq) discussed secret national security matters in two meetings with the two AIPAC lobbyists.
The meetings, on January 18, 2002, and March 12, 2002, were confirmed by classified documents. The Times reported on August 18, 2005 that "Their meetings are listed as overt acts in a conspiracy to illegally communicate national defense secrets to a foreign government. After Mr. Rosen's first meeting with USGO-2 [Satterfield] on Jan. 18, 2002, the indictment said, a memorandum containing the information that Mr. Rosen had obtained was sent to other AIPAC employees.
The indictment did not indicate who wrote the memorandum, but said that it "contained classified information provided by [Satterfield]."The two men met again on March 12, the indictment said. At their second meeting, they talked about Al Qaeda, the indictment said, without saying what aspect of the terror network was discussed. On March 14, Mr. Rosen disclosed to an unidentified foreign official, [an Israeli diplomat] "FO-2," the information that he had heard from USGO-2, the indictment said.
Obama's decision protects Bush's secretary of state and national secuirty advisor from testifying in the case.
U.S. to Drop Spy Case Against Pro-Israel Lobbyists
By Neil A. Lewis and David Johnston | NY Times
A case that began four years ago with the tantalizing and volatile premise that officials of a major pro-Israel lobbying organization were illegally trafficking in sensitive national security information collapsed on Friday as prosecutors asked that all charges be withdrawn.
Between 50 and 100 detainees held by the US at Guantanamo Bay cannot be released or put on trial, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has said.
The fate of those detainees "is still open", Mr Gates told members of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Abu Ghraib Guards Say Memos Show They Were Scapegoats
By Josh White | Washington Post
"If what was suggested as license was itself illegal, relying on illegal documents or opinions is not in my mind a defense," Myers said. "What we know now is we had at the time a rogue government that created an environment where this sort of conduct was condoned, if not encouraged. But it doesn't do anything for you when you hold it up against the maltreatment statute of the [Uniform Code of Military Justice], which is law, passed by the Congress."
Occupation Pulls Rank On Iraq Puppet
By Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com
When Bush's "security pact" was implemented, we dismissed its provision that US occupation troops could be tried in Iraqi courts as phoney since it allowed the occupation to decide any request from the Iraqis.
This proves we were correct.
May Day, 2009 (Reuters)
BAGHDAD - U.S. soldiers will not appear in Iraqi courts to answer any charges relating to a raid this week that killed two people in Iraq and triggered condemnation from Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, the U.S. military has said.
In a video-conference interview with Reuters TV Washington late on Thursday, Brigadier-General Peter Bayer, chief of staff for the U.S. military's day to day operations in Iraq, said the raid in the southern city of Kut was "lawful and legal."
On Wednesday, April 29, 2009, the Board and Staff of the Equal Justice Society sent the following to the Senate and House Judiciary Committees.
The Equal Justice Society would like to go on record as supporting the call to start a criminal investigation by a special counsel into harsh interrogations of terrorism suspects. We have been shocked by recent revelations of abuses that were committed in our name as Americans. We were shocked to learn that our government used tactics perfected during the Spanish Inquisition and refined by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. As a civil rights organization, we denounced the use of torture during the Bush administration to no avail. Now as a country, we have an opportunity to reclaim our honor.
US Iraq Casualties Rise to 71,619
Compiled by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com
US military occupation forces in Iraq under Commander-in-Chief Obama suffered 19 combat casualties in the 9 days ending April 30 as the official total rose to at least 71,619. The total includes 34,667 dead and wounded from what the Pentagon classifies as "hostile" causes and more than 36,952 dead and medically evacuated (not updated since Feb. 28) 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.**
By Dave Lindorff
What’s wrong with this picture: Four groups invest in a company. One group puts in a 55% investment, a second puts in a 20-35% investment, a third puts in an 8% investment and a fourth goes in for 2%. The group putting in the 20-35% stake gets three seats on the company’s nine-member board of directors, which will be appointing the new company’s management team. The group investing 8% gets four board members, and the group investing 2% gets 1 seat. Finally, the group that will hold the majority stake in the company, 55% of the shares, gets…the one remaining seat on the board.
Why would anyone buy a majority stake in the company and accept only a 1/9 representation on the board, and thus virtually no say in the selection of management or in management decisions?
On Thursday, April 30, 2009, in a massive act of non-violent “Civil Resistance” over 50 activists were arrested at a protest action in front of the White House. The protesters refused to move from the sidewalk when ordered to so by the police. The activists were demanding that the administration of President Barack Obama uphold the supremacy of the Law and investigate and prosecute wrongdoers in the Bush-Cheney Gang responsible for “acts of torture.”
More "below the fold" - Click "Read more."
Sen. Robert Byrd, the longest-serving Senator in history, today demanded an investigation of torture by the Bush Administration:
The recently leaked report from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), as well as the four released memorandums from the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), confirm our worst fears. These documents point to brutal, inhumane acts which were repeatedly carried out by U.S. military personnel, and which were authorized and condoned at the highest levels of the Bush Administration. These acts appear to directly violate both the U.N. Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions. Spain and the United Kingdom have already initiated investigations of Bush Administration officials who approved these acts. The United States needs to investigate as well. To continue to ignore the mounting evidence of clear wrongdoing is a national humiliation.
Byrd is the President pro tempore of the Senate, which puts him third in the line of Presidential succession behind Vice President Biden and Speaker Pelosi. He was a powerful moral voice during the Bush years; he opposed the Iraq War in 2002 and tried to bring our troops home in September 2005. That December, he denounced torture and Bush's other assaults on the Constitution:
Popular clichés notwithstanding, not all is fair in war. The idea that war is subject to legal rules is an ancient one.
Over time nations have come to accept that their decisions whether to go to war as well as how to conduct warfare once armed conflict has erupted are limited by legal norms.
But do such limitations hold when the enemy is not another nation that itself plays, more or less, by the rules, but rather a nonstate actor such as al Qaeda that flagrantly ignores them?
Does not following the rules in this context mean that we would be fighting with one hand tied behind our back? And if so, should not all be fair at least in war against such an enemy? Yes, yes, and an emphatic no.