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To Senators McCain and Cornyn: President Barack Obama was correct in saying, "I won!"
By Mary MacElveen
Now that the inaugural ceremonies are over with where 1.8 million braved the cold to be a part of history to see President Barack Obama sworn in as this country’s 44th President of the United States, what is left is the cold and some ‘rivals’ showing their true colors. The rivals I speak of are the obstructionists in Senator John McCain and Senator John Cornyn.
By Dave Lindorff
American foreign policy is moving from the absurd to the ludicrous.
Back in 2002, President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney managed to snooker the people of the United States, or at least a large number of us, into believing that Iraq, a pathetic Third World country ruled by a corrupt tin-pot dictator, was a grave danger to America, akin to Hitler and Nazi Germany in 1940. We learned how absurd that claim was when two hundred thousand American troops backed by the mightiest air force the world has ever seen, slammed into the country in March, 2003, and the Iraqi military simply folded up, and the Saddam regime along with it.
If you want to be discouraged about the prospects for Israel/Palestine peace during the Obama Administration, you don't have any shortage of evidence you can cite; you never do. But if you want to look for openings, the situation already looks much better than it did just over a week ago. Is there a "window" for peace? If so, are Americans ready to push the Obama Administration for the changes needed in U.S. policy to bring peace about?
Israel had to end its bombardment of Gaza by the January 20 "hope and change deadline," as Jon Stewart had predicted.
President Obama appointed former Senator Mitchell as his envoy for Israel/Palestine diplomacy. It is widely perceived that Mitchell will be fair - you might think that this would be an obvious requirement, but in the recent history of U.S. policy, it would be an innovation.
by Linda Milazzo
President Barack Obama of the Capitol of Washington, it is my most sincere honor to introduce you to Citizen Bob Alexander of the State of Washington, who by the standards you have set to 'give our all' has valiantly answered your call. In fact, Citizen Bob answered that call long before you were President. He seized his responsibilities gladly, not grudgingly, just as you asked at your inauguration. And now President Obama, Citizen Bob and millions more, would like you to hear THEIR call.
Before I tell you more about Citizen Bob, allow me to remind you of a few of the inspirational words you delivered at your inauguration. Here they are in a 31 second clip:
In one of his first actions as president, Barack Obama announced today that Guantánamo will be closed, the secret CIA prisons will be shut down, and torture and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” will be prohibited. Much work remains to be done to see through the vision set forth today, but President Obama has begun his administration by sending a clear signal to friend and foe alike that America is back and ready once again to lead the community of nations toward a future that is both more secure and more free.
On November 4, the American people by a popular majority of more than eight million votes selected as their new President a Democratic contender who had been attacked by his Republican foe as a radical who "began his campaign in the liberal left lane of politics and has never left it."
If only. In truth, Barack Obama was never the Che Guevara in pinstripes that the rightwing attack machine conjured up. His record on Capitol Hill was never "more liberal than a Senator who calls himself a socialist [Vermont's Bernie Sanders]," as John McCain wheezed at the last stops of a dying campaign. And he has never even been in competition for the title bestowed upon him by former Senator Fred Thompson during last summer's Republican National Convention: "the most liberal . . . nominee to ever run for President."
President Obama's plans to expeditiously determine the fates of about 245 terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and quickly close the military prison there were set back last week when incoming legal and national security officials - barred until the inauguration from examining classified material on the detainees - discovered that there were no comprehensive case files on many of them.
Before President Obama can do, he must undo. Repairing the damage that George W. Bush did to the nation’s values, honor and pride will be complicated and, at times, politically inconvenient. But nothing is more urgent, and nothing will ultimately reap more benefits at home and abroad.
The executive orders that Barack Obama signed Thursday concerning the detention of terrorism suspects are a beginning. Much more remains to be undone.
So let me suggest a truly audacious hope for your administration: How about a five-year time-out on war -- unless, of course, there is a genuine threat to the nation? During that interval, we could work with the U.N. World Food Program, plus the overseas arms of the churches, synagogues, mosques and other volunteer agencies to provide a nutritious lunch every day for every school-age child in Afghanistan and other poor countries.
As you settle into the Oval Office, Mr. President, may I offer a suggestion? Please do not try to put Afghanistan aright with the U.S. military. To send our troops out of Iraq and into Afghanistan would be a near-perfect example of going from the frying pan into the fire. There is reason to believe some of our top military commanders privately share this view. And so does a broad and growing swath of your party and your supporters.
National Religious Campaign Against Torture Lauds President Obama for Issuing Executive Order Ending Torture
Statement from National Religious Campaign Against Torture President, Linda Gustitus:
President Obama asked this country during his campaign to join him in changing the world. By requiring the CIA to abide by the restrictions in the Army Field Manual in conducting interrogations of detainees, by closing the CIA’s secret prisons, and by providing the International Committee of the Red Cross access to all US-held detainees, he has already changed the world with respect to America’s use of torture. He has rejected the use of torture as an interrogation technique and allowed the United States to again find its moral bearing.
On his first day in office, President Obama put former president Bush on notice. His administration just released an executive order that will make it difficult for Bush to shield his White House records--and those of former Vice President Dick Cheney--from public scrutiny by invoking the doctrine of executive privilege. Shortly after taking office, Bush handed down his own executive order, amending the Presidential Records Act to give current and past presidents, along with their heirs, veto power over the release of presidential records, which are considered the property of the American people.
President Barack Obama is staffing his Justice Department with some of his predecessor’s fiercest critics, among them lawyers who were fired by President Bush or who quit jobs working for his administration.
Now, the opposition is in charge, and lawyers who spent years defining the limits of executive power will be helping wield it.
The change may be most dramatic at the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel — which defended some of Bush’s most controversial policies — where a small cadre of lawyers who had an outsized influence on legal criticism of Bush are taking the top three jobs.
"The leadership of al-Qaeda is very concerned about the wide support that Obama has been receiving from Arab and Muslim countries," Katz said. "To combat this threat, al-Qaeda has embarked on a propaganda campaign against Obama, not only by linking him to the policies of the Bush administration, including the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, but also by accusing him of actions in which he had no part." Other jihadist groups appear less threatened, or perhaps more accepting of an American commander who appears more open to peaceful accommodation, Katz said. A publication known as Al-Samoud, linked to the Taliban in Afghanistan, viewed Obama's election as a welcome sign that Americans are "very much tired from the bitter war" and do not wish to prolong a conflict "ignited by Bush's insanity and his satanic policy."
"With the advent of the new US administration, it is Pakistan's sincere hope that the United States will review its policy and adopt a more holistic and integrated approach toward dealing with the issue of terrorism and extremism," a ministry statement said....The Pakistani parliament has adopted a unanimous resolution stating that US and Nato attacks would be considered an affront to the country's sovereignty."
Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistani president, has called on Barack Obama, his US counterpart, to end American missile attacks in South Asian nation's tribal border regions with Afghanistan.
Zardari's comments were reported in the local media on Saturday, a day after the first US attacks in Pakistan since Obama's inauguration.
Six more bodies were recovered from the rubble of an Al-Qaeda den hit by a suspected US missile, pushing the death toll in two separate strikes to 21, security officials said Saturday.
"Six bodies of local tribesmen were found in the rubble of the house which was destroyed in a US missile strike on Friday just outside the town of Mir Ali in North Waziristan district," the official said.
On Friday officials said eight people including five foreigners -- Pakistani officials use the term "foreigners" to describe Al-Qaeda militants -- died in the missile strike at the house of a pro-Taliban tribesman near Mir Ali.
Hours later another suspected US drone fired two missiles into a house in Wana, the main town in South Waziristan, killing seven people.
Obama moves to block Bush's "midnight" attempts to relax green rules
New administration moves quickly to undo "midnight regulations" designed to relax environmental rules
By Danny Bradbury | BusinessGreen
In a traditional game of political whack-a-mole, the Obama White House has moved quickly to freeze all pending regulations proposed by the former president's administration, including president Bush's attempts to roll back large swathes of environmental legislation.
By Dave Lindorff
As someone who has spent nearly three frustrating years actively advocating the impeachment of President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for their many crimes and abuses of power, I have to admit that not only did it not happen, but that the likelihood of their being indicted and brought to trial now that they have left office is exceedingly slim.
This week, I released "Reining in the Imperial Presidency," a 486-page report detailing the abuses and excesses of the Bush administration and recommending steps to address them. Arthur Schlesinger Jr. popularized the term "imperial presidency" in the 1970s to describe an executive who had assumed more power than the Constitution allows and circumvented the checks and balances fundamental to our three-branch system of government. Until recently, the Nixon administration seemed to represent a singular embodiment of the idea. Unfortunately, it is clear that the threat of the imperial presidency lives on and, indeed, reached new heights under George W. Bush.
"...in Maryland, where the most recent revelation du jour is that state police dubbed bicycle advocates seeking additional bike lanes "terrorists" and branded the DC Anti-War Network a white supremacist group.
While the country's economic infrastructure gyrates, the infrastructure to squelch political dissent quietly thrives after years of post-9/11 behind-the-scenes buttressing.
The Bush administration will long be remembered for placing the country on war footing abroad, but it should also be remembered for liberating the forces of political suppression at home.
Barack Obama, the new US president, will engage in "tough and direct" diplomacy with Iran "without preconditions", the White House has said.
The Obama administration said in a website statement on Wednesday that it aimed to use "the power of American diplomacy" over what it called "Iran's illicit nuclear programme, support for terrorism, and threats towards Israel".
"Seeking this kind of comprehensive settlement with Iran is our best way to make progress," the statement said.
Israel, Palestinian Authority Welcome Obama Plans for Peace
By Robert Berger | Voice of America
Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank have welcomed President Obama's announcement that he will "aggressively" pursue peace in the Middle East.
"It must instill in us a sense of urgency, as history shows us that strong and sustained American engagement can bridge divides and build the capacity that supports progress," he said.
Mr. Obama appointed former senator George Mitchell as Mideast envoy and said he would visit the region soon.
Suspected U.S. missile strike kills 10 in Pakistan
From Reza Sayah | CNN
Ten people were killed Friday evening in a suspected U.S. missile strike in Pakistan's tribal region, said a local political official and two military sources.
The suspected strike would be the first since President Obama took office Tuesday.
The attack happened about 5:15 p.m. (7:15 a.m. ET) in a village near Mir Ali, North Waziristan, said Nasim Dawar, the local official.
North Waziristan is one of seven districts in Pakistan's ungoverned tribal region along the Afghan border, where the Taliban and other militants have set up a haven.
The region has seen a spike in the number of aerial attacks by unmanned drones on what are believed to be Taliban targets.
Mohammed Jawad and Obama's efforts to suspend military commissions
By Glenn Greenwald | Salon.com
This is a very good and important step -- not only because of its substance, but also because it was something Obama did almost immediately, even before his first full day in office:
In one of its first actions, the Obama administration instructed military prosecutors late Tuesday to seek a 120-day suspension of legal proceedings involving detainees at the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba -- a clear break with the approach of the outgoing Bush administration. . . .
Such a request may not be automatically granted by military judges, and not all defense attorneys may agree to such a suspension. But the move is a first step toward closing a detention facility and system of military trials that became a worldwide symbol of the Bush administration's war on terrorism and its unyielding attitude toward foreign and domestic critics. . . .
The motion prompted a clear sense of disappointment among some of the military officials here who had tried to make a success of the system, despite charges that the military tribunals were a legal netherworld. Military prosecutors and other commission officials here were told not to speak to the news media, according to a Pentagon official.
"It's over; I don't want to say any more," said one official involved in the process.
A new start with the Muslim world, as pledged by President Obama in his inaugural speech, has a sine qua non: a Palestinian settlement, a quest that has eluded the last five U.S. presidents. Following Israel's invasion of Gaza and its 22-day campaign of airstrikes, tank and artillery bombardment that left 1,300 Palestinians killed for the loss of only 13 Israeli soldiers, a Palestinian state remains a diplomatic chimera.
Former U.S. attorney David Iglesias - one of nine U.S. attorneys fired by the Bush administration in 2006 - has a new job.
Iglesias has been hired to prosecute suspected terrorists held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for the Office of Military Commissions. He was reactivated as a member of the U.S. Naval Reserve JAG corps as part of a special prosecution team for Guantanamo detainees.
"...conduct a comprehensive review of the lawful options available to the Federal Government with respect to the apprehension, detention, trial, transfer, release, or other disposition of individuals captured or apprehended in connection with armed conflicts and counter-terrorism operations, and to identify such options as are consistent with the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice...."
"...All executive directives, orders, and regulations inconsistent with this order, including but not limited to those issued to or by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from September 11, 2001, to January 20, 2009, concerning detention or the interrogation of detained individuals, are revoked to the extent of their inconsistency with this order...."
President Obama signed executive orders Thursday directing the Central Intelligence Agency to shut what remains of its network of secret prisons and ordering the closing of the Guantánamo detention camp within a year, government officials said.
The orders, which are the first steps in undoing detention policies of former President George W. Bush, rewrite American rules for the detention of terrorism suspects. They require an immediate review of the 245 detainees still held at the naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to determine if they should be transferred, released or prosecuted.