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Obama's Detention Plans Face Scrutiny

Obama's Detention Plans Face Scrutiny
By Evan Perez | WSJ

The Obama administration's efforts to craft what it calls a "preventive detention" plan for suspected terrorists will face constitutional challenges similar to those raised against the Bush administration's policies.

Some detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are deemed too dangerous to release and may not be able to put on trial, creating a quandary that President Barack Obama said Thursday poses "the toughest issue we will face."

Read more.

The Quiet Coup

Charles Ganske of Russia Blog excerpted a portion of Simon Johnson's May 2009 article at the Atlantic Monthly titled, "The Quiet Coup." The author, Professor Johnson, served as director of the International Monetary Fund from 2007 to 2008, and currently is an academic economist at MIT's Sloan School of Management. Here are a few provocative excerpts:

...at the outset of the crisis, the oligarchs are usually among the first to get extra help from the government, such as preferential access to foreign currency, or maybe a nice tax break, or—here’s a classic Kremlin bailout technique—the assumption of private debt obligations by the government. Under duress, generosity toward old friends takes many innovative forms. Meanwhile, needing to squeeze someone, most emerging-market governments look first to ordinary working folk—at least until the riots grow too large....

Instead, the American financial industry gained political power by amassing a kind of cultural capital—a belief system. Once, perhaps, what was good for General Motors was good for the country. Over the past decade, the attitude took hold that what was good for Wall Street was good for the country. The banking-and-securities industry has become one of the top contributors to political campaigns, but at the peak of its influence, it did not have to buy favors the way, for example, the tobacco companies or military contractors might have to. Instead, it benefited from the fact that Washington insiders already believed that large financial institutions and free-flowing capital markets were crucial to America’s position in the world.

Read more of the excerpted article at Russia Blog

Read Simon Johnson's entire article at the Atlantic Monthly.

Obama’s Betrayals

Obama’s Betrayals
by Sheldon Richman | Future of Freedom Foundation | Hat Tip (H/T) to at802

...In the name of looking to the future, we are being asked to forget the past....

It is instructive that the neoconservatives who gave us the Bush war program are now delighted with Obama’s policies, including his escalation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

This all should be troubling to anyone who thinks elections can bring needed change. Presidents come and go, with little obvious effect on foreign policy, no matter what they say during their campaigns. Republican and Democrat, right and left — those terms are more about style than substance. In subtle ways and with staunch corporate media support, the system maintained by the ruling elite ensures that no successful national candidate will deviate too far from its plumb line. The marginalization of real anti-war candidates during the 2008 election was just the latest demonstration.

Read more.

All The Talk's On Pelosi, Not Torture

All the talk's on Pelosi, not torture | Editorial, Anniston Star

Bruce Fein worked as a government lawyer under three Republican presidents. He's also a critic of what he sees as presidential abuse of power. A recent Slate column by the attorney was headlined, "Czar Obama: The president's incredibly imperialist wielding of executive power."

Speaking recently on Bill Moyers' public TV program, Fein described Bush administration policies on treatment of suspected terrorists as unconstitutional. Bush "claimed authority to say he can kidnap people, throw them into dungeons abroad, dump them out into Siberia without any political or legal accountability. These are standards that are totally anathema to a democratic society devoted to the rule of law."

Don't expect Fein to be on Dick Cheney's VIP guest list any time soon.

Fein is not alone in his feeling about torture. A poll in April by CBS and the New York Times found 71 percent of respondents believed waterboarding is a "form of torture."

And torture, by treaty and U.S. law, is illegal.

Read more.

Keith Olbermann & General Karpinski: Cheney Mixing Apples and Oranges

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News,

Human Rights Attorney Vince Warren: Obama’s “Preventive Detention” Plan Goes Beyond Bush Admin Policies

Human Rights Attorney Vince Warren: Obama’s “Preventive Detention” Plan Goes Beyond Bush Admin Policies

We get reaction to President Obama and Vice President Dick Cheney’s dueling speeches on torture from Vince Warren, the executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. Warren took part in a secret meeting Wednesday between Obama and several human rights groups. Warren says although he welcomes Obama’s willingness to hear critical views, he’s disappointed in Obama’s new support for preventive detention.

Read more.

US General Linked To Abu Ghraib Abuse

US general linked to Abu Ghraib abuse
Leaked memo reveals control of prison passed to military intelligence to 'manipulate detainees' - Rape of teen boy by American alleged
By Julian Borger | Guardian UK

Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, head of coalition forces in Iraq, issued an order last October giving military intelligence control over almost every aspect of prison conditions at Abu Ghraib with the explicit aim of manipulating the detainees' "emotions and weaknesses", it was reported yesterday.

The October 12 memorandum, reported in the Washington Post, is a potential "smoking gun" linking prisoner abuse to the US high command. It represents hard evidence that the maltreatment was not simply the fault of rogue military police guards.

Read more.

BORDC Statement on Revival of Military Commissions

BORDC Statement on Revival of Military Commissions | Bill of Rights Defense Committee

On Friday, May 15, 2009, President Barack Obama announced that his administration would restart the military commissions he halted in the first days of his presidency. BORDC strongly opposes this decision.

The use of military commissions is not, contrary to its portrayal in the media, a partisan issue. Many conservatives, including BORDC Advisory Board member Bruce Fein, are opposed to these unconstitutional trials. Military tribunals are an inherently flawed system, and regular courts are already suited to situations like this with systems set up to handle intelligence issues and classified information. This is evidenced by the successful prosecutions of terrorists—over 120 of them, including Jose Padilla and Zacharias Moussaoui—in the regular courts. Broad existing laws and regular federal courts are already more than sufficient without needing to resort to legally and practically dubious trial systems.

Read more.

CCR Guantánamo Attorneys Comment After President’s Speech

CCR Guantánamo Attorneys Comment After President’s Speech | Press Release | CONTACT: press@ccrjustice.org

Center for Constitutional Rights President Michael Ratner and Managing Attorney for CCR’s Guantanamo project Shayana Kadidal responded with disappointment to President Obama’s speech this morning. CCR represents the detainees at Guantánamo and is part of the key FOIA lawsuit surrounding the torture photo disclosures.

Ratner and Kadidal were disturbed by the direction the Obama administration is taking on questions of human rights, transparency, accountability and the law. CCR’s Executive Director, who met with the president yesterday, briefed his colleagues before boarding a plane this morning.

Cheney Intervened in CIA Inspector General's Torture Probe

Cheney Intervened in CIA Inspector General's Torture Probe
By Jason Leopold | Truthout

Former Vice President Dick Cheney intervened in CIA Inspector General John Helgerson's investigation into the agency's use of torture against "high-value" detainees, but the watchdog was still able to prepare a report that concluded the interrogation program violated some provisions of the International Convention Against Torture.

The report, which the Obama administration may soon declassify, was completed in May 2004 and implicated CIA interrogators in at least three detainee deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq and referred eight criminal cases of alleged homicide, abuse and misconduct to the Justice Department for further investigation, reporter Jane Mayer wrote in her book, "The Dark Side," and in an investigative report published in The New Yorker in November 2005.

Read more.

Courage to Resist

Courage to Resist sent the following articles in their most recent newsletter:

Spc Victor Agosto refuses deployment
Victor spoke with Courage to Resist from his Ft. Hood Army barracks. He's already racked up four written warnings from the Army.

Another Ft. Hood soldier says NO!
Sgt. Travis Bishop asks and answers, "Why am I doing what I’m doing? Why am I resisting? Refusing?" Like Victor Agosto, Travis is also with 57th ESB.

Objector who thought he was out arrested
Courage to Resist audio interview with Dustin Che Stevens. Dustin awaits trial, unless he deploys to Afghanistan--after being out for six years! (link only)

Freshman Democrat Alan Grayson Attacks Obama's War Policy

Freshman Democrat Alan Grayson Attacks Obama's War Policy
by Christopher Bateman | Vanity Fair

In 2007, Vanity Fair’s David Rose wrote about an ambitious lawyer and entrepreneur named Alan Grayson, who at the time was suing KBR and other defense contractors in Iraq for alleged fraud on behalf of whistleblowers and American taxpayers. Grayson, who ran for Congress unsuccessfully in 2006, ran again in 2008, and this time was elected to represent Florida’s 8th district, which encompasses part of Orlando....

Have you been pleased at all with the Obama administration’s policies in Iraq and what they’ve done there so far?

US Iraq Casualties rise to 72,208

US Iraq Casualties rise to 72,208
Compiled by Michael Munk | MichaelMunk.com

US military occupation forces in Iraq under Commander-in-Chief Obama suffered 32 combat casualties in the eight days ending May 21, 2009 as the official total rose to at least 72,208.

The total includes 34,728 dead and wounded from what the Pentagon classifies as "hostile" causes and more than 37,480 dead and medically evacuated (last reported April 4) 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.**

US media divert attention from the actual cost in American life and limb by occasionally reporting only the total killed (4,299 as of May 21, 2009) but rarely mentioning the 31,285 wounded in combat.

Former Col. Advocates Military Attack on “Partisan” Media

Former Col. Advocates Military Attack on “Partisan” Media | InfoWars

A former United States Army Lieutenant Colonel who worked for military intelligence is calling for the military to attack and kill “partisan media.” In a report penned for the rabid pro-Israel group JINSA (the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs), Ralph Peters writes that the media have determined the outcomes of conflicts and as such should be considered targets.

“Although it seems unthinkable now, future wars may require censorship, news blackouts and, ultimately, military attacks on the partisan media,” he writes. “Perceiving themselves as superior beings, journalists have positioned themselves as protected-species combatants. But freedom of the press stops when its abuse kills our soldiers and strengthens our enemies. Such a view arouses disdain today, but a media establishment that has forgotten any sense of sober patriotism may find that it has become tomorrow’s conventional wisdom.”

Read more.

Protest to Greet Secretary of War Gates in Bath, Maine

Protest to Greet Secretary of War Gates in Bath, Maine | Press Release

Peace activists will hold a protest vigil in Bath on Friday, May 22 beginning at noon in front of Bath Iron Works (BIW) on Washington Street.

Secretary Gates is expected to meet with BIW workers and tour the weapons production facility at that time.

According to Bruce Gagnon, Coordinator of the Bath-based Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, "The Democrat and Republican politicians will line up to kiss the ring of Secretary Gates. This is what we do in America today - we build weapons of destruction. It's our #1 industrial export product. And when weapons are the number one industrial export product of a nation, what is your global marketing strategy for that product line?

War, the more the better.

We don't build rail systems, wind turbines, solar

US Colonel Advocates US 'Military Attacks' on 'Partisan Media' in Essay for Neocon, Pro-Israel Group JINSA

US Colonel Advocates US 'Military Attacks' on 'Partisan Media' in Essay for Neocon, Pro-Israel Group JINSA
By Jeremy Scahill | Rebel Reports

In the era of embedded media, independent journalists have become the eyes and ears of the world. Without those un-embedded journalists willing to risk their lives to place themselves on the other side of the barrel of the tank or the gun or under the airstrikes, history would be written almost entirely from the vantage point of powerful militaries, or—at the very least—it would be told from the perspective of the troops doing the shooting, rather than the civilians who always pay the highest price.

In the case of the Iraq invasion and occupation, the journalists who have placed themselves in danger most often are local Iraqi journalists. Some 116 Iraqi journalists and media workers have been killed in the line of duty since March 2003. In all, 189 journalists have been killed in Iraq. At least 16 of these journalists were killed by the US military, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. The network that has most often found itself under US attack is Al Jazeera. As I wrote a few years ago in The Nation:

Read more.

U.S. Army Paid Bonuses To KBR Despite Deaths

U.S. Army paid bonuses to KBR despite deaths By Thomas Ferraro | Reuters

The U.S. Army paid $83.4 million in bonuses to KBR Inc. (KBR.N), its biggest contractor in Iraq, despite accusations its wiring work has been linked to the electrocution of at least four soldiers and one contractor, a congressional investigative panel said on Wednesday.

The Senate Democratic Policy Committee said it also determined that more than half of the bonuses -- $48.9 million -- were awarded after the Defense Department sounded an alarm in early 2007 about what the panel described as pervasive problems with KBR.

Chairman Byron Dorgan opened the hearing by ripping into the Houston-based company and accusing the Army of "stunning incompetence" in rewarding it for its work. Read more.

Gonzales Approved ‘Borderline Torture’ Months Before ‘Torture Memos’ Issued: Report

Gonzales approved ‘borderline torture’ months before ‘torture memos’ issued: report
By Jeremy Gantz | Raw Story

Another former official familiar with top officials’ discussions about the legal basis for “War on Terror” detainee interrogations believes that any approval that may have been given by Gonzales could not have provided a sufficient legal basis for Mitchell’s actions.

“I can’t believe the CIA would have settled for a piece of paper from the counsel to the president,” the former government official told NPR. “If that were true,” says the former official, “then the whole legal and policy review process from April through August would have been a complete charade.” (bolding mine).

Opposing U.S. Militarism in Rome, Italy

From Stephanie Westbrook

Here's the text for our flyer for an event in Rome tomorrow.
http://www.peaceandjustice.it/stop-war-machine.php

F-35 LIGHTNING II
JOINT STRIKE FIGHTER

Did you know…?

*

Italy has plans to buy 131 Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets to the tune of 13 billion euro, in addition to nearly 1 billion already committed to participate in the development program – Italy is a Level II partner – and another 600,000 to build final assembly facilities near Novara (Milan). ( Amisnet, April 29, 2009 )

*

With the same money, Italy could build 45,000 pre-school centers, creating 50,000 jobs and providing a service to one million families and their children. (Sbilanciamoci, April 30, 2009)
*

Of the eight countries outside the U.S. who have committed to purchasing the F-35, Italy (131) is second only to the U.K. (138) in number of planes ordered. (Defense Daily, November 20, 2006)
*

The Cheney Dare (Lanny Davis)

The Cheney Dare (Lanny Davis) | The Hill's Pundit Blogs | Submitted by Bob Fertik | Democrats.com

I have written many times in this space that I oppose any criminal prosecution of prior-administration officials on torture or other issues relating to the Iraq War and the war on terrorism, especially those CIA interrogators who relied in good faith on the instructions of policymakers and the legal opinions issued by Justice Department senior officials.

I have agreed with President Obama on the need to look forward, not backward.

But … I have changed my mind about the need to indict former Vice President Dick Cheney for complicity in illegal torture.

Tomgram: Noam Chomsky, Unexceptional Americans

Tomgram: Noam Chomsky, Unexceptional Americans | Tom Dispatch

Murder, torture, abuse… and photos of the same. We've seen some of them, of course. Now, evidently under pressure from his top generals, President Obama has decided to fight the release of other grim photos from the dark side of the Bush years of offshore injustice -- on the grounds that their publication might inflame opinion in the Middle East and our various war zones (as if fighting to suppress their publication won't). In this way, just as the president is in the process of making Bush's wars his own, so he seems to be making much of the nightmare legacy of those years of crime, torture, and cover-up his, too.

The photos his Justice Department will fight to suppress (for how long or how successfully we don't yet know) are now officially "his"; next, assumedly, come those military commissions, suspended as Obama took office, which are evidently about to be reborn as Obama era tools of injustice. (This brings to mind, in grimmer form, the old saw about how military justice is to justice as military music is to music.) And with those commissions comes that wonderfully un-Constitutional idea of detaining chosen prisoners indefinitely either entirely without trial or with trials that will be mockeries. And with that, evidently, goes the idea of possibly setting up some sort of new "national security court" to try some detainees. (Keep in mind that the Obama administration is already hanging on tightly to Dick Cheney's "state secrets" privilege to block various lawsuits by those wronged in all sorts of ways in the Bush years.)

Mullen: 2 Years to Turn Tide in Afghanistan

Mullen: 2 Years to Turn Tide in Afghanistan
Mullen: New forces, new strategy need up to 2 years to turn tide in Afghan war
By Anne Gearan AP | ABCNews

The nation's top military officer warned Monday that the deaths of Afghan civilians caught up in U.S. combat operations could cripple President Barack Obama's revamped strategy for the seven-year-old war. "I believe that each time we do that, we put our strategy in jeopardy," Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said. "We cannot succeed ... in Afghanistan by killing Afghan civilians."

Mullen said additional forces and new tactics can help the United States turn a discouraging tide in Afghanistan. He said he was hopeful that "in the next 12- to 24 months, that we can stem the trends which have been going very badly in Afghanistan the last three years."

But speaking at the Brookings Institution, Mullen sounded frustrated that as the first of 21,000 U.S. reinforcements arrive, Taliban insurgents are having a seemingly easy time using America's military prowess against it.

Read more.

Howard Zinn's "Three Holy Wars"

Howard Zinn's "Three Holy Wars" | Submitted by Old Hack with Hat Tip (H/T)

Afghanistan/Pakistan: Where Empires Go to Die

Afghanistan/Pakistan: Where Empires Go to Die
By Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III | t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Under the pretext of responding to the September 11, 2001, attacks in America, the United States and Great Britain invaded Afghanistan on October 7, 2001. They dubbed this invasion Operation Enduring Freedom. President Bush 41 told the American people that the US strikes were,

"... designed to disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations, and to attack the military capability of the Taliban regime ... we will make it more difficult for the terror network to train new recruits and coordinate their evil plans. Initially, the terrorists may burrow deeper into caves and other entrenched hiding places ... At the same time, the oppressed people of Afghanistan will know the generosity of America and our allies. As we strike military targets, we will also drop food, medicine and supplies to the starving and suffering men and women and children of Afghanistan ..."

Rumsfeld's Legacy Still Killing Afghans

Rumsfeld's legacy still killing Afghans | Press TV

The US military's latest massacre of civilians in Afghanistan is reportedly the most recent of the repercussions of decisions made by former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

On Saturday, Rumsfeld was exposed as the determined founder of the crack brigade which mowed down around 147 Afghan villagers last week reportedly straying far from the battlefield long after the insurgents they had engaged retreated.

The attacks in the Farah province, which killed more than 90 women and children, were launched by the US Marines' Special Operations Command (MarSOC) infamous for its trigger-happy military ways.

Read more.

Engineering "Trust of the Indigenous Population": How Some Anthropologists Have Learned to Stop Worrying & Start Loving the Army

Engineering "Trust of the Indigenous Population": How Some Anthropologists Have Learned to Stop Worrying and Start Loving the Army
By Dahr Jamail | Truthout | Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com

Anthropologist Audrey Roberts works for Human Terrain System (HTS), a Pentagon program. Referring to the information produced by HTS scholars, she says, "If it's going to inform how targeting is done - whether that targeting is bad guys, development or governance - how our information is used is how it's going to be used. All I'm concerned about is pushing our information to as many soldiers as possible. The reality is there are people out there who are looking for bad guys to kill. I'd rather they did not operate in a vacuum."

In a recent article on this site I have described HTS as comprising American scholars, primarily in the field of anthropology, along with sociologists and social psychologists, embedding themselves with the US military in the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Their brief is to enable the military to make better decisions by helping it to understand the social mores and customs of the cultures it is occupying.

Read more.

President Obama To Restart Guantanamo Bay Military Tribunals

President Obama to restart Guantanamo Bay military tribunals
By Philippe Naughton | Times OnLine

Barack Obama is set to reverse the first formal decision of his presidency today with the expected announcement that his Administration will restart Bush-era military tribunals for Guantánamo Bay detainees.

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