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Corporatism and Fascism
Corporatism and Fascism
The Progressive Caucus in Congress can save Democrats from a disaster in the 2010 elections that could destroy any semblance of a governing majority and erase any hope for the mandate for change that voters gave Democrats in 2008.
Nothing has changed. Lobbyists dominate the town. Money dominates the legislation. Democrats repeatedly fail to fight for first principles. Voters are angry. Democrats are now the party of incumbency in a nation that again demands change....
1. Progressives should speak for the huge majority of independents and fight for a public option with an opt-in provision that would allow states that favor it to have it. This would regain the political ground and reverse the political-sucker play against Democrats. Progressives should propose sending the money saved by the public option back to participating states for job-creating programs.
2. Progressives should fight for the huge majority of independents and make price-fixing, price-gouging and collusion by insurers illegal. Any insurance exchange with legalized price-fixing is ludicrous and repellant to a large majority of Americans. Read more.
Only a brief glance at Gates’ resume reveals his deep ties to the military-industrial complex, but we should not mistake these ties for the driving force behind his actions as secretary of defense. The billionaires in charge did not promote Gates to the highest echelons of their state machine because he is loyal to his own personal interests, but rather because he has demonstrated a record of unwavering service to the common interests of the owners, bankers, and the super-rich. In the eyes of the war profiteers, the fact that Gates is one of their own only enhances his qualifications as a trustworthy functionary.
The decisions to send us to risk life and limb around the world—today in Afghanistan and Iraq—are not decisions that we have any part of, nor do our families, nor do the vast majority of people in the United States. They are decisions for the millionaire politicians, who have the backing of multi-billion-dollar corporations, and the generals and civilian advisors in the Pentagon. We are told we must trustingly follow orders and never question the chain of command.
But who is really in the chain of command? Who are these great and wise leaders who have, in the past eight years, ordered over 5,300 of us to our deaths?
At the top of this long line of officers and their civilian equivalents is Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates. The secretary of defense is the leading position at the Pentagon, presiding over the crew of generals—both in uniform and in three-piece suits—who determine whether or not we must go to war, how many of us have to go, what military strategy will be used, and the “conditions on the ground” that decide if we can leave or if we must stay. All of our orders come directly from the Pentagon brass, headed by Robert Gates.
Gates is the only U.S. secretary of defense ever to be asked to remain in office by a newly elected president. The 2008 election was an unambiguous popular rejection of the Bush administration and its imperial foreign policy. The people of the United States, including the majority of people in the military, wanted to sweep out the Bush team. But President Obama asked Gates, a key architect of the current conflicts, to stay.
Gates must have some valuable experience and qualifications to remain the head of the war machine after our “great democracy” voted those policies out! Read more.
A former Pakistani security chief says he believes U.S. drone missile strikes over the past week are retaliation for a suicide attack against the CIA.
Mahmood Shah says Pakistanis should expect more attacks.
Two suspected drone strikes killed at least 13 people in northwest Pakistan today. That area near the Afghan border is teeming with militants suspected in last week's attack that killed seven CIA employees in Afghanistan.
Since the CIA attack, five missile strikes have killed at least 20 people.
Shah said the drone strikes are counterproductive because he says they've killed Pakistan's spies in the region, hampering its intelligence gathering ability.
Jackie Ramos, Bank Of America Employee, Fired After Helping Customers
By Arthur Delaney | Huffington Post
Bank of America fired Jackie Ramos after she took a stand against the bank's $15 "convenience" charges and $39 over-the-limit fees so she could sleep better at night.
"There was something inherently evil about my job," the 23-year-old said in a YouTube video she uploaded on Nov. 27, two days after her termination.
Ramos, of Fairburn, Ga., worked as a "customer advocate," which involved calling people who fall behind on credit card payments and either encouraging them to pay or modifying their accounts. But not all customers qualify for modification programs that will help them, and Ramos grew tired of saying no after six months on the job.
"So I stopped denying people," said Ramos. "I helped people get on programs that they didn't necessarily qualify for but who definitely needed the help." Read more.
“Obama Has Kept the Machine Set on Kill”–Journalist and Activist Allan Nairn Reviews Obama’s First Year in Office
In an extended interview, award-winning journalist and activist Allan Nairn looks back over the Obama administration’s foreign policy and national security decisions over the last twelve months. “I think Obama should be remembered as a great man because of the blow he struck against white racism,” Nairn says. “But once he became president...Obama became a murderer and a terrorist, because the US has a machine that spans the globe, that has the capacity to kill, and Obama has kept it set on kill. He could have flipped the switch and turned it off…but he chose not to do so.” He continues, “In fact, as far as one can tell, Obama seems to have killed more civilians during his first year than Bush did in his first year, and maybe even than Bush killed in his final year.” [includes rush transcript]
Sheldon H. Laskin wrote this interesting historical note.
I just finished reading a history of Ellis Island. I learned about a period in the island's history that I had been vaguely aware of, but I never knew the details.
Beginning prior to WWII and continuing into the Cold War, Ellis Island was used to detain (pending deportation) "enemy alien" German, Italian and Japanese non-naturalized residents of the US and (later) immigrants from Eastern Europe who were suspected of left-wing beliefs.
In many cases, the individuals had lived peacefully in the US for years; in some cases they were married to American citizens. J. Edgar Hoover compiled lists of enemy aliens before the war began and indeed, individuals were detained and brought to Ellis Island before hostitilities had even begun. Although the aliens could challenge their deportations, the evidence against them was secret and the courts in most cases basically rubber stamped the Executive's decisions. In some cases, believe it or not, people were seized in Latin America and brought to Ellis Island to be detained (sound familiar?). Perhaps most amazingly (as WWII was in fact a declared war), a number of the war detainees were still in detention as late as 1948. Whether or not the person was deported or allowed back into the country depended largely on the whims of the Executive and, in some cases, whether the individual had political connections.
In Afghanistan, hundreds have taken to the streets of Kabul and elsewhere to protest the US killing of civilians. The incident that has sparked the most outrage took place in eastern Kunar on December 27th, when ten Afghans, eight of them schoolchildren, were killed. According to the Times of London, US-led troops dragged innocent children from their beds and shot them during a nighttime raid. Afghan government investigators said the eight students were aged from eleven to seventeen, all but one of them from the same family. [includes rush transcript]
More than 100 union members, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and UNITEHERE! President John Wilhelm were arrested at a sit-in demanding justice and a fair contract for San Francisco hotel workers last night. The workers have been without a contract since August.
The sit-in in front of the Hilton San Francisco followed a march by nearly 1,000 members of UNITEHERE! Local 2, other union members and community and political supporters. Says Ingrid Carp, a cook for 29 years at the Hilton:
“We’re determined as ever to win a good contract. It’s wrong for corporations to position themselves to make billions with the coming economic recovery, and expect us to go backward.”
The action is part of a campaign to win fair contracts at several national hotel chains, including Hilton, Hyatt and Starwood. The profitable chains are using the recession as an excuse to demand health care benefit cuts in contract talks with more than 16,000 workers at dozens of hotels in San Francisco, Chicago and other cities. Read more.
Following the extensive Israeli attacks across Gaza Strip, Israeli air force launched a number of air raids against the food tunnels with Egypt. Medical sources reported that 4 civilians killed and a number injured in the heavy bombardment. Israeli F16 were used in the attack and easily heard directly within the targeted the area. Due to the raids number of 10 Palestinian civilians is missing at the moment, while 4 have been confirmed as dead.
There are more than 1500 tunnels between Gaza and Egypt that are mainly used for smuggling food as Israelis impose a harsh siege. The tunnels considered to be the key lifeline as the main crossings blocked via Israeli occupation.
Less than 2 hours ago a massive explosion took place few moments ago western Gaza City, in Tal Al Hawa neighborhood. Eyewitness reported that Israeli F16s launched an Arial attack midnight. The attack was followed by a series of air raids. Read more.
White House visitor logs dumped late in the week between Christmas and New Year's Eve show that Billy Tauzin, the top lobbyist for the prescription drug industry and once a favorite target of Barack Obama, visited the White House at least 11 times in Obama's first six months in office.
The White House's open door for Tauzin, whom candidate Obama attacked as the embodiment of the revolving door and the corrupt collusion between politicians and industry, further dismantles the myth of Obama as the scourge of special interests. It also bolsters the conclusion that health care "reform" has become a boondoggle for the health industry, especially pharmaceutical companies.
White House visitor logs dumped late in the week between Christmas and New Year's Eve show that Billy Tauzin, the top lobbyist for the prescription drug industry and once a favorite target of Barack Obama, visited the White House at least 11 times in Obama's first six months in office.
The White House's open door for Tauzin, whom candidate Obama attacked as the embodiment of the revolving door and the corrupt collusion between politicians and industry, further dismantles the myth of Obama as the scourge of special interests. It also bolsters the conclusion that health care "reform" has become a boondoggle for the health industry, especially pharmaceutical companies. Read more.
Blackwater and the Khost Bombing: Is the CIA Deceiving Congress?
By Jeremy Scahill | The Nation
"It's just astonishing that given the track record of Blackwater, which is a repeat offender endangering our mission repeatedly, endangering the lives of our military and costing the lives of innocent civilians, that there would be any relationship," Schakowsky said. "That we would continue to contract with them or any of Blackwater's subsidiaries is completely unacceptable."
A leading member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has told The Nation that she will launch an investigation into why two Blackwater contractors were among the dead in the December 30 suicide bombing at the CIA station at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan. "The Intelligence Committees and the public were led to believe that the CIA was phasing out its contracts with Blackwater and now we find out that there is this ongoing presence," said Illinois Democrat Jan Schakowsky, chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, in an interview. "Is the CIA once again deceiving us about the relationship with Blackwater?"
In December, the CIA announced that the agency had canceled its contract with Blackwater to work on the agency's drone bombing campaign in Afghanistan and Pakistan and said Director Leon Panetta ordered a review of all existing CIA contracts with Blackwater. "At this time, Blackwater is not involved in any CIA operations other than in a security or support role," CIA spokesman George Little said December 11.
But Schakowsky said the fact that two Blackwater personnel were in such close proximity to the December 30 suicide bomber--an alleged double agent, who was reportedly meeting with CIA agents including the agency's second-ranking officer in Afghanistan when he blew himself up--shows how "deeply enmeshed" Blackwater remains in sensitive CIA operations, including those CIA officials claim it no longer participates in, such as intelligence gathering and briefings with valuable agency assets. The two Blackwater men were reportedly in the room for the expected briefing by the double agent, Humam Khalil Muhammed Abu Mulal al-Balawi, who claimed to have recently met with Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri. Read more.
Lincoln Gordon died a few weeks ago at the age of 96. He had graduated summa cum laude from Harvard at the age of 19, received a doctorate from Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, published his first book at 22, with dozens more to follow on government, economics, and foreign policy in Europe and Latin America. He joined the Harvard faculty at 23. Dr. Gordon was an executive on the War Production Board during World War II, a top administrator of Marshall Plan programs in postwar Europe, ambassador to Brazil, held other high positions at the State Department and the White House, a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, economist at the Brookings Institution, president of Johns Hopkins University. President Lyndon B. Johnson praised Gordon's diplomatic service as "a rare combination of experience, idealism and practical judgment".
You get the picture? Boy wonder, intellectual shining light, distinguished leader of men, outstanding American patriot.
Abraham Lincoln Gordon was also Washington's on-site, and very active, director in Brazil of the military coup in 1964 which overthrew the moderately leftist government of João Goulart and condemned the people of Brazil to more than 20 years of an unspeakably brutal dictatorship. Human-rights campaigners have long maintained that Brazil's military regime originated the idea of the desaparecidos, "the disappeared", and exported torture methods across Latin America. In 2007, the Brazilian government published a 500-page book, "The Right to Memory and the Truth", which outlines the systematic torture, rape and disappearance of nearly 500 left-wing activists, and includes photos of corpses and torture victims. Currently, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is proposing a commission to investigate allegations of torture by the military during the 1964-1985 dictatorship. (When will the United States create a commission to investigate its own torture?) Read more.
The excellent Palestinian analyst Nadia Hijab recently published a thought-provoking column in which she explored the question of whether the Israelis’ treatment of the 1.5 million Palestinians constitutes genocide, as defined under international law.
Her conclusion in this thoughtfully argued piece is that it does. She notes that the international Genocide Convention, signed by most of the world’s governments in 1948, defines genocide as any of a list of five kinds of acts, “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such.”
The list of qualifying acts includes these three,
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part...
Hijab argues that in Gaza Israel commits all three of these kinds of act, with the required, added genocidal intention, as defined above.
She also quotes a very revealing passage from the Polish-American legal scholar Raphael Lemkin, who in the 1940s was the first to coin the word ‘genocide’ and to define it. It was largely through Lemkin’s tireless organizing efforts that the Genocide Convention was convened and that it adopted its historic treaty, which lays on all parties to the convention– including the United States– a positive and universal duty to “prevent, suppress, and punish” any acts of genocide. Read more.
Arianna Huffington just posted an article on the Huffington Post that has sparked a remarkable wave of interest, evoking nearly 5,000 comments in less than a week. Called “Move Your Money,” the article maintains that we can get credit flowing again on Main Street by moving our money out of the Wall Street behemoths and into our local community banks. This solution has been suggested before, but Arianna added the very appealing draw of a video clip featuring Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life. In the holiday season, we are all hungry for a glimpse of that wonderful movie that used to be a mainstay of Christmas, showing daily throughout the holidays. The copyright holders have suddenly gotten very Scrooge-like and are allowing it to be shown only once a year on NBC. Whatever their motives, Wall Street no doubt approves of this restriction, since the movie continually reminded viewers of the potentially villainous nature of Big Banking.
Pulling our money out of Wall Street and putting it into our local community banks is an idea with definite popular appeal. Unfortunately, however, this move alone won't be sufficient to strengthen the small banks. Community banks lack capital – money that belongs to the bank -- and the deposits of customers don’t count as capital. Rather, they represent liabilities of the bank, since the money has to be available for the depositors on demand. Bank “capital” is the money paid in by investors plus accumulated retained earnings. It is the net worth of the bank, or assets minus liabilities. Lending ability is limited by a bank’s assets, not its deposits; and today, investors willing to build up the asset base of small community banks are scarce, due to the banks’ increasing propensity to go bankrupt.
It’s a Wonderful Life actually illustrated the weakness of local community banking without major capital backup. George Bailey’s bank was a savings and loan, which lent out the deposits of its customers. It “borrowed short and lent long,” meaning it took in short-term deposits and made long-term mortgage loans with them. When the customers panicked and all came for their deposits at once, the money was not to be had. George’s neighbors and family saved the day by raiding their cookie jars, but that miracle cannot be counted on outside Hollywood.
The savings and loan model collapsed completely in the 1980s. Since then, all banks have been allowed to create credit as needed just by writing it as loans on their books, a system called “fractional reserve” lending. Banks can do this up to a certain limit, which used to be capped by a “reserve requirement” of 10%. That meant the bank had to have on hand a sum equal to 10% of its deposits, either in its vault as cash or in the bank’s reserve account at its local Federal Reserve bank. But many exceptions were carved out of the rule, and the banks devised ways to get around it. Read more.
The presence of the salesman in the operating room was brought sharply into focus in 2003, when Endovascular Technologies pleaded guilty to federal charges that it covered up malfunctions of a device to treat aortic aneurysms. The government alleged sales reps were part of the coverup.
When the device became stuck in patients' bodies during surgery, sales representatives coached doctors in an unapproved technique to remove the device by breaking it, the government alleged. Use of that approach, which a sales representative helped develop, kept malfunctions below the radar of the Food and Drug Administration, the government said. A dozen patients died from malfunctions, the government said.
In a Florida operating room, a senior citizen with a collapsed vertebra lies face down and unconscious on the operating table, surrounded by members of a medical team.
If all goes well, they'll insert a tiny inflatable balloon into the brittle bone and then stabilize it by injecting cement. It's a delicate procedure that deploys needles close to the spinal cord, and it takes a coordinated effort.
There's an anesthesiologist alternating with a nurse anesthetist, an X-ray technician and a circulating nurse; there's a pair of scrub techs to handle surgical instruments; there's the surgeon, a middle-aged orthopedist who has never performed this type of operation before.
And, at the foot of the operating table, there's Chuck Bates, a guy who studied biology in college and always wanted to go to medical school but never did. Read more.
Health insurers want you to keep smoking, Harvard doctors say
By Brendan Borrell | Scientific American
Health and life insurance companies in the U.S. and abroad have nearly $4.5 billion invested in tobacco stocks, according to Harvard doctors.
“It’s the combined taxidermist and veterinarian approach: either way you get your dog back,” says David Himmelstein, an internist at the Harvard Medical School and co-author of a letter published in this week’s issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
The largest tobacco investor on the list, the 160-year old Prudential company with branches in the U.S. and the U.K., has more than $1.5 billion invested in tobacco stocks. The runner-up was Toronto-based Sun Life Financial, which apparently holds over $1 billion in Philip Morris (Altria) and other tobacco stocks. In total, seven companies that sell life, health, disability, or long-term care insurance, have major holdings in tobacco stock.
Why is it a big deal? “If you own a billion dollars [of tobacco stock], then you don’t want to see it go down,” says Himmelstein, “You are less likely to join anti-tobacco coalitions, endorse anti-tobacco legislation, basically, anything most health companies would want to participate in.” Read more.
In a recent unanimous decision, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned federal bribery charges against prominent Mississippi trial attorney Paul Minor, offering a ray of hope that Minor will soon be a free man.
Minor has spent the past three years a political prisoner, left to rot in jail after partisan operatives in the Bush administration targeted him for being the top funder of Democratic candidates in Mississippi...
Over the past three years that Minor spent in prison, he endured the loss of his wife Sylvia to brain cancer, a painful ordeal in which he was repeatedly denied release to be by his wife's side by the Bureau of Prisons, a subordinate arm of the DOJ. Paul's right to comfort Sylvia, to say goodbye in her final hours, and even to attend her funeral to deliver the eulogy he wrote about their 40-year marriage together, was stripped by the DOJ. Minor also remained behind bars when his son Paul Jr. was married in October, yet another important family moment this proud father will never get back.
Why was Paul Minor left rotting in jail while Sylvia passed away and Paul Jr. married? And now, with the federal bribery charges tossed out, why is he still behind bars today?
Attorney General Eric Holder had barely gotten his office set up when he ordered the Justice Department to drop charges against former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens based on prosecutorial misconduct, vowing to send a message that misconduct would not be tolerated in President Obama's DOJ.
Yet the American justice system's abhorrent treatment of Paul Minor has often been far more absurd, consistently unjust and shockingly inhumane. So why is Paul Minor continually left to rot in Pensacola federal prison camp? Read more.
CCR Denounces Blanket Decision Not to Release Guantánamo Detainees to Yemen | Press Release
Dozens of Yemenis Cleared for Release By Review Task Force in Limbo
January 5, 2010, New York – In response to news that President Obama has decided to suspend all transfers of detainees from Guantánamo to Yemen, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) issued the following statement:
Dozens of men from Yemen who have been cleared for release after extensive scrutiny by the government’s Guantànamo Review Task Force are about to be left in limbo once more due to politics, not facts. Many are about to begin their ninth year in indefinite detention.
Halting the repatriation of Yemeni men cleared by the Task Force after months of careful review is unconscionable. It will also effectively prevent any meaningful progress towards closing Guantánamo, which President Obama has repeatedly argued will make our nation safer.
As we approach the eighth anniversary of Guantánamo and the president’s failed deadline for its closure, it is important to remember that the vast majority of the men at Guantánamo should never have been detained in the first place, and that over 550 have been released and are peacefully rebuilding their lives. Most of the nearly 800 men who were brought to Guantánamo were not captured by the American military on any battlefield, but seized in broad sweeps during the chaos of the Afghan war or in other locations around the world and sold to the U.S. in exchange for substantial bounties. We know from the military’s own records that most of the detainees at Guantánamo have no link to terrorism.
When he accepted his Nobel Peace Prize, President Obama said, ‘We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend. And we honor those ideals by upholding them not when it's easy, but when it is hard.’ What he said in December should be just a true a month later.
CCR has led the legal battle over Guantanamo for the last seven years – sending the first ever habeas attorney to the base and sending the first attorney to meet with a former CIA “ghost detainee” there. CCR has been responsible for organizing and coordinating more than 500 pro bono lawyers across the country in order to represent the men at Guantanamo, ensuring that nearly all have the option of legal representation. In addition, CCR has been working to resettle the approximately 60 men who remain at Guantánamo because they cannot return to their country of origin for fear of persecution and torture.
Thousands of poor farmers in India have committed suicide over the past decade as changes in India's agricultural policy set off a widening spiral of debt and despair, one environmental activist said Tuesday.
"The farmer suicides started in 1997. That's when the corporate seed control started," Vandana Shiva told CNN's Christiane Amanpour. "And it's directly related to indebtedness, and indebtedness created by two factors linked to globalization."
For Shiva, who works with farming communities across India, those two factors were the ceding of control of the seed supply to the corporate chemical industry -- leading to increased production costs for already-struggling farmers -- as well as falling food prices in a global agricultural economy.
An estimated 200,000 farmers have taken their own lives in India over the past 13 years, according to Indian government statistics.
"The combination is unpayable debt, and it's the day the farmer is going to lose his land for chemicals and seeds, that is the day the farmer drinks pesticide," Shiva said. "And it's totally related to a negative economy, of an agriculture that costs more in production than the farmer can ever earn." Read more.
Counterterrorism In Shambles; Why?
By Ray McGovern and Coleen Rowley
Yesterday, a blogger with the PBS’ NewsHour asked former CIA analyst Ray McGovern to respond to three questions regarding recent events involving the CIA, FBI, and the intelligence community in general.
Two other old intelligence hands were asked the identical questions, queries that are typical of what radio/TV and blogger interviewers usually think to be the right ones. So there is merit in trying to answer them directly, such as they are, and then broadening the response to address some of the core problems confronting U.S. counter-terror strategies.
After drafting his answers, McGovern asked former FBI attorney/special agent Coleen Rowley, a colleague in Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) to review his responses and add her own comments at the end. The Q & A is below:
Question #1 – What lapses in the American counter terrorism apparatus made the Christmas Day bombing plot possible? Is it inevitable that certain plots will succeed?
The short answer to the second sentence is: Yes, it is inevitable that “certain plots will succeed.” A more helpful answer would address the question as to how we might best minimize their prospects for success. And to do this, sorry to say, there is no getting around the necessity to address the root causes of terrorism or, in the vernacular, “why they hate us.”
If we don’t go beyond self-exculpatory sloganeering in attempting to answer that key question, any “counter terrorism apparatus” is doomed to failure. Honest appraisals can tread on delicate territory, but any intelligence agency worth its salt must be willing/able to address it.
Delicate? Take, for example, what Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the “mastermind” of 9/11, said was his main motive. Here’s what the 9/11 Commission Report wrote on page 147. You will not find it reported in the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM):
HR 676 music.
the highest percentage of Democrats to date (45%) indicated this week that they are either unlikely to vote, or certain not to vote.
Once more, doing things badly (health care “reform”, an inadequate stimulus, refusing to properly take on the banks) or doing things the base opposed (escalating in Afghanistan) has a price.
In 1994 Clinton lost Congress. He lost it in large part because of NAFTA, failing at health care reform and the the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell fiasco. Democratic base voters stayed home and Republicans were motivated. Doing “moderate” things didn’t make Republicans not vote against Democrats, but it did make Democrats not vote Democrats.
Clinton may have gone on to win re-election in 1996, but after losing Congress, he did very few truly progressive things and did or signed off on many non-progressive things, like Welfare “reform” and gutting Glass-Steagall (a major reason for the financial crisis.)
Obama stands to repeat. Read more.
Bush administration officials came up with all kinds of ridiculously offensive rationalizations for torturing prisoners. It’s not torture if you don’t mean it to be. It’s not torture if you don’t nearly kill the victim. It’s not torture if the president says it’s not torture.
It was deeply distressing to watch the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit sink to that standard in April when it dismissed a civil case brought by four former Guantánamo detainees never charged with any offense. The court said former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the senior military officers charged in the complaint could not be held responsible for violating the plaintiffs’ rights because at the time of their detention, between 2002 and 2004, it was not “clearly established” that torture was illegal.
The Supreme Court could have corrected that outlandish reading of the Constitution, legal precedent, and domestic and international statutes and treaties. Instead, last month, the justices abdicated their legal and moral duty and declined to review the case.
A denial of certiorari is not a ruling on the merits. But the justices surely understood that their failure to accept the case would further undermine the rule of law.
In effect, the Supreme Court has granted the government immunity for subjecting people in its custody to terrible mistreatment. It has deprived victims of a remedy and Americans of government accountability, while further damaging the country’s standing in the world. Read more.
Are you implicitly comparing the Civil War with the war in Iraq, in order to justify President Bush’s expansion of executive power?
The idea is that the president’s power grows and changes based on circumstances, and that’s what the framers of the Constitution wanted. They wanted it to exist so the president could react to crises immediately.
Do you regret writing the so-called torture memos, which claimed that President Bush was legally entitled to ignore laws prohibiting torture?
No, I had to write them. It was my job. As a lawyer, I had a client. The client needed a legal question answered.
When you say you had “a client,” do you mean President Bush?
Yes, I mean the president, but also the U.S. government as a whole.
But isn’t a lawyer in the Department of Justice there to serve the people of this country?
Yes, I think you are quite right, when the government is executing the laws, but if there’s a conflict between the president and the Congress, then you have to pick one or the other. Read more.
According to the Chinese calendar, 2010 is the Year of the Tiger. We don’t name our years, but if we did, this one might prospectively be called the Year of the Assassin.
We, of course, think of ourselves as something like the peaceable kingdom. After all, the shock of September 11, 2001 was that “war” came to “the homeland,” a mighty blow delivered against the very symbols of our economic, military, and -- had Flight 93 not gone down in a field in Pennsylvania -- political power.
Since that day, however, war has been a stranger in our land. With the rarest of exceptions, like Army psychiatrist Major Nidal Hasan’s massacre at Fort Hood, Texas, this country has remained a world without war or any kind of mobilization for war. No other major terrorist attacks, not even victory gardens, scrap-metal collecting, or rationing. And certainly no war tax to pay for our post-9/11 trillion-dollar “expeditionary forces” sent into battle abroad. Had we the foresight to name them, the last few years domestically might have reflected a different kind of carnage -- 2006, the Year of the Subprime Mortgage; 2007, the Year of the Bonus; 2008, the Year of the Meltdown; 2009, the Year of the Bailout. And perhaps some would want to label 2010, prematurely or not, the Year of Recovery.
Although our country delivers war regularly to distant lands in the name of our “safety,” we don’t really consider ourselves at war (despite the endless talk of “supporting our troops”), and the money that has simply poured into Pentagon coffers, and then into weaponry and conflicts is, with rare exceptions, never linked to economic distress in this country. And yet, if we are no nation of warriors, from the point of view of the rest of the world we are certainly the planet’s foremost war-makers. If money talks, then war may be what we care most about as a society and fund above all else, with the least possible discussion or debate.
In fact, according to military expert William Hartung, the Pentagon budget has risen in every year of the new century, an unprecedented run in our history. We dominate the global arms trade, monopolizing almost 70% of the arms business in 2008, with Italy coming in a vanishingly distant second. We put more money into the funding of war, our armed forces, and the weaponry of war than the next 25 countries combined (and that’s without even including Iraq and Afghan war costs). We garrison the planet in a way no empire or nation in history has ever done. And we plan for the future, for “the next war” -- on the ground, on the seas, and in space -- in a way that is surely unique. If our two major wars of the twenty-first century in Iraq and Afghanistan are any measure, we also get less bang for our buck than any nation in recent history. Read more.
Iraqi prisoners ‘were sexually humiliated by female British soldier’
Fourteen new cases of sexual abuse have been made against a secretive British Army interrogation unit
Tom Coghlan and Alice Fordham in Baghdad | Times Online
A female British soldier is accused of sexually humiliating and abusing prisoners in Iraq in a series of claims about British troops in Basra, The Times has learnt.
Five former detainees have made specific allegations against a female interrogator they knew as “Katy”.
The claims are among 14 new cases brought against a secretive British Army interrogation unit. These bring to 40 the total of pending British court cases by former Iraqi detainees.
Sexual abuse was routinely practised by the Joint Forward Intelligence Team (JFIT) between 2003 and 2007, it is claimed, when the unit ran the Divisional Temporary Detention Facility based at the Shaibah Logistics Base near Basra. Among the allegations is at least one case of male rape.
Interrogators are also accused of coercive practices outlawed in Britain, including threats and actual violence, the use of stress positions, sleep deprivation, exposure to heat and cold, hooding and threats to rape and murder detainees’ families. Read more.