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Corporatism and Fascism
Corporatism and Fascism
By Dave Lindorff
I once wrote an article about former President George W. Bush saying that he was a perfect Manchurian candidate. That is, if his missing year when he was supposed to have been flying fighter jets with the Texas Air National Guard was actually spent in the former Soviet Union being reprogrammed as a covert KGB agent whose job it was to go back to America, win election to the White House, and proceed to destroy the US, he couldn’t have done a better job than he actually did.
Now I wonder whether President Obama might not be a perfect Manchurian Candidate of the Republican Party, or perhaps of some nefarious foreign entity—perhaps the China or the always-enigmatic Al Qaeda. How else to explain policies that have wreaked such destruction on the Democratic Party in Washington and on the nation at large.
But having decided on war using WMD as the justification, both the US and Great Britain began the process of fabricating a case after the fact. Lacking new intelligence data on Iraqi WMD, both nations resorted to either recycling old charges that had been disproved by UN inspectors in the past, or fabricating new charges that would not withstand even the most cursory of investigations.
With its troops no longer engaged in military operations inside Iraq, Great Britain has been liberated politically to conduct a postmortem of that conflict, including the sensitive issue of the primary justification used by then Prime Minister Tony Blair for going to war, namely Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, or WMD.
The failure to find any WMD in Iraq following the March 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation of that country by US and British troops continues to haunt those who were involved in making the decision for war. The issue of Iraqi WMD, and the role it played in influencing the decision for war, is at the centre of the ongoing Iraq war inquiry being conducted by Sir John Chilcot.
Among the more compelling testimonies provided to date has been that of Sir Christopher Meyer, the former British ambassador to the US, who served in that capacity during the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. Meyer convincingly portrayed an environment where the decision by the US to invade Iraq, backed by Blair, precluded any process (such as viable UN weapons inspections) that sought to compel Iraq to prove it had no WMD. Rather, Great Britain and the US were left "scrambling" to find evidence of a "smoking gun" to prove Iraq indeed possessed the WMD it was accused of having.
In short, Saddam had been found guilty of possessing WMD, and his sentence had been passed down by Washington and London void of any hard evidence that such weapons, or even related programmes, even existed. The sentence meted out – regime termination – mandated such a massive deployment of troops and material that all but the wilfully blind or intentionally ignorant had to know by the early autumn of 2002 that war with Iraq was inevitable. One simply does not initiate the movement of hundreds of thousands of troops, thousands of armoured vehicles and aircraft, and dozens of ships on a whim or to reinforce an idle threat. Read more.
Osama bin Laden was unquestionably within reach of U.S. troops in the mountains of Tora Bora when American military leaders made the crucial and costly decision not to pursue the terrorist leader with massive force, a Senate report says.
The report asserts that the failure to kill or capture bin Laden at his most vulnerable in December 2001 has had lasting consequences beyond the fate of one man. Bin Laden's escape laid the foundation for today's reinvigorated Afghan insurgency and inflamed the internal strife now endangering Pakistan, it says.
Staff members for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Democratic majority prepared the report at the request of the chairman, Sen. John Kerry, as President Barack Obama prepares to boost U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
The Massachusetts senator and 2004 Democratic presidential candidate has long argued the Bush administration missed a chance to get the al-Qaida leader and top deputies when they were holed up in the forbidding mountainous area of eastern Afghanistan only three months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Although limited to a review of military operations eight years old, the report could also be read as a cautionary note for those resisting an increased troop presence there now.
More pointedly, it seeks to affix a measure of blame for the state of the war today on military leaders under former president George W. Bush, specifically Donald H. Rumsfeld as defense secretary and his top military commander, Tommy Franks. Read more.
Two Afghan teenagers held in U.S. detention north of Kabul this year said they were beaten by American guards, photographed naked, deprived of sleep and held in solitary confinement in concrete cells for at least two weeks while undergoing daily interrogation about their alleged links to the Taliban.
The accounts could not be independently substantiated. But in successive, on-the-record interviews, the teenagers presented a detailed, consistent portrait suggesting that the abusive treatment of suspected insurgents has in some cases continued under the Obama administration, despite steps that President Obama has said would put an end to the harsh interrogation practices authorized by the Bush administration after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The two teenagers -- Issa Mohammad, 17, and Abdul Rashid, who said he is younger than 16 -- said in interviews this week that they were punched and slapped in the face by their captors during their time at Bagram air base, where they were held in individual cells. Rashid said his interrogator forced him to look at pornography alongside a photograph of his mother. Read more.
Wading through the endless debate over health care has exhausted the patience of most Americans — the zigzags, obscure language, and long-winded discussion is inherently repulsive.
But now the dust is starting to settle, and the Congressional vision for health care in the U.S. is emerging. Instead of being “progressive,” it will amount to a massive, corporate-inspired attack on American workers, the elderly, and the poor.
After months of confusion and delay, Congress has shipwrecked the popular energy over health care onto the jagged rock of corporate interests. More spectacularly, health care “reform” is being used as an opportunity to greatly advance corporate influence over social spheres long-dedicated to the working-class — seemingly harmless provisions carry with them enormous implications.
These devils hide in the details of the competing health care bills in Congress; both contain debilitating right-wing policies hidden within a progressive shell. Obama is indeed acting as the agent of change, to the great benefit of the U.S. corporate elite.
And although the final bill has yet to be crafted, there exists general agreements as to what the end version will look like. Americans will be forced to buy shoddy corporate insurance with no limit to the cost, no guarantee of quality, with large premiums and other tricks to further gouge consumers. If a public option emerges in the final bill — by no means a guarantee — it will be shrunken enough to insure very few people (2 percent of the U.S. population).
But it gets worse. How this health care “reform” will be paid for has implications that dwarf the above atrocities. Read more.
Afghans Detail a Secret Prison Still Operating on a U.S. Base
By Alissa J. Rubin | NY Times
An American military detention camp in Afghanistan is still holding inmates for sometimes weeks at a time and without access to the International Committee of the Red Cross, according to human rights researchers and former detainees held at the site on the Bagram Air Base.
The site consists of individual windowless concrete cells, each lighted by a single light bulb glowing 24 hours a day, where detainees said that their only contact with another human being was at twice-daily interrogation sessions.
The jail’s operation highlights a tension between President Obama’s goal to improve detention conditions that had drawn condemnation under the Bush administration and his desire to give military commanders leeway to operate. In this case, that means isolating certain prisoners for a period of time so interrogators can extract information or flush out confederates.
While Mr. Obama signed an order to eliminate so-called black sites run by the Central Intelligence Agency in January, that order did not apply to this jail, which is run by military Special Operations forces. Read more.
Lobbyists Furiously Lobby White House to Preserve Lobbyist Power By Jake Tapper | ABC News
~Chip's Note: Norm Eisen is special counsel to the president for ethics and government reform. He's taking some bold steps to measure up to his title. Sample Jake Tapper's report below. Well worth a click to ABC for a thorough read - and a click to let his boss at the White House know that you support Norm Eisen's efforts.
The Washington Post says the system of these [ITAC - Industry Trade Advisor] committees is "so vast that federal officials don't have exact numbers for its size; the most recent estimates tally nearly 1,000 panels with total membership exceeding 60,000 people."
Norm Eisen wrote that "the White House has informed executive agencies and departments that it is our aspiration that federally-registered lobbyists not be appointed to agency advisory boards and commissions.""...It's the system as a whole that concerns us. It's an indisputable fact that in recent years, lobbyists for major special interests have wielded extraordinary power in this town. The result has been a national agenda too often skewed in favor of the interests that can afford their services."
Eisen suggested that powerful industries are well represented in Washington, DC -- with banking lobbyists paid to "gut meaningful financial reforms," an "army" of health insurance industry lobbyists unleashed to "frustrate" health care reform efforts, oil and gas company lobbyists sent to undermine energy reform all present and accounted for. "But industry representatives shouldn't be given government positions from which to make their case," he wrote. Read more.
Jeremy Scahill Reveals Private Military Firm Operating in Pakistan Under Covert Assassination & Kidnapping Program
In an explosive new article in The Nation magazine, investigative journalist and Democracy Now! correspondent Jeremy Scahill reveals the private military firm Blackwater is part of a covert program in Pakistan that includes planning the assassination and kidnapping of Taliban and Al-Qaeda suspects. Blackwater is also said to be involved in a previously undisclosed U.S. military drone campaign that has killed scores of people inside Pakistan. The article says the program has become so secretive that top Obama administration and military officials have likely been unaware of its existence. In a Democracy Now! exclusive, Scahill joins us for his first interview since the story broke. Read more.
Q&A on Afghanistan war with U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif.
Written by Kathleen Wells | Philadelphia Tribune
U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-CA, gained international acclaim for being the only member in Congress who courageously and extraordinarily voted against the authorization of the use of force following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Her vote against the resolution expressed her belief that it amounted to giving then-President George W. Bush a blank check to wage war and that the resolution was in contravention to the Constitution. Consistently, Lee has been a vocal critic to the war in Iraq.
Lee recently authored a controversial bill that would prohibit the funding for additional troops to Afghanistan.
Recently, The Philadelphia Tribune spoke with Lee about her bill.
Tribune: What was your motivation for introducing a bill to stop funding for the troops in Afghanistan?
Lee: The public, at least 50 percent of the public, wants us to get out of Afghanistan. I think it’s time we begin to look in a new direction, in terms of our military and foreign policy, as it relates to Afghanistan. I don’t agree that the proposed increase in troop levels will make America any safer, nor will it make the Taliban more pro-American.
I think it’s important to recognize that the British and the Soviets couldn’t win in Afghanistan, militarily. And by increasing the troop levels, at least U.S. forces, you are really hardening the Taliban and creating the opposite effect — creating conditions that are going to be more dangerous and create more violence. I think it’s time to begin to look in a totally new direction.
I wanted to make sure that in Congress, there is a debate right now. And I’m very pleased that the president is taking his time, being deliberative, talking to people and he asks the question, “Are we pursuing the right strategy in Afghanistan?” And some of us don’t believe he is, or at least we don’t believe the strategy is right.
Tribune: How should I sum up your motivation? Is it to promote an exit strategy or a new strategy?
Lee: I have also signed onto Congressman [Jim] McGovern’s resolution to develop an exit strategy. That resolution was an amendment that came to the floor [and] got 138 votes. So, I believe both: one, we need an exit strategy to begin to come out [and] two, we don’t need an increase in troop level.
If you believe you need an exit strategy, you shouldn’t bring more troops into Afghanistan. We need to look at a better strategy that involves more focus on Pakistan, more focus on the eradication of the poppy seeds, helping the farmers and looking at alternative agricultural development. A more development strategy [and] a more diplomatic strategy, in the region, I think are very important.
This is the time that the military-first strategy is just not going to work. Read more.
Here we are on the verge of a momentous announcement – President Obama’s unveiling of his "comprehensive plan" for escalating the war in Afghanistan – and where is the so-called antiwar movement? Missing in action, as this news report reveals:
“‘There’s this trust that he’s going to fix it all,’ said Shara Esbenshade, 19, a sophomore at Stanford University and member of Stanford Says No To War. She says there are no antiwar marches on her campus, only vigils, educational events, and occasional protests against Condoleezza Rice, who has returned to Stanford after serving as George W. Bush’s secretary of state. ‘We’d really like to start doing more about Afghanistan,’ she added. ‘But students here rising up? I really don’t see that happening.’"
No need to ask who "he" is: it’s the Dear Leader, of course, the Big O: He Who Can Fix Anything. Well, I’ve got some really, really bad news for you, Shara, honey: he is getting ready to send somewhere between 30,000 and 40,000 more troops to the Afghan front, and not only that, but he’s come up with a brand-new strategy, one that means they’ll be sending a lot more troops that way pretty damned soon.
What it boils down to is this: saying no to war entails saying no to Obama – and I have the distinct feeling that, forced to make a choice between their ostensibly antiwar sentiments and their devotion to the Dear Leader, Shara and her privileged, politically correct friends will reflexively choose the latter. Indeed, they already have, which is why Stanford Says No to War is lazing around, only stirring itself when a Republican rolls into view. But for how much longer can they rank on Condi Rice, who may indeed be a reprehensible warmonger but has, since the end of her tenure at State, been rendered relatively harmless?
Oh, but it’s too easy to go after a clueless 19-year-old: after all, why should it fall on Shara’s fragile shoulders to challenge the dominant political orthodoxy? Why blame her for the unlikelihood of her fellow students "rising up" anytime soon?
Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems Ms. Esbenshade and her confreres are generally on the Left, and what’s left of the Left has a political conflict of interest when it comes to opposing U.S. military intervention overseas, as the above-cited article makes all too sadly clear:
"Mounting economic and academic pressures on today’s youth, intimidation by authorities, online distractions, and conflicted views about the ‘good’ war in Afghanistan, not to mention other causes such as health care and slashed school budgets clawing for attention, have conspired to snuff out antiwar activism on campus, experts and students say. Read more.
Lehman, Bear Officials Made $2.5 Billion, Study Says (Update1)
By By Matt Townsend | Bloomberg
-- Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and Bear Stearns Cos. executives made $2.5 billion from 2000 to 2008, a sign pay policies may have encouraged risk- taking that doomed the companies, a Harvard University study said.
The top five officials at Lehman, which filed for bankruptcy in September 2008, received $1.03 billion in cash bonuses and proceeds from equity sales during the period, according to the report, “The Wages of Failure,” released today by Harvard Law School’s Program on Corporate Governance. Bear Stearns’s top executives made $1.46 billion in the years before JPMorgan Chase & Co. agreed to buy the firm in 2008.
Losses the executives suffered when the firms failed were outweighed by payoffs in the preceding eight years, the study said, concluding that the “standard narrative” that the meltdown of Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns wiped out top executive’s wealth was incorrect and should be viewed skeptically in the debate over pay regulation.
“Excessive incentives to take risks might have been generated by executives’ ability to cash out compensation based on the firms’ short-term results,” said the report, written by Harvard professors Lucian Bebchuk, Alma Cohen and Holger Spamann. “To the extent that executives did cash out large amounts of such compensation, their decisions might have been distorted by an excessive focus on short-term results.”
New Pay Rules Read more.
President Obama says his decision on a new strategy for Afghanistan will "give clarity to the American people about what we're doing, how we're going to succeed, what's the end game... (and) how much this thing is going to cost."
The cost of war in dollars alone requires a choice not only to stop sending troops but also to withdraw all U.S. military forces and invest in civilian-led development of Afghanistan's devastated communities and for jobs and real security here at home
Consider: It costs $1 billion to send 1,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan.
That's $1 million per solder for one year, according to the Pentagon. In total, it is millions more than the entire revenue collected last year by the Afghanistan government -- $890 million.
That $890 million is also the cost of providing health care to 550,000 U.S. children or to the cost to keep 16,000 teachers educating the next generation of Americans.
And that $890 million is dwarfed by the more than $44 billion spent yearly on U.S. war funding.
Given that staggering cost, it's clearly time to reconsider "what we're doing." Investing in support for strong civilian institutions and in humanitarian aid led by civilian aid workers is more likely to create a stable Afghanistan than continued warfare. Spent here at home, it could help lead us out of our jobless economic recovery.
To "succeed" in Afghanistan should be defined as helping Afghans build better lives and peaceful futures for their children and their nation. That's why we support a strategy of diplomacy, the rule of law, accountability and development that meets the U.S.'s moral obligations both to American soldiers and to Afghan citizens.
Specifically, we call for: No more troops to be sent. A timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops and for diplomacy and dialogue with all parties to the conflict - without preconditions. Providing development aid by civilian-led organizations, not the military. And redirecting the more than $44 billion spent on war to human needs in Afghanistan and at home. Read more.
The United States does not control its own destiny. Rather it is controlled by an international financial elite, of which the American branch works out of big New York banks like J.P. Morgan Chase, Wall Street investment firms such as Goldman Sachs, and the Federal Reserve System. They in turn control the White House, Congress, the military, the mass media, the intelligence agencies, both political parties, the universities, etc. No one can rise to the top in any of these institutions without the elite’s stamp of approval.
This elite has been around since the nation began, becoming increasingly dominant as the 19th century progressed. A key date was passage of the National Banking Act of 1863, when the system was put into place whereby federal government debt was used to collateralize bank lending. Since then we’ve paid the freight through our taxes for bank control of the economy. The final nails in the coffin came with the passage of the Federal Reserve Act of 1913.
In 1929 the bankers plunged the nation into the Great Depression by constricting the money supply. With Franklin D. Roosevelt as president, the nation struggled through the decade of the 1930s but did not pull out of the Depression until the industrial explosion during World War II.
After the war came the Golden Age of the U.S. economy, when the working man, protected by strong labor unions, became a true partner in the prosperity of the industrial age. That era lasted a full generation. The bankers were largely spectators as Americans led the world in exports, standard of living, science and space exploration, and every measure of health, longevity, and culture.
Roosevelt had kept the bankers subservient to the interests of the economy at large. The Federal Reserve was part of the New Deal team, and interest rates were held at historic lows despite a large federal deficit. One main impact was the huge increase in home ownership. After World War II, the G.I. Bill allowed home ownership to grow further and millions of veterans to attend college. The influx of educated graduates led to productivity growth and the emergence of new high-tech industries.
But the bankers were laying their plans. In the early 1950s they got the government to agree to allow the Federal Reserve to escape its subservience to the U.S. Treasury Department and set interest rates on its own. Rates rose throughout the 1950s and 1960s. By the time of the interest rate hikes of 1968, the economy was slowing down. Both federal budget and trade deficits were beginning to replace the post-war surpluses. High interest rates were the likely cause.
At a covert forward operating base run by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in the Pakistani port city of Karachi, members of an elite division of Blackwater are at the center of a secret program in which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives, "snatch and grabs" of high-value targets and other sensitive action inside and outside Pakistan, an investigation by The Nation has found. The Blackwater operatives also assist in gathering intelligence and help run a secret US military drone bombing campaign that runs parallel to the well-documented CIA predator strikes, according to a well-placed source within the US military intelligence apparatus.
The source, who has worked on covert US military programs for years, including in Afghanistan and Pakistan, has direct knowledge of Blackwater's involvement. He spoke to The Nation on condition of anonymity because the program is classified. The source said that the program is so "compartmentalized" that senior figures within the Obama administration and the US military chain of command may not be aware of its existence.
The White House did not return calls or email messages seeking comment for this story. Capt. John Kirby, the spokesperson for Adm. Michael Mullen, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told The Nation, "We do not discuss current operations one way or the other, regardless of their nature." A defense official, on background, specifically denied that Blackwater performs work on drone strikes or intelligence for JSOC in Pakistan. "We don't have any contracts to do that work for us. We don't contract that kind of work out, period," the official said. "There has not been, and is not now, contracts between JSOC and that organization for these types of services."
The previously unreported program, the military intelligence source said, is distinct from the CIA assassination program that the agency's director, Leon Panetta, announced he had canceled in June 2009. "This is a parallel operation to the CIA," said the source. "They are two separate beasts." Read more.
In the midst of an economic crisis that’s getting scarier by the day, it’s time to ask whether the nation can really afford some 1,000 military bases overseas. For those unfamiliar with the issue, you read that number correctly. One thousand. One thousand U.S. military bases outside the 50 states and Washington, DC, representing the largest collection of bases in world history.
Officially the Pentagon counts 865 base sites, but this notoriously unreliable number omits all our bases in Iraq (likely over 100) and Afghanistan (80 and counting), among many other well-known and secretive bases. More than half a century after World War II and the Korean War, we still have 268 bases in Germany, 124 in Japan, and 87 in South Korea. Others are scattered around the globe in places like Aruba and Australia, Bulgaria and Bahrain, Colombia and Greece, Djibouti, Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar, Romania, Singapore, and of course, Guantánamo Bay, Cuba — just to name a few. Among the installations considered critical to our national security are a ski center in the Bavarian Alps, resorts in Seoul and Tokyo, and 234 golf courses the Pentagon runs worldwide.
Unlike domestic bases, which set off local alarms when threatened by closure, our collection of overseas bases is particularly galling because almost all our taxpayer money leaves the United States (much goes to enriching private base contractors like corruption-plagued former Halliburton subsidiary KBR). One part of the massive Ramstein airbase near Landstuhl, Germany, has an estimated value of $3.3 billion. Just think how local communities could use that kind of money to make investments in schools, hospitals, jobs, and infrastructure. Read more.
Last April, two Marines at Camp Lejeune predicted to a psychiatrist that some Marine back from war was going to "lose it." Concerned, the psychiatrist asked what that meant. One of the Marines responded, "One of these guys is liable to come back with a loaded weapon and open fire."
They weren't talking about Marines suffering from a tangle of mental and religious angst, like news reports suggest haunted the alleged Fort Hood shooter, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan. The risk they reported at Camp Lejeune was broader and systemic. Upon returning home, troops suffering mental health problems were getting dumped into an overwhelmed healthcare system that responded ineptly to their crises, the men reported, and they also faced harassment from Marine Corps superiors ignorant of the severity of their problems and disdainful of those who sought psychiatric help.
As Dr. Kernan Manion investigated the two Marines' claims about conditions at the North Carolina military base, the largest Marine base on the East Coast, he found they were true. Manion, a psychiatrist hired last January to treat Marines coming home from war with acute mental problems, warned his superiors of looming trouble at Camp Lejeune in a series of increasingly urgent memos.
But instead of being praised for preventing what might have been another Fort Hood massacre, Manion was fired by the contractor that hired him, NiteLines Kuhana LLC. A spokeswoman for the firm says it let Manion go at the Navy's behest. The Navy declined to comment on this story. Read more.
After months of silent, closed door negotiations between the holy trinity (the executive branch, the congress, & the health care industry), we stand on the brink of health insurance reform.
Health insurance reform. Do not confuse this with health care reform as that was never the intent of this legislation. This is not a minor point. Health care reform would have addressed the central problem of our current health care system and confronted the reality that in order to provide universal, affordable health care for all citizens, we would need to stop treating human health as a commodity. It would have taken a moral imperative to place human life over profit. But, right from the very beginning, the central GOAL in creating this legislation was just the opposite, the development of a plan that not only maintained, but expanded the ability of the health care industry (private insurers, big pharm, large hospitals) to profit off human illness.
And, that has what has been created. A bill that enshrines private health care companies as the government mandated model for health care administration. A bill that will provide 70 billion dollars in subsidies to private insurance companies, at the expense of universal, affordable coverage for every American citizen. A bill that negotiated away the government's ability to stop big pharm price gouging, in exchange for a phony bargain where the pharmaceutical companies would cut up to 8 billion dollars in costs over the next ten years while they elevated prices 10 billion this year alone. A bill that does not allow reimportation of drugs from Canada and holds the American people hostage to a mob type system of pay or die. Under this bill, millions will not be able to afford their prescriptions. Millions more will be forced to choose medication, food, or heat. Read more.
Insitu is not a bad company, but it has chosen the wrong fight.
That’s the message brought to Hood River Friday by Bruce Gagnon, in a speech in opposition to the manufacture by Bingen-based Insitu, and other companies, of unmanned drone aircraft.
“Drones are a manifestation of the growing U.S. military culture,” said Gagnon, co-founder and coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space.
Gagnon, 57, spoke to a capacity audience of about 200 people at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. Columbia Peace Fellowship sponsored the talk, held to observe Armistice Day, as Veterans Day was known prior to World War II.
About 60 people attended a potluck at the church just before his talk, and about 40 attended a candlelight vigil, in the drizzle, at Overlook Memorial Park.
“We honor veterans by speaking out for peace,” said Linda Short of CRPF. Read more.
"Who Decides About War?," the National Conference on War Powers, Law, and Democracy, took place October 2-3, 2009 in Washington D.C.. Organized by the Guard Home! campaign, Liberty Tree Foundation, and many partners, and hosted by the National Lawyers Guild at the Georgetown Law School, this conference was the first of its kind in many years, uniting academics with activists, attorneys with veterans, in exploring key reforms necessary to democratizing defense in the United States, and making war less likely.
- Keynote Remarks: Dr. Morton Halperin and Jeremy Scahill
- Panel I - War Powers and the States
- Panel II - War Powers Principles: Constitution, Law, & the People
- Panel III - War Powers in Practice
- Roundtable: Peace Advocacy and Defense Reform Panelists: Phyllis Bennis, Geoff Millard, Elaine Brower, Kevin Zeese, Jeremy Scahill
Panelists: State Rep. Michael Fisher (VT), Sen. Rich Madaleno (MD), Sen. Jamin Raskin (MD)
Panelists: Elaine Brower (moderator), Leah Bolger, Ben Manski, Benson Scotch, David Swanson
Panelists: Jean Athey (moderator), John Bonifaz, Prof. Caleb Rossiter, Prof. Don Wallace
For a full listing of speakers at the conference, click here.
Obama Signs Military Basing Deal with Colombia -- Could Set Stage for Expeditionary Warfare
One of the principal concerns of the pending agreement had been the possibility of the bases’ use for aggression against neighboring countries.
By Moira Birss | AlterNet
After several months of secrecy and controversy, on October 30th the US and Colombia signed an agreement to allow the United States military extensive access to seven Colombian bases, notwithstanding serious concerns about true intentions and eventual consequences of the deal.
Despite pledges by Colombian and U.S. governments about the limitations of the agreement, the text of the deal and U.S. military documents contradict such assurances. One of the principal concerns raised by regional governments after news was leaked of the pending agreement had been the possibility of the bases’ use for aggressions against neighboring countries. In an interview Sunday with the Colombian daily El Tiempo, U.S. Ambassador to Colombia William Brownfield claimed that joint operations aren’t planned outside of Colombia, and that Article IV of the agreement expressly forbids such operations. In fact, a careful review of the text of the agreement, finally made public on November 3, reveals no such prohibition.
Not only that, but similar assurances by Colombian Defense Minister Gabriel Silva that the agreement "has no geopolitical or strategic connotation, other than being more effective in the fight against drug trafficking" are even more hard to believe after reading a recently uncovered Pentagon budget document that expresses clear regional intentions for the Palanquero air base. The document describes the U.S. presence in Palanquero as an “opportunity for conducting full spectrum operations throughout South America,” and confirms the fears of Colombia’s neighbors when it discusses the possibility of using the base to confront the "threat" of what it calls "anti-U.S. governments." The most chilling phrase, however, is the discussion of the potential use of Palanquero to “expand expeditionary warfare capability.” Read more.
Iraq Throws Obama a Curve Ball, Key 2010 Elections in Peril
By Raed Jarrar and Erik Leaver | AlterNet
The idea of running national elections under a similar scenario terrifies the ruling parties, and is why they oppose an open list solution despite the public pressure to change the system to a more transparent and representative one.
The question now for the United States is if this latest roadblock in Iraq will have any impact on withdrawal plans. Currently there are two parallel plans guiding U.S. withdrawal: the bilateral security agreement (aka SOFA), and Obama’s plan for the withdrawal of combat troops.
Under the SOFA, all U.S. troops must leave Iraq before December 31st 2011. , Obama added another commitment in his February 2009 speech at Camp Lejeune, NC. He called for a phased withdrawal, reducing troops from 120,000 to 50,000 between April andAugust2010 before bringing all the troops home by the December 31st 2011 SOFA deadline.
Unlike the Bush administration’s original plans for Iraq, both the bilateral security agreement and Obama’s phased withdrawal plan have set deadlines and are “time-based” plans. But Obama has muddied the waters in his response to the current election crisis. Read more.
McChrystal Testing the Limits
By Ray McGovern
It is not too late for President Barack Obama to follow the example of Harry Truman, who fired Gen. Douglas McArthur in 1951 for insubordination. Then, as now, the stakes were high. Then it was Korea; now it is Afghanistan.
No more slaps on the wrist for Gen. Stanley McChrystal. In my view, Commander-in-Chief Obama should fire him for cause.
In the Truman-McArthur showdown nearly six decades ago, the President and his senior advisers were preparing to engage North Korea and China in peace negotiations, when MacArthur, commander of the U.N. forces in Korea, issued an unauthorized statement containing a veiled threat to expand the war into China.
McArthur had been playing a back-channel game to win the support of like-minded Republican congressmen to widen the war, when Truman faced him down. With the backing of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as the secretaries of state and defense, he rose to the occasion and fired the distinguished “old soldier.”
Today, Gen. McChrystal is conducting a subtler but equally insubordinate campaign for wider war in Afghanistan, with the backing of CENTCOM commander David Petraeus. It is now even clearer in retrospect that the President should not have appointed McChrystal in the first place, given what was already known of his role in covering up the killing of football star Pat Tillman and condoning the torture practices by troops under McChrystal’s earlier command in Iraq.
The economic elite have launched an attack on the U.S. public and society is unraveling at an increased rate.
I: U.S. Societal Breakdown
You may have missed it in the mainstream news media, but statistical societal indicators are reading red across the board. Before exposing the root causes of this breakdown, let’s look at some vital statistics and facts:
* The inequality of wealth in the United States is soaring to an unprecedented level. The US already had the highest inequality of wealth in the industrialized world prior to the financial crisis. Since the crisis, which has hit the middle class and poor much harder than the top one percent, the gap between the top one percent and the remaining 99% of the US population has grown to a record high.
* As the stock market went over the 10,000 mark and just surged to a 13-month high, the three big banks that took taxpayer money and benefit the most from the government bailout have just set a new global economic record by issuing $30 billion in annual bonuses this year, “up 60 percent from last year.” Bloomberg reported: “Goldman Sachs, the most profitable securities firm in Wall Street history, had a record profit in the first nine months of this year and set aside $16.7 billion for compensation expenses.” Goldman Sachs is on pace for the best year in the firm’s history, they are also benefiting by only paying 1% in taxes.
* The profits of the economic elite are “now underwritten by taxpayers with $23.7 trillion worth of national wealth.”
As the looting is occurring at the top, the US middle class is just beginning to collapse.
* Workers between the age of 55 – 60, who have worked for 20 – 29 years, have lost an average of 25 percent off their 401k. During the same time period, the wealth of the 400 richest Americans went up by $30 billion, bringing their total combined wealth to $1.57 trillion.
HELL COMES HOME
By Robert C. Koehler | Tribune Media Services
it certainly reflects the ignorance and arrogance of militarism, which perpetually organizes itself around an “enemy” somewhere out there stalking us. Those trapped in this mindset can imagine security only in relation to their power over this enemy, which leads them, and everyone else, into a vicious spiral of armed preparation, violence and counter-violence. What we fail to notice in our rage and fear is that violence — not the violence we endure but the violence we perpetrate — dehumanizes us. Killing is the ultimate traumatic experience. “In the military, you’re trained to shoot at a target, but sometimes the humanity of that target intrudes, and people come to question what they’ve done,” said Dr. Shira Maguen (putting it, I would say, mildly).
There’s no armor, it turns out, for conscience.
So our men and women are coming home from the killing fields wounded in their heads, used up, greeted only by the military’s own meat grinder of inadequate health care and intolerance for “weakness.”
“Frankly, in my more than 25 years of clinical practice, I’ve never seen such immense emotional suffering and psychological brokenness.” This is what whistleblower psychiatrist Kernan Manion wrote recently to President Obama about his experience counseling Marines at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, as reported by Salon.
In September, Manion, having been told to “cease and desist all further correspondence with the government,” was fired by the Navy for his urgent, outspoken communiqués about the mental-health minefield the military has on its hands.
On Healthcare, Don't Follow the Money
WaPo's new rule of journalism?
The Washington Post's Shailagh Murray (11/17/09) wrote a profile of Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D.-Ark.) as one of the Democratic senators most likely to break with the rest of the party on healthcare reform. The article seemed to invert the advice Deep Throat once gave to the Post's Woodward and Bernstein into a new rule: Don't follow the money.
Headlined "A Centrist in Healthcare Debate, Lincoln Hears It From All Sides," the piece presented Lincoln's stance as something of a puzzle: "Hundreds of thousands of Lincoln's constituents are low-income and lack insurance, the very kind of voters expected to benefit under the Senate bill."
Murray described the senator as facing a dilemma:
The low-profile centrist is being pressed by both sides. Democratic activists are incensed that she has turned against the public option, an idea she once supported. Republicans are casting her cautious approach to the healthcare debate in starkly political terms, saying that she is unwilling to put local interests above those of a president who lost the state by a resounding 20 percentage points.
She even acknowledged the forces lining up against the politician:
In the process, Lincoln has riled liberal groups including MoveOn.org, which is targeting her with radio ads, direct mail and rallies outside two of her Arkansas offices. Perhaps more ominously, MoveOn--working with the liberal group Democracy for America--has amassed $3.5 million in pledges to fund primary challenges against any Democratic senator who sides with Republicans to block an up-or-down vote on a bill with a public option.
That would seem to raise another question: Who's keeping her IN power? The Center for Responsive Politics has some background on that from the second quarter of this year--information the Post apparently doesn't consider important:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has brought in the most from the health sector so far this year at $394,400, followed by Senate Finance Committee member Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), who collected $324,350, and former Republican Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), who brought in $266,100. All three senators are up for re-election in 2010.
EXCLUSIVE: CIA Secret 'Torture' Prison Found at Fancy Horseback Riding Academy
ABC News Finds the Location of a "Black Site" for Alleged Terrorists in Lithuania
By Brian Ross and Matthew Cole | ABC News
The CIA built one of its secret European prisons inside an exclusive riding academy outside Vilnius, Lithuania, a current Lithuanian government official and a former U.S. intelligence official told ABC News this week.
Where affluent Lithuanians once rode show horses and sipped coffee at a café, the CIA installed a concrete structure where it could use harsh tactics to interrogate up to eight suspected al-Qaeda terrorists at a time. A full report on the can be seen on ABC's World News with Charles Gibson tonight.
"The activities in that prison were illegal," said human rights researcher John Sifton. "They included various forms of torture, including sleep deprivation, forced standing, painful stress positions."
Lithuanian officials provided ABC News with the documents of what they called a CIA front company, Elite, LLC, which purchased the property and built the "black site" in 2004. Read more.