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Huge Win For "Restore Justice At Justice" Campaign! Politically Prosecuted Attorney Paul Minor’s Bribery Convictions Overturned
Huge Win For Our Restore Justice At Justice Campaign
Politically Prosecuted Attorney Paul Minor’s Bribery Convictions Overturned
If you have not joined our Restore Justice At Justice Campaign, do so here.
Last spring we launched a campaign to pressure the Department of Justice to clean up all the Bush political prosecutions, starting with former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman and famed trial attorney Paul Minor. In fact, to emphasize the point, our site has photos of Siegelman and Minor flanking that of Attorney General Eric Holder. We placed ads, sent out press releases, posted blog items, sent letters to officials, held a press conference at the National Press Club, and contacted Members of Congress.
In our April 13th letter to Mr. Holder, we stated the following:
“And then there is Paul Minor, an attorney now in federal prison for a “crime” related to the funding of Democratic candidates and causes. Minor’s wife is dying of cancer in a hospital in Baton Rouge. Last month, he was given a three-hour pass to spend a moment with her (under supervision), but she had no chance to talk to him because she had been given her pain medication and lay fast asleep throughout his visit. Why should this man have to spend another hour away from his wife’s bedside, awaiting the decision of a court, when the flagrant partisan intent behind his prosecution should move the DOJ to withdraw charges, just as you did in Sen. Stevens' case? ”
Paul Minor’s wife died, he was not allowed to attend her funeral, and he has suffered grievously due to the unethical conduct of the Justice Department. But now, there is light and hope at the end of his very dark nightmare. Friday, in a unanimous decision, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals completely overturned his three bribery convictions and sent his case back for resentencing.
And guess who was a major force behind the prosecution of Paul Minor and his co-defendant, Judge Diaz? None other than the corrupt U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which spent millions of dollars to defeat Judge Diaz and worked with the White House and Karl Rove to target Paul Minor because he was a trial lawyer who went after corrupt businesses and supported Democratic candidates. And who was Minor’s prosecutor? Dunn Lampton, one of the United States Attorneys under investigation for taking on political prosecutions in exchange for not being fired by the Bush White House. So with this decision, we have a one-two win against the bad guys.
Today we issued a press release calling on Mr. Holder to immediately release Paul Minor pending the final resolution of his case, and to clean up all the remaining political prosecutions. You can help us keep the pressure on with a secure donation.
Thank all of you for being part of this important campaign. And if you have not joined, do so by signing on here. Thousands of others have already let the Department of Justice know that it needs to clean house and clean up past political prosecutions.
Please send this alert to your friends asking them to sign on.
And check out our other campaigns:
Guantanamo Detainee Deaths
By Stephen Lendman | Stephen Lendman Blog
Under the direction of Professor Mark Denbeaux, Seton Hall University School of Law's Center for Policy & Research (CP&R) published 15 "GTMO Reports," including profiles of detainees held, allegations against them, and discrepancies in government accounts explaining reasons for reported deaths.
An earlier report analyzed unclassified government data (obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests) based on evidentiary summaries of 2004 military hearings on whether 517 detainees held at the time were "enemy combatants." Most were non-belligerents. In fact, a shocking 95% were seized randomly by bounty hunters, then sold to US forces for $5,000 per claimed Taliban and $25,000 for supposed Al Qaeda members. At least 20 were children, some as young as 13.
The latest report titled, "Death in Camp Delta," covers three simultaneous detainee deaths on June 9, 2006 in the maximum security Alpha Block. Yassar Talal Al Zahrani, Mani Shaman Turki Al Habardi Al Tabi, and Ali Abdullah Ahmed were found dead shortly after midnight on June 10.
At first, the Pentagon's said they were found hanging in their cells as part of an anti-American "asymmetrical warfare conspiracy" based on medical personnel saying a short written note on each body indicated a coordinated effort to rebel against confinement as martyrs as well as longer confirming statements in their cells. At the same time, the media was shut out and lawyers prevented from visiting clients to minimize the incident and suppress truths.
CP&R's report found "dramatic flaws in the government's investigation (and) raise(s) serious questions about the security of the Camp (and) derelictions of duty by officials of multiple defense and intelligence agencies" who let them die, more likely killed them, then whitewashed the investigation to suppress it.
Why Obama still felt compelled to add 30,000 troops to the 68,000 boots already on the ground, at $1 million per soldier per year, is not much of a mystery. The fear of being branded an appeaser and losing the House of Representatives next year and the White House in 2012 to Republicans is clearly paramount. The president is out on a limb but is staying close to the trunk, which leaves little room for Republican and lukewarm left-wing supporters who would saw it off. He can see these two adversaries pre-empting his own post-imperial agenda with a new slogan -- e.g., Americans come home … time to rebuild America (before China eats our lunch).
U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus is already being auscultated by GOP scouts parsing the potential field. They recall how Gen. Dwight Eisenhower clinched his presidential campaign with "I shall go to Korea" to end an unpopular war. Once in the White House, he gave the U.S. economy a formidable booster shot -- and ordered up the interstate highway system. It became the largest public works project in history and the largest highway system (46,876 miles) in the world.
U.S. President Barack Obama has scaled back the scope of the Afghan war, now about to enter its ninth year, to a limited military objective: deny al-Qaida a safe haven. And since we are now told there are fewer than 100 al-Qaida terrorists in Afghanistan -- the rest are in Pakistan's tribal areas -- a three-way deal between the Karzai government, powerful warlords and Taliban chief Mullah Mohammad Omar would seem to be the better part of valor. After Iraq, we cannot afford another trillion-dollar war.
It took the United States 233 years (1776-2009) to amass a national debt of $1.4 trillion. This is now projected to double in the next 10 years. The national debt ceiling is going up another $2 trillion to $12.3 trillion. The federal budget deficit for 2009 hit a record $1.42 trillion; 2010 is expected to set a new record of $2 trillion. One trillion dollar bills, end to end, would cover the distance between Earth and the sun, or to the moon and back 200 times. Read more.
Like the peaks of the Hindu Kusch dominating much of Afghanistan, the war in that unhappy country increasingly overshadows the political scenery in Germany. Parallels with the situation in the USA are unmistakable.
On December 3rd the Bundestag voted on prolonging the use of German troops in Afghanistan for another year. But before the delegates crowded to the front of the house to put their ballots in the container, they were surprised to hear an unusual statement. It came close to a confession.
For three months one event has repeatedly grabbed the headlines: the bombing on September 4th of two hijacked German fuel trucks in Kunduz, in northern Afghanistan. The air attack, ordered by a German colonel, resulted in the deaths of 142 people, including women, children and many other civilians despite the fact that the trucks, stuck in the mud while crossing a river, were of no immediate danger to German troops. American pilots suggested flying low over them to frighten civilians and the Taliban hijackers away. But no, the colonel insisted on bombs -- and got them. The fuel caused a terrible explosion.
Army spokespersons, including Franz Josef Jung, Minister of Defense, tried to belittle the matter and denied any certainty about even a few civilian casualties. This was a crucial matter; it was the first such case involving German troops in Afghanistan and the worst bloodshed caused by Germans in uniform since World War Two. Read more.
Gates is quoted as saying: “One of the myths in the international community is that the United States likes war,” he said. “And the reality is, other than the first two or three years of World War II, there has never been a popular war in America.”
Mike pointed out that "Of course, Gates was spinning: the world doesn't think the American people like war, but is aware that their government prefers to maintain world hegemony through it."
But the spin machine didn't end there. In a town hall style meeting in Kirkuk, Gates ramped up the spin machine again. Asked "Why is the United States still at war after eight years?" He replied:
“I think it’s a mistake to look at Afghanistan as sort of one eight-year war,” Mr. Gates responded in the same even tone he had used all week. “We had a war in 2001, 2002, which we essentially won. And the Taliban was kicked out of Afghanistan. Al Qaeda was kicked out of Afghanistan, many of them killed. And then things were very quiet in Afghanistan.”
Without blaming President George W. Bush’s administration, which he once served, for sidelining the conflict in favor of Iraq, Mr. Gates said the second war in Afghanistan started in late 2005 and early 2006. “But the United States really has gotten its head into this conflict in Afghanistan, as far as I’m concerned, really only in the last year,” he said.
Late Friday, Mr. Gates returned to Washington after what his staff acknowledged was a very hard week. But it was nothing, they said, compared with the marathon in Afghanistan that lies ahead. Read more.
Two months ago, we launched www.StopTheChamber.com to expose the U.S. Chamber’s deception, astroturfing, lobbying excesses and election manipulation. We called for the firing of Chamber CEO Tom Donohue, criminal and congressional investigations of Donohue and the Chamber, and companies to quit the Chamber in protest of its extremist policies. The Chamber has a budget over $100 million to defeat health care for all, environmental protection, and banking regulation.
We recently increased to $200,000 our reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue for engaging in criminal conduct. Fox News and Rush Limbaugh picked up on that story last week. And, guess what? We have been flooded with hundreds of profanity laced threats of violence! Characteristics of the treats we have received show clear signs of a coordinated attack. See VR co-founder Brad Friedman’s article at The BRAD BLOG about the wave of threats. The Chamber itself has attempted to intimidate us by saying that it is considering legal action against us and peddling defamatory information to the press.
And how did we respond? We filed a formal complaint with the FBI with copies of all the threats and asked that it conduct a swift investigation to hold those responsible accountable. Now, it is crucial that we continue to respond to this attempted intimidation by strengthening our efforts. Will you help us show the 'right' that its thuggish behavior will not be tolerated?
We want to place more ads and send more press releases exposing the corrupt practices of the Chamber and its CEO. In the past month, major companies such as Apple, PG&E, Mohawk Paper and Exelon have quit the Chamber because of their conduct, and even the White House condemned their extremist positions. Please help us with a donation.
Join our campaign by signing on here. Join thousands of others who have let the Chamber and its board members know that its conduct will no longer be tolerated. From the site you can also send a letter to your Congress members asking them to launch an investigation of the Chamber.
Please send this alert to your friends asking them to sign on. We need everyone to speak up in order to stop the Chamber’s pay-to-play lobbying. Let's get the Chamber out of our way as we work to clean up the environment, provide health care for all, and have honest and transparent elections.
Mark Crispin Miller wrote:
Here, for once, is some great news--and a reminder that justice can be done, eventually; although no stroke of justice can make up for this man's horrible ordeal. Just to remind you, Paul Minor was forbidden to spend his wife's last days with her, when she lay dying of brain
cancer in a hospital; and then the DoJ--that is, Obama's DoJ--would not allow him out of prison to attend her funeral.
And for what? Why? As the Fifth Court of Appeals has now made crystal clear, this man did not engage in any bribery. (Note, incidentally, that the decision does not overturn Minor's conviction under the "Honest Services" statute--which SCOTUS will soon nullify, thereby
wiping out the other "crime" for which they locked him up.)
For this good outcome, we need to thank all those who worked so hard to shine a light on this appalling case: Scott Horton at Harper's, Larisa Alexandrovna at Raw Story, and Velvet Revolution. Because of them (and that includes, of course, Brad Friedman), a gross injustice has been righted at long last.
And now we need to focus on those many other cases that Karl Rove engineered for BushCo's sake. We cannot rest until they have him, and all his cohorts, in a federal cell, which will be a punishment long overdue, and, unlike all those others, well-deserved.
Fifth Circuit Overturns Paul Minor Bribery Conviction
By Adam Lynch | Jackson Free Press | December 11, 2009
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has partially overturned the convictions of Mississippi attorney Paul Minor and former judges John Whitfield and Walter "Wes" Teel. A federal jury convicted Minor, Teel and Whitfield in 2007 for federal bribery and honest services fraud, but they appealed, arguing that prosecutors changed jury instructions to muddy the definition of an exchange of services for corruption, among other arguments.
Attorneys representing the three argue that Judge Henry Wingate agreed to loosen the jury instructions so that jurors could decide to convict, even if there was no clear exchange of services, or quid pro quo, between the judges or Minor. All three had successfully fought back allegations of corruption in an earlier trial in which the jury instructions were more clearly defined.
Today the appeals court tossed the federal bribery charges connected to the 2007 trial, leaving intact only the charges of honest services fraud. Read more.
The Washington, D.C.-based United States Chamber of Commerce, which boasts 3 million members and very deep pockets, is commonly referred to as the world's largest business federation. Such a reputation has for years secured the group the distinction as the unofficial spokesman of American capitalism. Accordingly, the Chamber has enjoyed unrivaled access and power within the halls of Congress, particularly during the Bush administration.
"The Chamber of Commerce may not have ruled the country during the Bush years" observes Daniel Gross, "But it had the next best thing: a Republican administration in the White House and Republican control of Congress for most of that period."
With the election of President Barack Obama, however, the Chamber suddenly finds itself on the outside, looking in. Increasingly, the Chamber's platform has become indistinguishable from the Republican opposition. In recent months, a darker, more nefarious side to the Chamber has emerged, one that breaks from the group's image as the promoter of American ingenuity and entrepreneurship.
The Chamber is at the forefront of the campaign against health care reform, climate change legislation and a proposed consumer protection agency. "The U.S. Chamber of Commerce -- the self-proclaimed voice of business in Washington" writes former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, "has been wrong on virtually every major public-policy issue of the past decade." Read more.
Who knew Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter would emerge as one of the most vocal opponents in the Senate of the President's military escalation in Afghanistan?
But so it is. In an op-ed this week in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Specter not only challenges the "surge"; he also challenges fundamental premises of the war. Specter writes:
I'm opposed to sending 30,000 more American troops to Afghanistan because I don't believe they are indispensable in our fight against al Qaeda.
But if al Qaeda can organize and operate out of Yemen, Somalia or elsewhere, then why fight in Afghanistan, which has made a history of resisting would-be conquerors - from Alexander the Great in the 3rd century BC, to Great Britain in the 19th and early 20th centuries, to the former Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s?
What can one Senator do? Well, one Senator can introduce legislation, for starters. At this writing, there isn't a single piece of legislation before the Senate that expresses opposition to continuing the war indefinitely. This is in marked contrast to the House, where Representative McGovern's bill requiring the Pentagon to present Congress with an exit strategy from Afghanistan has more than 100 co-sponsors. That's like having 23 Senators.
But Arlen Specter is in a unique position to do much more than introduce legislation. He could turn his Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary into a referendum on the Afghanistan war, because his primary opponent, Joe Sestak, supports the war and supports the escalation: Read more.
Major television networks continue to host retired generals as military analysts without alerting viewers to their extensive ties to defense contractors and the Pentagon.
Military strategy is a frequent topic on TV in the wake of President Obama's announcement that he will send more troops to Afghanistan now -- and start bringing them out by mid-2011. But few television viewers have any idea that some of what they're hearing originates from men who are literally profiting from the war.
One of these men in particular -- NBC News military analyst and retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey -- has appeared on MSNBC at least 10 times in the past month to criticize Obama's proposed troop-withdrawal deadline, to lavish praise upon Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command, and to underscore the importance of training Afghan security forces.
But neither McCaffrey nor the MSNBC anchors ever mentioned the fact that McCaffrey sits on the board of directors of DynCorp International, a company with a lucrative government contract to train the Afghan National Security Forces. Nor did they mention that McCaffrey recently completed a report about Afghanistan that was commissioned by Petraeus and funded by the Pentagon. Read more.
Fox 'News' Fans Flood VR With Death Threats, F-Bombs, Racist Email Following Front Page Article on 'Stop The Chamber' Campaign
Those "conservative" Fox "News" fans sure do use a lot of F-words in their death threats.
We're used to various death threats by now, of course, even from Drudge's poodle, Andy "Big Government" Breitbart, but those socially "conservative", American "values"-lovin', Fox "News" viewers have really outdone themselves this time.
On Monday night, FoxNews.com featured a story on the latest announcement from VR's StopTheChamber.com campaign, concerning the offer of a $200,000 reward for insider information leading to the arrest and conviction of Tom Donohue, the CEO of the right-wing corporatist lobbying group, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. [Disclosure: The BRAD BLOG is a co-founder of VelvetRevolution.us]
Apart from his work at the Chamber, Donohue has run a number of major corporations into the ground, as his tenure as CEO at each was generally plagued by improprieties, plunging stock values (coupled with soaring executive pay), scandal, various forms of illegal behavior and SEC investigations. He was found by the FEC to have made millions of dollars in illegal corporate campaign contributions in 2004 and is now facing a criminal investigation by the DoJ about that, even while he runs the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in many ways, as nothing short of a criminal racket.
Unlike many similar campaigns VR has run in the past, offering such rewards for whistleblower information about wrong-doers over the years, this one caught the attention of the folks at Fox for some reason, and they decided to splash it on the front page of their website this week with a bold graphic shouting: "HUNTED BY THE LEFT: Bounty Put on Head of Chamber Boss". For good measure, in the story itself, they used the word "Liberal" a total of four times before they even finished the second graf. (An email to the story's author, Judson Berger, explaining that VR is a non-partisan group and works with folks of many different political bents, including Republicans, led them to change their headline from the wholly misleading "Liberal Group Puts Bounty on Head of Chamber of Commerce CEO" to the slightly-less misleading "Activist Group Puts Bounty on Head..." etc.)
Anyway, while there is no bounty on anybody's "head", and no one is being "HUNTED", the StopTheChamber.com campaign does feature a reward for information leading to Donohue's arrest and conviction. Roll Call also covered [$-only] VR's announcement on Monday, though much more responsibly (in a far less inflammatory way) than Fox did.
But this story is not about that, it's about the unbelievable amount of email that was sent from, presumably, those "socially conservative" Fox "News" fans in which a good 98% of those notes contained one or more of the following: Read more.
Shell Wins Rights To Iraq's Giant Manjoon Oil Fields
By Sinan Salaheddin and Tarek El-Tablawy | Huffington Post
Iraqi officials cheered and clapped as the first oil field up for bid went to a major international consortium at the opening of the country's biggest postwar auction Friday. But from there, the chill set in.
Oil executives from around the world made deals on only two fields, both in Iraq's relatively stable south, while shunning six others in regions with sporadic violence – and where the risk outweighs the profits that the Iraqi government is offering.
Iraqi officials portrayed the day as a success because they secured deals that will ramp up production in the two giant fields. But the lack of energetic bidding highlighted Iraq's difficulties in turning its wealth of oil – the world's third largest reserves – into a financial bonanza.
Energy experts say Iraq has been tightfisted in the deals it has offered major producers. There is also a long-running feud between the central government in Baghdad and the Kurds over control of petroleum reserves in the north.
Security is yet another issue, particularly in central Iraq and areas north of the capital. Read more.
Is The Military Fudging Civilian Casualties To Avoid Pentagon Oversight?
By Megan Carpentier | Air America
On Monday, the anonymous blogger Security Crank noticed something interesting: all the U.S. and NATO airstrikes in Afghanistan seemingly kill exactly 30 people every time. How can that be?
Security Crank documented no less than 12 occasions in which news reports, relying on field commanders' estimates, noted that exactly 30 suspected Taliban were killed in airstrikes and, occasionally, artillery attacks. He said:
But the much more important point remains: how could we possibly have any idea how the war is going, here or anywhere else, when the bad guys seem only to die in groups of 30? The sheer ubiquity of that number in fatality and casualty counts is astounding, to the point where I don’t even pay attention to a story anymore when they use that magic number 30. It is an indicator either of ignorance or deliberate spin… but no matter the case, whenever you see the number 30 used in reference to the Taliban, you should probably close the tab and move onto something else, because you just won’t get a good sense of what happened there.
So, why is it always 30? Do thirty casualties seem like enough to justify a military attack, or few enough to not attract too much attention to an incident?
Another blogger, Joshua Foust of the Central Asia blog Registan, seemingly stumbled upon the answer. In a tweet, he noted:
In 2003, an air strike killing 30 civilians could be launched w/o issues. 31 dead civilians and Rummy had to approve.
Foust then linked to an LA Times article from last July by Nicholas Goldberg that documented what field commanders were told. Read more.
Key Oil Auction in Iraq Today: Foreign Companies Could Produce Majority of Iraq's Oil for First Time in 35 Years
Will Bush's Oil Agenda Lock Obama Further Into War?
Today and tomorrow (12/11 & 12/12/2009) in Baghdad, the world's last great oil bonanza opens to the highest bidders. This auction will finalize an oil revolution in Iraq placing the majority of the nation's oil production in foreign hands for the first time in 30 years.
Some 44 international companies will bid on 11 groups of massive oil and gas fields, Iraq's "non-producing" and as of yet "undiscovered" fields. A prior round of bidding, for eight of Iraq's currently producing fields, completed in November.
Iraq has eighty known oil fields holding some 115 billion barrels of oil, just seventeen of which currently pump oil. There has been no meaningful oil exploration in Iraq for over twenty years and it is estimated that it's "undiscovered" fields could hold as much as an additional 285 billion barrels of oil - giving Iraq the largest oil reserves in the world.
Before the U.S. and British invasion, Iraq had a fully nationalized oil sector. But things were changing. Saddam Hussein was negotiating contracts with foreign oil companies. None of the contracts, however, could take effect while the UN sanctions remained in place. Three countries held the largest contracts: China, Russia, and France--all members of the UN Security Council and all in a position to advocate for the end of sanctions. Court proceedings revealed that lists of these contracts were reviewed by oil and energy company representatives as part of Vice President Cheney's National Energy Policy Development Group (better known as the Cheney Energy Task Force). None of their companies' names were on the lists. Were Hussein to remain in power and the sanctions to be removed, these contracts - none with any U.S. or major British companies - would take effect, and the U.S. and its closest ally would be shut out.
The Cheney Energy Task Force released its final report in May 2001, arguing that Middle Eastern countries should be urged, "to open up areas of their energy sectors to foreign investment." This has now been achieved in Iraq. The sanctions are gone, foreign investment can proceed, and the problem of U.S. and British exclusion is over.
It has taken the full six years since Saddam Hussein ouster for the oil companies to finalize contracts. Read more.
Blackwater Guards Tied to Secret Raids by the C.I.A.
By James Risen and Mark Mazzetti | NY Times
Private security guards from Blackwater Worldwide participated in some of the C.I.A.’s most sensitive activities — clandestine raids with agency officers against people suspected of being insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan and the transporting of detainees, according to former company employees and intelligence officials.
The raids against suspects occurred on an almost nightly basis during the height of the Iraqi insurgency from 2004 to 2006, with Blackwater personnel playing central roles in what company insiders called “snatch and grab” operations, the former employees and current and former intelligence officers said.
Several former Blackwater guards said that their involvement in the operations became so routine that the lines supposedly dividing the Central Intelligence Agency, the military and Blackwater became blurred. Instead of simply providing security for C.I.A. officers, they say, Blackwater personnel at times became partners in missions to capture or kill militants in Iraq and Afghanistan, a practice that raises questions about the use of guns for hire on the battlefield.
Separately, former Blackwater employees said they helped provide security on some C.I.A. flights transporting detainees in the years after the 2001 terror attacks in the United States.
The secret missions illuminate a far deeper relationship between the spy agency and the private security company than government officials had acknowledged. Blackwater’s partnership with the C.I.A. has been enormously profitable for the North Carolina-based company, and became even closer after several top agency officials joined Blackwater. Read more.
Rep. Kucinich, Brian Becker, Gale Murphy, Cynthia McKinney, Chris Hedges and Others Speak at Today's "End the US Wars" Rally
Thanks to Liam Hughes for providing these videos of today's "End the US Wars" rally in Lafayette Park, Washington, D.C.
Rep. Kucinich: "These Wars Are Corrupting...our Nation!"
Brian Becker: "End the Afghan War Right Now!"
Here is my sentencing statement in the Kerry case involving Ellen, Eve and myself (charges against Steve were dropped):
Good morning, Judge Liebowitz.
On May 21st, Eve Tetaz, Ellen Barfield, Steve Mihalis and I spoke during a senate foreign relations committee hearing. we provided public testimony. public witness. nothing more. nothing less. we believe it is part of our obligations as citizens to be active participants in our democracy and voice our concerns when it is necessary. Myself, I quoted Senator John Kerry's own 1971 anti-war warning to him. I wanted to remind him of who he was as a young man disillusioned with a tragic and misdirected war he had been embroiled in. I wanted to plead with John Kerry to help end this tragic and misdirected war which has now gone on twice as long as World War II for our nation. We were nonviolent, and there were no victims. We were trying to prevent the continued victimization of innocent Afghans at the hands of our own military might.
Brian Ross at ABC has aired the results of his investigation into the use of alleged mercenaries by the United States. I was interviewed on the story, though I was obviously not at liberty to discuss it before it aired yesterday. Ross found evidence that private contractors were being used in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq for combat missions — a role that raises very disturbing legal and policy questions.
The ABC storyis based on four current and former U.S. military and intelligence officers. The New York Times has also reported that raids against Iraqi insurgents were conducted “almost nightly” between 2004 and 2006, and “the operations became so routine that the lines supposedly dividing the Central Intelligence Agency, the military and Blackwater became blurred.”
Congress has historically moved against the use of private contractors for such purposes. The Defense Department bars the use of private security contractors (PSCs) for combat operations. In the FY2008 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Congress required full reporting on the use and weaponry of PSCs. Such contractors have been involved in controversial shootings such as the shooting of 17 Iraqi civilians at a Baghdad traffic circle in Nisoor Square by Blackwater employees.
The debate over PSCs has been over their use in combat areas, not just their use in combat — a role restricted for our regular forces. However, even their use in combat areas is viewed as inimical by military professionals. The executive summary for the U.S. Naval Academy’s 9th Annual McCain Conference on Ethics and Military Leadership stated this position recently:
We therefore conclude that contractors should not be deployed as security guards, sentries, or even prison guards within combat areas. APSCs should be restricted to appropriate support functions and those geographic areas where the rule of law prevails. In irregular warfare (IW) environments, where civilian cooperation is crucial, this restriction is both ethically and strategically necessary. Read more.
Mercenaries? CIA Says Expanded Role for Contractors Legitimate
Blackwater, Other Firms Said to Be "Hired Guns" in Iraq, Afghanistan -- Combat Role Would Be Against U.S. Law
By Matthew Cole, Richard Esposito and Brian Ross | ABC News
The CIA and the military special forces have quietly expanded the role of private contractors, including Blackwater, to include their involvement in raids and secret paramilitary operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, four current and former U.S. military and intelligence officers tell ABC News.
American law specifically prohibits the use of private soldiers or mercenaries in combat, according to Jonathan Turley, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University.
"The United States Congress has never approved the use of private contractors for combat operations," Turley told ABC News in an interview...Read more.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (December) – After voting against H.R. 4173 – Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) issued the following statement:
“Although I am supportive of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency as well as other provisions in the bill, ultimately I do not think this bill adequately addresses the causes of the financial crisis, and I do not believe the reforms are sufficient to prevent another financial crisis from occurring.
In testimony before the Committee on Financial Services earlier in the year, Dr. Robert Johnson of the Roosevelt Institute stressed that reform of the derivatives markets is absolutely central to fixing the financial system. In fact, he went so far as to say that without strong and comprehensive derivatives reform, any effort to address the problem of systemic risk would be rendered impotent.
HR 4173 makes some progress toward regulating derivatives by establishing regulations for clearing and regulating over-the-counter derivatives; however the bill--especially in light of the House’s adoption of the Murphy amendment--contains a number of loopholes that sophisticated financial industry insiders will exploit with ease. For example, the Murphy amendment’s expansion of the exemption of derivatives users, jeopardizes the integrity of the whole reform. As Dr. Johnson said in his testimony, the challenge is to “[preserve] as much scope for deriving value from derivative instruments for end users without making the definition of end user so broad that it allows large scale financial institutions to effectively continue their unregulated OTC practices and at the same time assures that end users do not themselves, through loopholes, contribute to a weakening of the integrity of the financial system.” HR 4173 does not accomplish this.
Credit rating agencies were also at the heart of the financial crisis. It was their bogus ratings on opaque securitizations and other financial products that fueled the asset bubble, and it was the fundamental conflict of interest in their “issuer pays” business model that strengthened their position in the industry.
Unfortunately HR 4173, rather than address the fundamental conflict of interest in the “issuer pays” model, instead sidesteps the issue and gives the Securities and Exchange Commission more authority to mitigate conflicts of interest. The years leading up to the financial crisis, however, taught us some very important lessons regarding the enforcement authority of the SEC: when officials at the Agency operate with a philosophical disagreement with its mission, it does not matter what tools they have; they simply will not use them. In the interest of long-term, systemic reform, HR 4173 should have directly addressed this problem.
From Hiroshima to Gaza
By Hisae Ogawa
The first time I met and had a chance to talk to Palestinian women was back in 1975, the United Nations International Women’s Year. I was then working for the Women’s International Democrat Federation (WIDF), one of the Non-Governmental Agencies accredited by the United Nations.
WIDF’s head office was in East Berlin, the capitol of the German Democratic Republic. It had over 100 member groups all around the world and representatives that were called “secretaries” were sent from more than ten countries from Europe, Africa, Asia and America. At the time the General Secretary of WIDF was from Argentina and the President was from Australia. It was indeed an international place. But at the same time I was so disturbed to see the East Berliners suffered lack of freedom due to the wall dividing the city.
One of my co-workers was a young girl from Iraq. She was working hard trying to cover the whole issues in the Middle East. From her I learned what was happening in the Middle East.
It was through her that I got to know the Palestinian issue and made friends with Palestinian women. One day she brought some women from Palestine to the WIDF office. They were touring Europe to publicize their plight. They said Israel was doing the same things to Palestinian people as the Nazis had done to the Jewish people during the World War II.
Rep. Kucinich Rebukes Obama: "Once We Believe In The Inevitability Of War, War Becomes A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy."
Following a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today released the following statement:
“Yesterday, our president mused about the inevitability of war, war’s instrumentality in the pursuit of peace and just wars. It is important for us to reflect on his words, because once we believe in the inevitability of war, war becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Once we are committed to war’s instrumentality in pursuit of peace, we begin the Orwellian journey to the semantic netherworld where War IS Peace, where the momentum of war overwhelms hopes for peace. And once we wrap doctrines perpetuating war in the arms of justice, we can easily legitimate the wholesale slaughter of innocents. The war against Iraq was based on lies. Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan are based on flawed doctrines of counter-insurgency. War is often not just; sometimes it is just war. And our ability to rethink the terms of our existence, to explore the possibility of peace without war, may well determine whether we end war, or war ends us.”
We Need A Step Program
by Missy Comley Beattie
“The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug.”
--Chris Hedges: War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning
In 1935, Dr. Bob Smith and Bill Wilson founded Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) with its principles to overcome the denial that characterizes the disease of alcoholism. Since its inception, AA has proven to be salvation for countless individuals and families. Its 12-step program has translated to many areas of pathology in reaching those with other dependencies.
I can think of a huge area of pathology—this landmass in which we reside—the USA. Our drug-addicted nation has been brought to its knees by a consumption-based lifestyle and a power grab to underwrite the excesses. If this intemperance continues, we will be lost. We may be already. With this in mind, I propose a step program. However, in the interest of separation of church and state, I’m going for a non-theistic approach, one abridged, and which I slightly amended, by the American Psychological Association:
- Admitting that one cannot control one's addiction or compulsion
- Recognizing a greater power that can give strength
- Examining past errors
- Making amends for these errors
- Learning to live a new life with a new code of behavior
- Helping others that suffer from the same addictions or compulsions
I'm biting my nails waiting for the Supreme Court's ruling in 'Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission' -- here's why you should be too.
I thought that headline would get your attention. And it's true.
I'm biting my nails waiting for the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which could come down as early as Tuesday. At issue: whether corporations, as "unnatural persons," can make contributions to political campaigns.
The outcome is foregone: the five GOP appointees to the court are expected to use the case to junk federal laws that now bar corporations from stuffing campaign coffers.
Technically, there's a narrower matter before the court in this case: whether the McCain-Feingold Act may prohibit corporations from funding "independent" campaign advertisements such as the "Swift Boat" ads that smeared John Kerry. However, campaign finance reformers are steeling themselves for the court's right wing to go much further, knocking down all longstanding rules against donations by corporate treasuries.
Allowing company campaign spending will not, as progressives fear, cause an avalanche of corporate cash into politics. Sadly, that's already happened: we have been snowed under by tens of millions of dollars given through corporate PACs and "bundling" of individual contributions from corporate pay-rollers.
The court's expected decision is far, far more dangerous to U.S. democracy. Think: Manchurian candidates. Read more.
President and commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the United States Barack Obama delivered his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance address in Oslo on December 10, which has immediately led to media discussion of an Obama Doctrine.
With obligatory references to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi (the second referred to only by his surname) but to no other American presidents than Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy - fellow peace prize recipients Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Jimmy Carter weren't mentioned - the U.S. head of state spoke with the self-assurance of the leader of the world's first uncontested superpower and at times with the self-righteousness of a would-be prophet and clairvoyant. And, in the words of German philosopher Friedrich von Schlegel, a prophet looking backward.
Accompanied by visionary gaze and cadenced, oratorical solemnity, his comments included the assertion that "War, in one form or another, appeared with the first man." Unless this unsubstantiated claim was an allusion to the account in the Book of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible of Cain murdering his brother Abel, which would hardly constitute war in any intelligible meaning of the word (nor was Cain the first man according to that source), it is unclear where Obama acquired the conviction that war is coeval with and presumably an integral part of humanity.
Paleontologists generally trace the arrival of modern man, homo sapiens, back 200,000 years, yet the first authenticated written histories are barely 2,400 years old. How Obama and his speechwriters filled in the 197,600-year gap to prove that the practice of war is as old as mankind and implicitly inseparable from the human condition is a question an enterprising reporter might venture to ask at the next presidential press conference.
The No. 2 commanding general in Afghanistan acknowledged Wednesday that a NATO-led attack the day before in eastern Afghanistan possibly resulted in civilian deaths.
The statement that some civilians might have been killed in the attack comes amid fears among Afghan citizens that the 30,000 fresh U.S. troops being deployed to the war will result in more violence and deaths of Afghan citizens. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, has ordered troops to minimize civilian casualties, which undermine Afghan support for the war against the Taliban.
Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, the No. 2 man, told reporters in the capital that the attack, which involved coalition and Afghan troops, was a "confusing operation." Read more.
Despite our Founders' vision of independent powers exercising checks & balances to prevent a "tyranny of the majority," every branch of the federal government acted last month to cast its lot with torturers. But even though President Obama, Congress and the Court have united to hide evidence of high-level crime, Americans of conscience continue to resist, arguing that sweeping human rights abuses under the rug is a greater threat to national security than dealing with them openly and bringing the perpetrators to justice.
This Monday, the Supreme Court ruled in Department of Defense v. ACLU that the Defense Department could maintain secrecy over photos documenting pervasive torture. While disappointing, the decision was more or less inevitable in the wake of the Obama administration's latest reversal. Read more.