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Criminal Prosecution and Accountability

Lost drug war: Pot Decriminalization Yields $9-million in Savings for Philadelphia

By Linn Washington, Jr.


A vivid example of value from decriminalization of possessing small amounts of marijuana occurred at the Philadelphia airport recently, a few days after the release of a report from two prominent organizations that called for the national decriminalization of personal use/possession of marijuana and other illicit drugs.

We got 8 years of change, but not much hope: President Barack Obama’s Crappy Legacy

By Dave Lindorff


Barack Obama came into the White House on a wave of passionate new voters, many of them black or young and white, becoming the nation's first black president and promising a new era of "hope and change."

UK Supreme Court Rules UK Government Engaged in Terrorism

By Chris Coverdale

An event occurred recently which may herald the end of Britain’s involvement in war. In a remarkable legal judgement the Supreme Court acknowledged that Parliament’s definition of terrorism appears to extend to the military activities of the UK Government[1].

“ action outside the United Kingdom which involves the use of firearms or explosives, resulting in danger to life … is terrorism… the definition would … appear to extend to military or quasi-military activity aimed at bringing down a foreign government, even where that activity is approved … by the UK Government.”

US Propaganda Campaign to Demonize Russia in Full Gear over One-Sided Dutch/Aussie Report on Flight 17 Downing

By Dave Lindorff


If the danger of the anti-Putin, anti-Russian disinformation propaganda campaign out of the Pentagon and promoted by the US corporate media weren't so serious, the effort itself might be laughable. I did laugh,

Wells Fargo’s Stumpf leads the way: We Should All Start ‘Taking Responsibility’ for Our Transgressions

By Dave Lindorff


Hey Americans! Let's all start taking responsibility for what we do wrong. Let's all start being accountable for our actions or our lack of action.

John Stumpf, the CEO of Wells Fargo Bank, one of the nation's biggest "too-big-to-fail" banks, is showing us the way in to this bright new stand-up world.

Suing Saudi: Congress Is Right, Stephen Kinzer Is Wrong

Now there you have two things that I never expected to write. How often is Congress right about anything or Stephen Kinzer wrong? Congress wants 9/11 victims' families to be able to sue Saudi Arabia for its role in those crimes. Kinzer does not.

It's not that he doesn't care about victims' families. It's not that he's worried about disturbing relations with the Saudi monarchy (which could perhaps stop selling the United States the fossilized poison it uses to ruin the earth's climate, or stop buying U.S. weapons and working with the U.S. military to blow up little children in Yemen, or perhaps increase or decrease its support for ISIS depending on which of those options the U.S. makes up its mind to oppose). No, Kinzer's concern is that if you let one set of criminals be held accountable for their crimes, other criminals might be held accountable for their crimes as well.

Kinzer's is an argument designed to win over Congress (which doesn't really answer to rational argumentation) or the President (who already agrees with it). But it's not an argument that should win over you or me.

"Americans have a right to be furious with some foreign governments," writes Kinzer. "People in other countries have an equal right to be furious with the United States. We best address that fury not with lawsuits, but by changing the way we approach the world."

If laws are to "address fury" I'd like to abolish every last one of them, domestic and international, as an embarrassment to our species. In reality, the best laws are powerful tools with which to "change the way we approach the world." Obamesque "looking forward" -- that is, granting immunity to all powerful law breakers and wishing they wouldn't continue their law breaking -- does not work. Neither, of course, does bombing families in Libya or Syria based on the flimsy allegation that someone powerful managed to break a law that happened to be the one law not to ignore that day.

Kinzer's concern that suing Saudi Arabia could result in law suits against the United States is misguided nationalism. Why does suing Saudi Arabia not bother him? Why does suing the United States bother him? If Saudi Arabia kills large numbers of people, every nonviolent tool at our disposal ought to be used to put an end to that, to deter its repetition, to seek restitution, and to work for reconciliation. And the exact same applies to the U.S. government.

This was the pretense at Nuremberg, that victor's justice would someday become universal justice, that the people of the United States would want their own government held to the rule of law. This is why 37 thousand U.S. citizens thanked Spain for trying to prosecute U.S. officials for war crimes a few years ago, when the U.S. government had made clear that it would never do so itself. Instead it brought pressure to bear on Spain that shut down the prosecution.

Of course, a country that doesn't want to be sued (by its own people as well as foreigners) could abide by the rule of law or enforce its treaty obligations itself, as legally required to do anyway. Of what real use is a law that a blatant violator cannot be brought to court over? The UN Charter and the Kellogg-Briand Pact make seven current U.S. wars illegal, plus numerous drone killings if you claim they constitute "war." They're illegal as murder is you claim they do not constitute "war." Kidnapping, torture, spying, sabotaging -- these things are crimes. Those instances of these crimes that are in the past should indeed be brought to court in the present, unless the United States sees its way clear to apologizing and making restitution to the satisfaction of the victims.

But here's the real problem. If disputes could be taken to court, instead of to war, potential terrorists would become potential litigants, and Pentagon propaganda for the next war would become a lawsuit instead. Did the latest "Hitler" really truly use the wrong kind of weapon? Don't bomb the residents of his capital. Take him to court instead. Take him to arbitration. Take him to a truth and reconciliation commission. Because if you don't, if you bomb some cities instead, you should have to expect that victims families will be taking you to court.

If U.S. officials find that they must constantly be looking over their shoulders to make sure they aren't going to be taken to court, they will simply be joining the rest of us who are -- horror of horrors! -- obliged to comply with every existing law every day of the year.

A win and a loss, at least for now: Federal Judge finds 8th Amendment Violation in Pennslvania’s Refusal to Treat Mumia's Hep-C

By Dave Lindorff


Depending on how you look at it, lawyers for Mumia Abu-Jamal, the Philadelphia journalist and political prisoner serving a life sentence in a Pennsylvania prison after a controversial 1982 conviction for killing a white Philadelphia police officer, won a huge victory, lost big or maybe won and will win again soon.

No context is pretext: Critics’ Ignoring of Documented Record of Frisco Police Abuse Proves Kaepernick Right

By Linn Washington, Jr.


A month before the police union in San Francisco sent a blistering letter to NFL officials recently demanding that the professional football league apologize for the “ill-advised” criticisms of police by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick that union was the target of scathing criticism for supporting police misconduct.

Unethical antics: Philadelphia District Attorney Hammered for Hypocrisy

By Linn Washington, Jr.


Even in politics, where alarming perversions too often parade as acceptable standards, it is pretty astounding for a politician to assert that inadvertent error is the reason for his failure to report receipt of gifts and other free items valued at $160,050 over a five-year period.

Not just toilet lids Pentagon Money Pit: Unaccountable Army Spending of $6.5 Trillion and No DOD Audit for the Past Two Decades

By Dave Lindorff


What if the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services were to report that $6.5 billion in spending by that federal agency was unaccounted for and untraceable? You can imagine the headlines, right? What if it was $65 billion? The headlines would be as big as for the first moon landing or for troops landing on Omaha Beach in World War II.

The ultimate attribution error fuels war: The Post-Dallas Kumbaya Window Begins to Close

By John Grant


Someone's crying, Lord, kumbaya

- From the Gullah song meaning, Lord, come by here and help us


To Prosecute Blair for War You Do Not Need the ICC

To prosecute Tony Blair or George W. Bush or others responsible for the criminal attack on Iraq, or other top officials for other recent wars, does not require the International Criminal Court (ICC).

It is commonplace to insist that the ICC cannot handle the supreme crime of aggression, although it might at some point in the future. The United States is also believed to be immune from prosecution as a non-ICC member.

But this focus on the ICC is a sign of weakness in a global movement for justice that has other tools readily available. When the losers of World War II were prosecuted, there was no ICC. The ICC's existence does not impede anything that was done in Nuremberg or Tokyo, where the crime of making war was prosecuted by the victors of World War II under the Kellogg-Briand Pact.

Nor does the existence of the UN Charter throw up any obstacles. The invasion of Iraq (and every other recent Western war) was just as illegal under the UN Charter as under Kellogg-Briand.

Nor does one have to go back to Nuremberg for a precedent. The special tribunals set up for Yugoslavia and Rwanda prosecuted the waging of war under the name of "genocide." The notion that the West cannot commit genocide (anymore) is pure prejudice. The scale and type of killing unleashed on Iraqis by the 2003 coalition perfectly fits the definition of genocide as routinely applied to non-Westerners.

The special tribunal on Rwanda is also a model for addressing the lies and propaganda that are such a focus of the Chilcot Report. As at Nuremberg, the propagandists were prosecuted in Rwanda. While Fox News executives should certainly be prosecuted for sexual harassment where merited, in a fair world in which the rule of law were applied equally, they would face additional charges as well. War propaganda is as illegal under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as war was under Kellogg-Briand.

What we are lacking is not the legal ability to prosecute, but the will power and the democratic control of institutions. In war or genocide, as with torture and other atrocities constituting "the evil of the whole," we are dealing with crimes that can be prosecuted in any court under universal jurisdiction. The possibility that U.S. or UK courts are going to handle this matter themselves has long since been ruled out, freeing the courts of any other nation to act.

Now, I'm not against prosecuting Blair before Bush. And I'm not against prosecuting Blair for minor components of his crime before the entirety. But if we wanted to end war, we would pursue those lesser measures with an openly expressed understanding of what is actually possible if only we had the will.

When France, Russia, China, Germany, Chile, and so many others stood against the crime of attacking Iraq, they acknowledged the responsibility they have shunned ever since of seeking prosecution. Do they fear the precedent? Do they prefer that war not be prosecutable because of their own wars? Imagine how shortsighted that would be, and how ignorant of the damage they do to the world by allowing the truly monstrous warmakers to walk free.

On forgetting and forgiving: Killing and Our Current American Crisis

By John Grant


Kill one person, it’s called murder.

Kill 100,000, it’s called foreign policy.

        - A popular bumper sticker

As Police Killings of Minorities Mount, Attacks on Police Like the One in Dallas, While Awful, Are Also Sadly Predictable

By Dave Lindorff


            The tragedy that is America has deepened with the news that several people on Thursday organized a military-style sniper attack targeting police in Dallas during a protest march and rally against police brutality and killings of black people in that city.


Supreme Hypocrisy in Pennsylvania: US High Court Opens Door to New Appeal by Mumia Abu-Jamal of His 1982 Conviction

By Linn Washington, Jr.


One unintended consequence of the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a death penalty case that rebuked actions of a Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice and prosecutors in Philadelphia for conflict of interest was to open a new avenue for activist-journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal to appeal his own 1982 murder conviction in a trial that was tainted by the same exact type of conflict of interest.

Denying discrimination: Clintonian Political Calculus and the Culture of Hooey

By Linn Washington, Jr.


Hooey –- silly talk/nonsense –- frequently has slimy characteristics and slime is slippery.

Former President Bill Clinton recently slipped on some silly talk when trying to dance around a slime trail oozing from his presidency during the 1990s.

CIA ‘K-9 test’ gone wrong or something else?: Plastic Explosives Found in School Bus Engine Compartment by school's mechanic

By Dave Lindorff


            What on earth was the CIA doing putting plastic high explosive charges on school buses and in hidden places in a Virginia public school in a “test” of K-9 dogs reportedly belonging to the Agency itself?


Stolen primary in Arizona?: Questioning Hillary’s Tuesday Primary Win Amid Widespread Evidence of Voter Suppression in Phoenix

By Dave Lindorff


         It sure looks like there was some voter fraud committed in the Democratic primary in Arizona on Tuesday.


Hillary Clinton backed the coup: Shine the Light of Truth on Poor Honduras

By John Grant


Since the coup, Honduras has become one of the most dangerous places in the world.

Ticking time bomb: Youth Violence Solution? Authorities Should Stop Ignoring Local Activists

By Linn Washington, Jr.


London and Philadelphia -- Over three thousands miles and more than forty years in age separate anti-violence activists Bilal Qayyum and Noel Williams, yet each advocates a similar solution to ‘the problem’ they seek to solve in their respective cities located on separate sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

Time for Sanders to play hardball: With Clinton Stumbling Following His Big Michigan Win, Bernie Should Attack Her Integrity

By Dave Lindorff


            Bernie Sanders, whose campaign for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination is on a roll following a stunning if narrow win in last Tuesday’s Michigan primary, where he embarrassed pollsters who were predicting a double-digit rout by Hillary Clinton only a day before the voting, has famously said he’s “not interested” in the issue of his opponent’s exclusive use, during her five years as Obama’s Secretary of State, of a private, instead of government email account and server.

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