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Criminal Prosecution and Accountability
Where I live in Virginia a member of the county board of supervisors was recently charged with the crime of "forcible sodomy," which carried a sentence of five years to life in prison. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of sexual battery and was sentenced to 30 days in jail plus probation, etc. He professed his innocence of the original charge.
But what is sexual battery if not forcible sex? The fine line drawn between 30 days and life may have less to do with the action being alleged than with the persuasiveness of the allegation, the prosecutor's confidence of winning a conviction, the schedule and budget of the court, the desire of the accuser or victim to participate in a trial, etc.
If the man was guilty, his penalty seems too light, the lack of a trial seems wrong, and some creative restorative justice seems in order. Little has been done to aid the victim or heal the community.
It is entirely possible that he was entirely innocent. People plead to 30-day sentences in our legal system to avoid a risk of life in prison (including the possibility of becoming a serial rape victim while in prison) all the time. Had the threat been five years rather than "five-years-to-life," an innocent man might have been more likely to risk a trial to declare his innocence.
If this man was innocent, his penalty is of course too great. Any penalty would be too great. And the lack of any charges against his false accuser would be a miscarriage of justice.
I have no way of knowing which direction our justice system misfired in this case. I know only that it compromised, choosing to lessen the harm done, but aware of necessarily doing harm. And I can think of many ways the system might be improved.
At the same time, I'm aware that there are systems in the world immeasurably worse. There is no system that imprisons people at the rate the United States does, including largely for nonviolent and victimless crimes. But there are epidemics of rape, of gang rape, of rape and torture, of rape and murder. There are epidemics of rape in societies in which no man can be punished in any way, but in which a woman known to have been raped is herself punished, along with her family, along with her children -- children who grow up seeing only one path to an existence of reduced shame and humiliation: the path of becoming a soldier in the war that produced the epidemic of rape. And there are echoes of all of this in our own society.
Such horrific situations are described in Ann Jones' book, War Is Not Over When It's Over: Women Speak Out from the Ruins of War. They lead her to an interesting conclusion:
"One stronghold of the battered women's movement -- in Maryland, if I remember rightly -- distributed T-shirts bearing the words WORLD PEACE BEGINS AT HOME. I believed it. Raise up children in peaceful homes free of violence, I thought, and they will make peace. But now, having spent the last many years in and around wars, I think the motto is painfully idealistic. The relationship it describes is reciprocal, but not fair. World peace may begin at home, but violence just as surely begins in war; and war does not end."
Jones documents the use of rape in war and its continuation after the announced end of wars, including its adoption by civilian men who did not participate in the war. The rapes that Jones describes are often viciously brutal and sometimes deadly. The physical injuries are severe and lasting, including the inability to sit or to walk, internal bleeding, miscarriages, and sexually transmitted diseases. And then there is the mental damage, the societal damage, and the economic damage.
Jones takes her readers to Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burmese refugees in Thailand, and Iraqi refugees in Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. Liberia was founded by former U.S. slaves who, Jones writes, brought to Africa "a few of America's worst features: elitism, discrimination, forced labor, religiosity, and a penchant for violence."* Liberia's modern history has been no happier. The World Health Organization in 2005 estimated that 90 percent of Liberian women had suffered physical or sexual violence and 75 percent had been raped.
Following war in the DRC, teachers, pastors, and fathers took up the practice of rape. The same pattern was found in Liberia and Sierra Leone, where horrors unknown or rare before war (civilian rape, child rape, gang rape) became normal. In the DRC, Jones observed a vicious cycle. Husbands abandon raped wives, sometimes departing the village out of shame; so raped wives without visible injuries try to conceal the rape from their husbands. Women are afraid to go outside for wood or water or to work in their fields (much as female U.S. soldiers in Iraq were so afraid of male U.S. soldiers that they would not venture outside to the bathrooms at night). With no crops to sell, women have no money, and their children cannot go to school without money to pay for it. Girls are also afraid to go to school where they may be raped. With nothing left, women and girls turn to prostitution while men turn to the military. A local famine develops, and women are afraid to make the trip to a hospital when ill; so people begin to die from diarrhea, pneumonia, or malaria. A study found 5.4 million "excess deaths" in the DRC between 1998 and 2007, 2.1 million of them after the war "ended."
Good news in war reporting is not always accurate. In 2007 (and right up to this moment with no let-up in sight) USians heard of a successful "surge" in Iraq. Iraqis saw increased civilian death and displacement, increased sectarian segregation, and a surging population of refugees. That war created what the United Nations High Commission for Refugees calls "the most significant displacement in the Middle East" since the Nakba. Iraq now confronts a situation in which millions of its citizens have fled and a million of its women are widows:
"There is more than one way to lose a husband. Illness, accident, assassination, murder, warfare. Rape is another. Many women lose their husbands to rape. How many thousands of Iraqi women and girls have been raped is impossible to know; but rape is commonplace. Of 4,516 cases of sexual violence in Iraq reported to UNHCR in Jordan, women were the victims in 4,233 cases; and for each reported case, there are countless others."
Iraqi men lost their houses, their land, their status, and their self respect. As refugee families in neighboring nations, Iraqis rely on women to make a living. One way in which men try to reassert their authority is domestic violence.
Jones didn't just visit war-torn areas. She brought there something that the U.S. and other western governments would never think to send. When all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail; and when all you spend money on is soldiers and missiles, you imagine those tools capable of things they are not suited to. Jones brought with her a different tool: photography lessons.
Jones gave women who had never seen a camera or a photograph, cameras and memory chips and lessons in using them. The women did not recoil in superstitious horror. They became artists, activists, and empowered members of communities that until that moment had treated women as objects to be owned.
"Prudence in Zokoguhe photographed a man beating his wife with a broom. Martine in Zokoguhe photographed a woman landing in the dirt face-first and the man who had thrown her to the ground. Jeanette in Koupela-Tenkodoko photographed a man beating his wife with a stick."
Change began swiftly.
"One woman reported that her husband, who had never before shared the proceeds from the family field, now proposed to give a little something to his photographer wife. Another reported that her husband, who had never before provided money for a sick child's medicine, rode his bike all the way to the health center to make sure that his photographer wife and child, who had gone ahead on foot, were being served by the pharmacy. Another told of her neighbor, an habitual wife beater, never deterred by others who tried to intervene. When she threatened to fetch her camera, he stopped hitting his wife and ran away."
Women showed their photographs in a public meeting. Never having spoken in public before, women took over the meeting. The village chief took their side and followed their lead. They began participating in writing laws to stop the violence in their village.
Jones collected her cameras to take them to another country, and by that time the women no longer needed them. But wouldn't it be nice if they could keep them? With a $1.3 trillion military budget in the United States alone, you'd think we could afford a few cameras that actually accomplish things that missiles and soldiers are falsely advertised as accomplishing. In fact, I don't just want to give women cameras. I want to give them websites.
Jones is an advocate for making women part of peace negotiations, part of government. Give women power and rights, and things will improve, Jones believes. And she's right, of course, up to a point. But the notion of "no justice, no peace" has to be reversed. Without peace we cannot build justice. We must end the wars. HOME VIOLENCE BEGINS IN WAR.
We must keep our priorities straight as critics soften their complaints with the pro-torture and pro-murder movie Zero Dark Thirty in part because it was made by a woman, and as a pro-war woman named Hillary Clinton positions herself to run for a presidential office that has been given single-handed power of life and death over great masses of human beings.
* Jones is wrong, I believe, that the first African-American settlers arrived in Africa in 1822, since a group sailed from Nova Scotia to Sierra Leone in 1792 including slaves who had escaped to fight for the British, including a man formerly owned by George Washington.
(Reuters) - A former CIA station chief received a seven-year jail sentence on Friday for the kidnap of an Egyptian Muslim cleric during the U.S. government's "war on terror" waged by former president George W. Bush.
A Milan appeals court also handed down two six-year sentences to two American officials for the same crime, the first of so-called "extraordinary rendition" operations organised by the United States.
The cleric, an Egyptian imam known as Abu Omar, was snatched from a Milan street and flown to Egypt for interrogation, where he says he was tortured for seven months. He was resident in Italy at the time of the abduction.
By Linn Washington, Jr.
Many millions around the world are convinced they know imprisoned journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal from closely examining the ‘whodunit’ contentions surrounding his contentious conviction for the December 9, 1981 slaying of a Philadelphia policeman.
By Dave Lindorff
I personally found the president’s inaugural speech not just insipid, but disgusting. It reached its gut-churning nadir near the end where he said:
By Michael Uhl
Jonathan Schell‘s probing review of Nick Turse’s new book Kill Anything That Moves originated on Tom Dispatch and migrated to Salon, where it appeared under the head “Vietnam was even more horrific than we thought.”
By John Grant
Since gun control is such a hot topic, the elite think tank the Project For a New American Decade (PNAD) has come up with a modest proposal to add to the national conversation. We think it’s worth a try.
First, we do the obvious, most sensible things: we establish universal background checks and dignified mental health services for those who exhibit a need for it. The third leg of the current gun control imbroglio -- banning AR-15s -- is a bit trickier.
By Kourosh Zaibari
From the Bradley Manning Support Network
Only giving 112 days credit off any future prison sentence does little to keep the military from torturing any future soldiers awaiting controversial trials. Write Maj. General Horst, tell him the persecution of Bradley Manning is unnaceptable!
Judge Denise Lind. Sketch by Clark Stoeckley, Bradley Manning Support Network.
After two weeks of intense litigation by Bradley Manning's defense, and hearing how Quantico brig staff blatantly disregarded Navy Rules in their mistreatment of Bradley, military Judge Denise Lind acknowledged that Bradley was punished unlawfully before trial and she has awarded him 118 days sentencing credit.
For nine months in Quantico, VA, Bradley was held isolated in a 6x8 ft cell, and denied access to sunlight and meaningful exercise, conditions called "cruel, inhuman and degrading" by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture. It was only after considerable public outcry and coordinated action that Bradley's conditions improved. The 112 days sentencing credit that Bradley has been awarded for being tortured is still vastly overshadowed by the outrageous 150 years in prison Bradley still faces.
Despite Bradley Manning's honorable intentions to blow the whistle on unpunished war crimes, torture and government corruption and the military's failure to show any harm done to the US as a result of his releases, Bradley is facing harsher prosecution (and persecution) than US soldiers who are guilty of murdering civilians in the Middle East. The extremely aggressive charges against him are no accident. They are intended to put a chill on military whistle-blowing. The man who set these charges? Maj. Gen. Karl Horst. Write to tell him that this persecution of an American patriot is unacceptable!
Maj. General Horst
7115 South Boundary Boulevard
MacDill AFB, FL
The hearing continues through Friday, January 11. Bradley Manning’s court-martial trial is scheduled to start March 6, 2013.
By John Grant
Those that respect the law and love sausage should watch neither being made.
-- Mark Twain
FBI Ignored Deadly Threat to Occupiers: US Intelligence Machine Instead Plotted with Bankers to Attack Protest Movement
By Dave Lindorff
New documents obtained from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security by the Partnership for Civil Justice and released this past week show that the FBI and other intelligence and law enforcement agencies began a campaign of monitoring, spying and disrupting the Occupy Movement at least two months before the first occupation actions began in late September 2011.
Guild lawyer hails historic decision
In a potentially precedent-setting decision, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that a Guild lawyer’s challenge to military spying on peace activists can proceed. The ruling marks the first time a court has affirmed people’s ability to sue the military for violating their First and Fourth Amendment rights.
“This has never been done before,” said NLG member attorney Larry Hildes, who is handling the case. “The U.S. government has spied on political dissidents throughout history and this particular plot lasted through two presidencies, but never before has a court said that we can challenge it the way we have.”
The ruling is the latest development in the lawsuit, Panagacos v. Towery, first brought by Hildes in 2009 on behalf of a group of Washington state antiwar activists who found themselves infiltrated by John Towery, an employee at a fusion center inside a local Army base. Fusion centers are multi-jurisdictional intelligence facilities which house federal and local law enforcement agencies alongside military units and private security companies. Their operations are largely secret and unregulated. There are currently 77 fusion centers in the United States.
The lawsuit names Towery as well as the Army, Navy, Air Force, FBI, CIA, Department of Homeland Security, and other law enforcement agencies. For at least two years, Towery posed as an activist with the antiwar group Port Militarization Resistance (PMR), a group that sought to oppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through civil disobedience. The infiltration came to light when public records requests filed with the City of Olympia unearthed documents detailing an expansive surveillance operation. In addition to PMR, Towery targeted Students for a Democratic Society, the Olympia Movement for Justice and Peace, the Industrial Workers of the World, Iraq Veterans Against the War, an anarchist bookstore in Tacoma, and other activist groups.
The latest ruling denies the government’s appeal on the basis that the allegations of First and Fourth Amendment violations carried out by Towery are “plausible.” His lawyers have until December 31 to appeal the decision. If they do not appeal, the case will return to district court and the discovery phase will begin.
The National Lawyers Guild is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. Its headquarters are in New York and it has members in every state.
By Dave Lindorff
Most Americans, their minds focused at the moment on the tragic slaughter of 20 young children aged 5-10, along with five teachers and a school principal in Connecticut by a heavily-armed psychotic 21-year-old, are blissfully unaware that their last president, George W. Bush, along with five key members of his administration, were convicted in absentia of war crimes earlier this month at a tribunal in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
By Linn Washington, Jr.
A Philadelphia police officer stood outside the front door of the department’s headquarters building next to a “No Smoking” sign, cavalierly smoking a cigarette and ignoring the smoking ban imposed by the police commissioner.
By John Grant
Jennifer Foster, a tourist from Florence, Arizona, was walking in Times Square on a cold night in November and came across a New York City police officer giving a barefoot homeless man a pair of all-weather boots he had purchased out of his own pocket. Moved, she took out her cell phone and snapped a picture.
By John Grant
Using one of those overarching dramatic titles we have come to expect in mainstream media news coverage, John Stewart summed up the Petraeus story as “Band of Boners.” It's the sort of thing that may be inevitable when so much power is given so much free reign by so much secrecy.
Witch Hunting in Kansas: Anti-Abortion Pols Pile on to Attack Doctor Who Aided Tiller in Keeping Abortion Available
By Michael Caddell
… [Dr. Ann Kristin] Neuhaus wishes that she'd skipped the hearing.
STILL WAITIN': a Short Film on Who Owns the Vietnam War, by TCBH!'s John Grant and the Viet War Commemoration Correction Project
A short film produced by
The Vietnam War Commemoration CORRECTION Project
To see the film, please go to: www.ThisCantBeHappening.net
By Dave Lindorff
There is a delicious irony to the story of the crash-and-burn career of Four-Star General and later (at least briefly) CIA Director David Petraeus.
Remarks at the biennial general meeting of the War and Law League in San Francisco on Armistice Day 2012.
I'll try briefly to make five points.
First, there are clear laws on the books that make U.S. wars unlawful, along with U.S. threats of war and U.S. propaganda for war. The laws are either forgotten, ignored, evaded, or cleverly reinterpreted to reverse their meaning. But they could be enforced someday.
Second, U.S. wars are evolving in ways that make them violate additional laws without bringing them into compliance with any of the laws already violated.
Third, participants in U.S. wars face occasional prosecution at home or abroad for their specific actions, although those actions do not stray from the basic purpose of the wars.
Fourth, other nations are prosecuted for or would be prosecuted if they attempted the same behavior engaged in by the United States.
And Fifth, U.S. wars are launched and conducted by officials elected in an illegitimate system dominated by open bribery.
On the original Armistice Day in 1918, much of the world ended a four-year war that served no useful purpose whatsoever while costing the lives of some 10 million soldiers, 6 million civilians, 21 million soldiers wounded, an outbreak of Spanish influenza that took another 100 million lives, environmental destruction that is ongoing today, the development of new weapons -- including chemical weapons -- still used today, huge leaps forward in the art of propaganda still plagiarized today, huge setbacks in the struggle for economic justice, and a culture more militarized, more focused on stupid ideas like banning alcohol, and more ready to restrict civil liberties in the name of nationalism, and all for the bargain price, as one author calculated it, of enough money to have given a $2,500 home with $1,000 worth of furniture and five acres of land to every family in Russia, most of the European nations, Canada, the United States, and Australia, plus enough to give every city of over 20,000 a $2 million library, a $3 million hospital, a $20 million college, and still enough left over to buy every piece of property in Germany and Belgium. And it was all legal. Incredibly stupid, but totally legal. Particular atrocities violated laws, but war was not criminal.
The Outlawry Movement of the 1920s -- the movement to outlaw war -- sought to replace war with arbitration, by first banning war and then developing a code of international law and a court with the authority to settle disputes. The first step was taken in 1928 with the Kellogg-Briand Pact, which banned all war. Today 81 nations are party to that treaty, including ours, and many of them comply with it. I'd like to see additional nations, poorer nations that were left out of the treaty, join it (which they can do simply by stating that intention) and then urge the greatest purveyor of violence in the world to comply.
It's easier to comply with the U.N. Charter because of the two big loopholes it opened up, allowing wars that are either defensive or simply U.N. approved. As you know, the United States fights wars against unarmed impoverished nations halfway around the planet and calls them defensive. The U.S. fights wars never approved of by the U.N. and claims that they were. When the United States chose never to end World War II, never to demilitarize, de-tax, or de-mobilize, when the U.N. Charter, NATO, the Geneva Conventions, and the CIA made war normal and supposedly civilized it, we lost the ability to think of abolition, or even to award Nobel prizes to those who worked for it. However, the U.N. Charter made threatening war illegal, and while the Kellogg-Briand Pact is forgotten, the U.N. Charter must be intentionally ignored, as the United States is constantly threatening wars.
There has been an International Criminal Court for 10 years now, but it only prosecutes particular atrocities, and only those committed by Africans. The idea seems to be that African war makers should get civilized and learn to melt the skin off children and radiate neighborhoods and burn down houses the way the enlightened war makers do. The ICC is years away from possibly prosecuting the crime of making war, and then only for nations that have chosen to subject themselves to its authority, only in cases approved of by the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, and only in cases of aggressive war (as if there were some other kind).
Since 1976, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights has made war propaganda illegal. The argument that our First-Amendment right to freedom of the press and of speech overrides this is severely weakened, I think, by the fact that our major media outlets routinely shut out the viewpoints of the vast majority of us, to the point where people holding majority opinions on most political questions can be expected to believe they are part of a small minority. If we had freedom of the press we would have the ability to effectively counter war propaganda. As it is, we largely lack that freedom, and war propaganda is so pervasive we barely recognize it.
The U.S. Constitution not only makes treaties, along with itself, the supreme law of the land. It also requires that Congress pass a declaration of war. We haven't had one since 1941. Congress is to decide on lesser military actions that might not count as war. Congress is to raise armies as needed, but not to fund them for longer than two years. Most wars in history have lasted less than two years -- a fact worth considering as we credit Obama with supposedly ending a war in Afghanistan over the next two (or is it 12?) years. The War Powers Act legislated exceptions to the Constitution, allowing presidents to launch wars or other military actions for short periods of time prior to gaining Congressional authorization. The authorizations to use force that preceded the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq went even further, handing presidents the power to declare wars -- which is why even the one for Iraq has never been repealed despite the announcement of that war's end. Obama's lawyer Harold Koh famously told Congress that attacking Libya was neither war nor hostilities (the language the War Powers Act used to include all military actions).
So-called "special" forces, the CIA, and our brave drones are engaged in military action in dozens of nations, none defensively or U.N. authorized, none in a manner that escapes the Kellogg-Briand Pact, none with a Constitutional declaration, many without any sort of authorization from Congress, most without the knowledge of Congress. Civil cases brought against U.S. military actions are shut down by claims of secret powers, or authorized by secret laws that we are not permitted to read, including secret sections of the PATRIOT Act, which we must comply with without seeing. Obama famously announced that he would review all of Bush's secret laws in the form of memos from the Office of Legal Counsel, but never announced the results of that review, what all the laws were, which were kept, which tossed, what new ones added, or what would prevent the next president from reworking all of that. While Constitutionally, Congress is required to make every law, the Congressional Research Service has been reduced to speculating on what sort of twisted logic the White House could use to make something like its assassination program look legal, were the White House inclined to bother.
While many have continued, even after the 1928 ban on war as mass murder, to think of war as an exception to the ban on murder, U.S. wars are now evolving to more closely resemble most people's conception of what murder looks like. Balanced against that is, of course, the power of racism and xenophobia. War techniques that supposedly reduce the murders of U.S. troops are acceptable to those who don't mind murdering the other 95% of humanity. But drones and night raids and other assassinations don't escape the ban on war, they simply add to their criminality by violating prohibitions on assassination. Nor do they fall under the protection of the barbaric U.S. laws of capital punishment. Drones provide no charges, trials, or due process. Our government has intentionally avoided arresting a 16-year-old boy in Pakistan, only to target and murder him with a drone when he tried to film the damage done by earlier drone strikes. This is not law enforcement, but lawless force.
On May 4th, the Congressional Research Service released a memo that attempted to guess at how drone killings of U.S. citizens or other mere humans geographically far removed from other warfare, not engaged in warfare on behalf of any nation, and residing in independent sovereign nations could be legal. According to the New York Times there is a secret memo from the Office of Legal Counsel that concludes, rather as John Yoo and Jay Bybee concluded that torture is not torture, that murder is not murder. But even Congress is not allowed to see the memo, so the Congressional Research Service was reduced to guessing what could be in it. Yet, the CRS was unable to guess anything clearly coherent. And the incoherence of the various public comments from the White House obscures the fact that the victims are not all suspected of plotting attacks on the United States. Most of the victims are simply innocent people in the wrong place. Others are targeted without so much as knowing their names, based on behavior that supposedly suggests, not that they are attacking the United States, but that they are aligned with those defending a foreign nation against U.S. attack. And that's not counting the children and adults traumatized by the threatening buzz overhead. The U.N. special Rapporteur has called drone strikes extrajudicial killing. The U.S. response was that it was none of his business.
You know whose business it is? It's the big business of some major campaign funders / job creators. Of course, military spending creates fewer jobs than any other kind of spending, but they are jobs easily eliminated. At one Congressional hearing not long ago, the Director of National Intelligence was asked what foreign nation might attack the United States, and he was unable to name one. War that is limited to nations, rather than individuals, is not good for business. Generating hostility abroad is. So is arming foreign groups and dictatorships. The U.S. sells 85% of international weapons sales, much of that also illegal, and all of it immoral. With no cover of law, Obama is arming Syrian terrorists, training Iranian terrorists, engaging in cyber attacks, and imposing what he calls so proudly crippling sanctions, all arguably illegal acts of war.
The UK Attorney General has decided that attacking Iran would be illegal. Top Israeli officials, according to one view of events that occurred two years ago, have refused orders to prepare an attack on Iran, in part because of the illegality. Yet, the United States continues to threaten Iran, to lie about Iran, to propagandize for war, to prepare for war, to arm Israel at our expense, and to protect Israel from any consequences for its crimes. At best, the United States has reached the conclusion that attacking Iran would be wrong if a Republican did it. After years of refusing, U.S. residents now tell pollsters they favor an attack on Iran, and -- not coincidentally -- that they now believe the lies about Iran that the U.S. government had been peddling for years unsuccessfully.
And the law be damned. The United States now allows spying without a warrant, imprisonment without a trial, rendition, torture, and murder. And that's for U.S. citizens, the people we supposedly slaughter the world to protect. Bahrain, that good human-rights-loving friend of the U.S. Navy, recently stripped protesters of citizenship. Apparently Bahrain didn't get the memo on how to strip citizens of all their rights.
Bradley Manning, tortured and held for years without a trial, and at risk as are other whistleblowers now of the hideous thing we call the death penalty, is trying to take a plea bargain, pleading to the crime of blowing the whistle on murder. The government is not eager to take the deal because Obama and gang have bigger fish to fry, hoping to prosecute Wikileaks for journalism. Manning's struggle, and that of every whistleblower and of every person who refuses illegal orders, is our struggle.
So are the legal struggles in courts of law still interested in the law. In Turkey, Israelis are being prosecuted in absentia for the murder of those trying to bring aid to Gaza. In Italy, two dozen CIA agents have been convicted in absentia for kidnapping a man to torture him. In the U.S. we've seen occasional court martials of low-ranking soldiers accused of torture, rape, murder, or -- oddly enough -- mistreatment of corpses they've murdered in an acceptable manner.
The last time Barack Obama was elected president, his transition team asked for proposals to be voted on through their website. The top vote getter was this:
“Will you appoint a Special Prosecutor – ideally Patrick Fitzgerald – to independently investigate the gravest crimes of the Bush Administration, including torture and warrantless wiretapping?”
Obama refused to answer the question. The dean of the University of California at Berkeley Law School Christopher Edley, Jr., said that he'd been party to very high level discussions and Obama's transition team had decided that the CIA, NSA, and military would revolt, and that Republicans would retaliate by blocking every piece of legislation. Wow, wouldn't that have been different? Now the question isn't even asked, and John Conyer's threat to impeach a president who attacked Iran is universally understood not to apply to Democrats.
We should remember at a time like this that when the slightly less funded of two corporate funded candidates wins, we don't. Obama publicly and illegally instructed the Attorney General not to prosecute the CIA for torture. We accepted that. Obama told environmental groups not to talk about climate change. Most of them obeyed. Obama told unions not to say "single payer" and they didn't. Now we're being told we must not demand military spending cuts or the prosecution of war crimes or the immediate withdrawal of forces abroad.
I propose that we pledge instead to protest and vote against and consider the impeachment of (I've listed plenty of grounds for that already) anyone in Congress or the White House who gives an inch on protecting Social Security and Medicare, who votes for current levels of military spending or anything above 75% of current levels, or who fails to oppose wars or to act against climate change. No more honey moons. No more veal pens in which the public servants tell the public organizations how to serve them. And no more promises to vote for you no matter what you do to us or to our brothers and sisters around the world. We need to use noviolent action not only to end war but also to provide an alternative path for our young people who might otherwise sign up to kill and die. Nonviolence requires more bravery, more commitment, more morality, and is far more satisfying than joining the war machine. The Declaration of Independence says we have the right to institute new government. It's getting to be about that time.
By Linn Washington, Jr.
Two police lieutenants face a similar criminal charge but one gets a slap on the wrist while the other is fired.
One of these two police supervisors is an officer with a distinguished record of exposing corruption and misconduct.
Guess which of those two veteran police officers received the harsher punishment?
By David Rose
The Mail on Sunday today reveals shocking new evidence of the full horrific impact of US drone attacks in Pakistan.
A damning dossier assembled from exhaustive research into the strikes’ targets sets out in heartbreaking detail the deaths of teachers, students and Pakistani policemen. It also describes how bereaved relatives are forced to gather their loved ones’ dismembered body parts in the aftermath of strikes.
By Linn Washington, Jr.
Much is rightly made of the ‘maverick’ character of former Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Arlen Specter in obituaries and other media coverage since his recent death.
That maverick streak certainly animated Specter’s December 2010 Farewell Speech from the Senate where he criticized the lack of civility currently rampant in that body plus assailed both political parties for perpetuating legislative gridlock and abuses of Senate rules.
By Dave Lindorff
Six children were attacked in Afghanistan and Pakistan this past week. Three of them, teenaged girls on a school bus in Peshawar, in the tribal region of western Pakistan, were shot and gravely wounded by two Taliban gunmen who were after Malala Yousufzai, a 14-year-old girl who has been bravely demanding the right of girls to an education. After taking a bullet to the head, and facing further death threats, she has been moved to a specialty hospital in Britain. Her two wounded classmates are being treated in Pakistan.
English version below.
Con la condanna degli agenti della Cia coinvolti nell'illegale sequestro dell'imam Abu Omar il sistema giudiziario italiano ha dimostrato che davvero la legge può essere “uguale per tutti”. Ora, quasi diecimila cittadini americani chiedono all'Italia di andare oltre.
di David Swanson*, traduzione di Patrick Boylan
Quasi diecimila americani hanno già inviato i loro ringraziamenti all'Ambasciata italiana a Washington in seguito alle condanne definitive inflitte in Italia dalla Cassazione, lo scorso 19 settembre, ai 23 agenti della Cia rei di aver rapito l'ex imam di Milano il 17 febbraio, 2003, e di averlo mandato in Egitto per essere interrogato sotto tortura. Noi di RootsAction.org, movimento di cittadinanza tra i più attivi negli USA, abbiamo promosso una raccolta di ringraziamenti per dire al governo italiano che esiste un'America felice della sentenza della Cassazione e che ora vuole l'estradizione in Italia dei 23 condannati che altrimenti continuerebbero a vivere liberi e impuniti negli Stati Uniti.
New Book for Ages 6 to 10: Tube World
Parents: Have your kids been tired in the morning? Have you found wet bathing suits in their beds? Do they know things about far-away places that you didn’t teach them and they didn’t learn in school? Do children visiting your town from halfway around the world always seem to be friends with your kids, and to only be around during certain hours of the day? You won’t believe the explanation, but your kids might grin and wink at each other if you read it to them.
Kids: Did you know the center of the Earth was hollow? Do you know the words that can take you there, if you’re under the covers in your swimming suit and prepared for the trip? Can you imagine traveling anywhere in the world where there’s a swimming pool — and being home again in time for breakfast? If you haven’t been to Tube World yet, this book will tell you the secrets you need to know. And it will tell you about some children who discovered Tube World and used it to make the whole world a better place.
The paperback has been published in two versions, one with slightly better color, slightly better paper, and a dramatically higher price.
Buy the standard paperback from Amazon,
(If you order from Amazon it will ship right away even if Amazon says it won't ship for weeks; it is print-on-demand.)
Buy the premium paperback from Amazon,
Your local independent bookstore can order the book through Ingram.
Anyone can order the book in bulk at the lowest possible price right here.
Buy PDF, Audio, EPUB, or Kindle for $8 right here:
Advance Praise for Tube World:
“This book will make you laugh till water comes out your ears!”--Wesley
“This story is super flibba garibbidy schmibbadie libbidie awesome, mostly!”--Travis
“The best part is we saved 2,000 islands and pretty much the whole world in our swimming suits!”--Hallie
About Shane Burke:
Shane Burke lives in Denver Colorado and has been drawing and painting since he could hold a pencil. He took private art lessons when he was young and began winning awards and contests by the age of seven. His first big commission came at age nine when he created artwork for a billboard near his home town of Tracy California. His greatest influences came from his grandfather and elementary school teachers. He loved watching his grandfather paint landscapes and wanted to be just like him. Shane is a creative day dreamer and at complete peace when putting ink to paper. You can see more of Shane's work at www.beezink.com
Shooting to Kill Immigrants on the Mexican Border: WTF? A Border Agent Fired First at Immigrant Smugglers?
By Dave Lindorff
Sometimes it takes a small tragedy to call attention to expose a much bigger one.
The small tragedy happened when Nicholas Ivey, a US Border Patrol agent, was shot dead on a dark night in rough terrain along the border with Mexico in Arizona, a state that has been obsessing about illegal border crossers coming into the US from Mexico seeking jobs.
A new movie has just been released based on Vincent Bugliosi's book "The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder." Bugliosi, of course, prosecuted Charles Manson and authored best sellers about Manson's guilt, O.J. Simpson's guilt, and Lee Harvey Oswald's guilt. Whether we all agree with all of those conclusions, it is worth noting that each book was reviewed and considered by the biggest U.S. newspapers and television networks. When Bugliosi wrote a book about George W. Bush's guilt, something we're almost all united on, the corporate media shut it out. Will the same fate greet this movie?
I hope not. In the book, and in this new movie, Bugliosi makes a devastating, well documented case that President George W. Bush is guilty of the murder of U.S. soldiers as a result of the lies he told to justify the invasion of Iraq, and can be prosecuted by any state attorney general in the country, or by any county prosecutor from a jurisdiction where a U.S. soldier lived prior to being killed in Iraq.
In the movie, we watch Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz remark that if presidents had to live in fear of their actions being scrutinized for criminality that would have a huge impact on their behavior. Dershowitz means this as somehow a negative thing. Bugliosi points out that that is exactly the point: we ought to deter criminal behavior in presidents.
Bugliosi's argument for prosecution is simple. Bush wanted a war with Iraq. He had to show that a preemptive invasion of Iraq was justified. To do this Iraq had to be an imminent threat to the United States. There were two major problems. Bush couldn't prove any connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11. More importantly, Bush's own 2002 classified intelligence estimate found that Saddam was not an imminent threat to the United States. Bush simply reversed the findings of the National Intelligence Estimate of 2002, and sent men and women off to fight a fraudulent and unnecessary war, knowing full well that some of them would come home in boxes.
The facts are not in dispute. Bush chose to send US troops into Iraq. He did not do so in self-defense or as a last resort or under an international mandate, but rather went out of his way to concoct false motives for war and to rush its launching. By sending troops into war, Bush was knowingly and needlessly but certainly condemning some of them to death. The Iraqis who killed those soldiers in predictable and legally justifiable defense of their country fall into the legal category of "third-party innocent agent." This does not mean they are innocent, but rather that their actions do nothing to lessen the guilt of George W. Bush as murderer of those soldiers. Bugliosi calls this the "vicarious liability rule of conspiracy."
"In other words, if Bush personally killed an American soldier, he would be guilty of murder. Under the law, he cannot immunize himself from his criminal responsibility by causing a third party to do the killing. He's still responsible. George Bush cannot sit safely in his Oval Office in Washington, D.C., while young American soldiers fighting his war are being blown to pieces by roadside bombs in Iraq, and wash his hands of all culpability. It's not quite that easy. He could only do this if he did not take this nation into war under false pretenses. If he did, which the evidence overwhelmingly shows, he is criminally responsible for the thousands of American deaths in Iraq."
In addition, Bugliosi argues, Bush could be found guilty of murder under the rule of "aiding and abetting," because he instigated the killing of American soldiers by ordering the invasion of Iraq.
Did Bush have "malice aforethought"? Yes, according to Bugliosi. We convict people of murder for driving 100 mph through a school zone and hitting a child, or for blowing up a building while unaware that someone is inside. These are cases where the murderer does not know he is committing murder but where he is reckless enough to take an unreasonable risk of doing so. In Bush's case, he absolutely knew that invading Iraq would involve U.S. casualties, and yet he ordered the invasion, thereby acting with the intent that American soldiers be killed.
Bugliosi strengthens this argument by pointing out that we often convict people of murder for accidental killings that occur in the act of committing other felonies:
"A robber, for instance, was convicted of first degree murder under the felony-murder rule where, as he was leaving the store in which he had robbed the owner, he told the owner not to say a word or he'd be harmed, and fired into the ceiling to scare the owner. The shot, after two or three ricochets, pierced the head of the owner, killing him. In fact, the felony-murder rule applies even where the defendant is not the killer! There have been cases where the proprietor of the store fired at a robber, missed him and hit and killed a customer. And the robber was convicted of first degree murder of the customer."
Bugliosi missed an opportunity here to further strengthen his case by noting that in the act of ordering the invasion of Iraq, Bush was committing a number of felonies. When Bush submitted his March 18, 2003, letter and report to the United States Congress providing reasons for attacking Iraq, he violated the federal anti-conspiracy statute, 18 U.S.C. - 371, which makes it a felony "to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose..."; and The False Statements Accountability Act of 1996, 18 U.S.C. - 1001, which makes it a felony to issue knowingly and willfully false statements to the United States Congress. Bush also committed a felony by misappropriating funds to secretly begin the invasion prior to this date.
Bugliosi notes that there is no statute of limitations for murder. Bush could be prosecuted by any future federal prosecutor who had the nerve to do so and could do so while keeping his or her job. But Bugliosi writes that a state attorney general or any district attorney in any city or county could bring a murder charge against Bush for any soldiers from that state or county who lost their lives in Iraq. And not just Bush, but Cheney, Rice, et alia. Bugliosi provides some truly talented proposals for questioning Bush in court and adds:
"I would be more than happy, if requested, to consult with any prosecutor who decides to prosecute Bush in preparation of additional cross-examination questions for him to face on the witness stand. I believe the cross-examination would be such that they'd have to carry the arrogant son of privilege off the stand on a stretcher."
I know the same offer to assist stands from former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega, author of "United States versus George W. Bush et al.," who also appears in the film.
Bugliosi believes he's found the one true way to bring Bush to justice. I think numerous avenues lie open, and that what is lacking is the will. But the statutes of limitations are running out on many crimes, narrowing the field for prosecution. Only those torture cases that resulted in death, for example, can now be prosecuted without running up against the statutes of limitations.
The root of warfare, I believe, is the valuing of U.S. lives over the lives of others. So it is unfortunate that Bugliosi's approach encourages that, even if unintentionally. Bugliosi does not see any legal case to try Bush for the murders of Iraqis, but he also openly admits that he cares more about the deaths of Americans. Bugliosi repeatedly cites the figure 100,000, or "over 100,000" as the number of Iraqi deaths, but never indicates where he came up with that number or how he ignores the fact that every serious study has placed the count above a million. Even if Bugliosi sees no way to prosecute Bush for the murder of Iraqis, he does not seem to have considered the possibility that U.S. troops are guilty of those murders. The U.S. troops in this story (and, sadly, it is thus far just a story, not a prosecution) play exclusively the role of victim. The legal and moral reality assigns them multiple roles.
I don't think it hurts Bugliosi's legal case, but I doubt that most Congress members believed Bush's lies about Iraq. At the very least, they were as reckless as he was. And I think there is a fundamental problem with Bugliosi's belief that there was something unique about Bush lying us into a war in Iraq. It has been firmly established that the U.S. invaded Mexico, that there was no evidence to tie Spain to the sinking of the Maine, that the troops and weapons on the Lusitania were public knowledge, that FDR told numerous lies about Japan and Germany, that the Gulf of Tonkin incident never happened, that the Taliban was willing to hand bin Laden over to a third nation to be tried, etc. The belief that Iraq was a first led me to correct the record with a book called War Is A Lie.
Because I know war lies are not unusual, I may value deterrence more highly. I also do not thirst, as Bugliosi does, for anger and vengeance against "evil monsters." But Bugliosi, too, argues for deterrence as a central motivation, so it's interesting to see what the lack of deterrence has already wrought. President Obama continued Bush's wars, including the one in Iraq. President Obama has an open policy of murder including weekly Tuesday reviews of the names of victims. The evidence is abundant. Bugliosi promises in the movie that he would treat a Democrat exactly the same way he treats Bush. I sure hope so.
Here's a radio interview I did with Bugliosi.
Here's a preview of the movie:
By Clint Henderson
The internet is full of videos exposing police officers' use of excessive physical force when trying to apprehend or detain "potential criminals". Every year in fact there seems to be an increase in YouTube video uploads, video views, and news stories depicting this type of injustice.