ID politics, torture and Kavanaugh
In recent US politics, the rule is that identity politics trumps all other critical issues. The Kavanaugh trial just ended is another example: He should be denied membership on the Supremes for many reasons but one unremarked on by the Dems is that he is an enabler of torture by the US government. But his opponents, knowing what has traction in our political culture, have taken that issue off the table and made his sexual history the issue that hides what is arguablity more relevant to his role on the Supremes..-MM
To this point, JoAnn Wypijewski writes in Counterpunch:
"For anyone who still cares about principle, the Kavanaugh case is not a matter of belief, nor will it come down to proving or disproving Ford’s allegations. The Senate confirmation process is not a court of law. It is, however—in theory if not in fact—an arena for considering the problems and promise of justice, for taking the measure of a man, in this case, and his capacity to think deeply, to search bravely, to act humanely, beyond the limit of mere ambition. Ford’s intervention puts the hard stuff of humanity at the center of that arena, something that has been absent, most strikingly in the Senate’s challenge to Kavanaugh’s greatest ethical failure: his response to torture. For reasons probably of racism (and partly the nature of sex scandal) torture has never raised the temperature of politics or the public to the same fever as sexual accusation. Ford’s entrance and her story, which is so particularly human, so simple yet complex, so weighty with moral dimension, call the profound questions on that subject. (Whether they will have that effect on the Senate is doubtful.)
What Brett Kavanaugh Really Learned in High School: Make the Rules, Break the Rules and Prosper
Brett Kavanaugh cannot prove a negative, his supporters say, and should not be judged on something he may or may not have done when…
For David McReynolds
Thinking about my old friend and comrade David McReynolds dead at 88/9 after a fall in his LES apartment.
We first met in the early 60s when I worked on the old National Guardian and he stood out to me by insisting most radicals, despite their frequently sectarian, splintering and isolating tactics, were still essentially members of a broader Left community.
We argued and agreed in most every year since and I looked forward to his political visits to Portland after retiring and leaving the East. There weren't many recently, but we kept up lively exchanges on email.
I mourn David as a model American radical and enthusiastically endorse his advice to us old timers:
It is about realizing we — those of us in our 80s — will be here for a while, and need to treat ourselves with a bit of discipline. We are needed, not to complain but to resist, to use the wisdom we have gained, often at a steep price, to stand for sanity in our world, and for a sense of compassion in our relationships.”
The NYT times and lesser media are shamelessly cheerleading her recent speech which is only an old fashioned defense of US imperialism and an effort to get neocon support by framing Trump as an danger to the "World Order". In fact, the only difference between them is that Hillary relies on the military to defend the empire while Trump seems to prefer using economic muscle. -MM
In the name of Allah, the …beneficent, the merciful…
No, no matter what I did, it was never enough for some, but for others, they knew I was the son of Gamal Abdel Nasser, the only true Arab and Muslim leader we’ve had since Salah-al-Deen, when he claimed the Suez Canal for his people, as I claimed Libya, for my people, it was his footsteps I tried to follow, to keep my people free from colonial domination – from thieves who would steal from us.
Now, I am under attack by the biggest force in military history, my little African son, Obama wants to kill me, to take away the freedom of our country, to take away our free housing, our free medicine, our free education, our free food, and replace it with American style thievery, called “capitalism” ,but all of us in the Third World know what that means, it means corporations run the countries, run the world, and the people suffer.
So, there is no alternative for me, I must make my stand, and if Allah wishes, I shall die by following His path, the path that has made our country rich with farmland, with food and health, and even allowed us to help our African and Arab brothers and sisters.
I do not wish to die, but if it comes to that, to save this land, my people, all the thousands who are all my children, then so be it.
Let this testament be my voice to the world, that I stood up to crusader attacks of NATO, stood up to cruelty, stoop up to betrayal, stood up to the West and its colonialist ambitions, and that I stood with my African brothers, my true Arab and Muslim brothers, as a beacon of light.
When others were building castles, I lived in a modest house, and in a tent. I never forgot my youth in Sirte, I did not spend our national treasury foolishly, and like Salah-al-Deen, our great Muslim leader, who rescued Jerusalem for Islam, I took little for myself…
In the West, some have called me “mad”, “crazy”, but they know the truth yet continue to lie, they know that our land is independent and free, not in the colonial grip, that my vision, my path, is, and has been clear and for my people and that I will fight to my last breath to keep us free, may Allah almighty help us to remain faithful and free.
May Allah 4give and grant you with Jannatul firdaus. Ameeen
December 11, 2015
The whole November 24 incident looks increasingly suspicious, and one doesn’t have to be a paranoid Russian to think the takedown might have been an ambush.
Why did Turkey shoot down that Russian plane? It was certainly not because the SU-24 posed any threat. The plane is old and slow, and the Russians were careful not to arm it with anti-aircraft missiles. And it wasn’t because the Turks are quick on the trigger, either. Three years ago, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan emphatically declared that a “short-term violation of airspace can never be a pretext for an attack.” There are even some doubts about whether the Russian plane ever crossed into Turkey’s airspace at all.
Indeed, the whole November 24 incident looks increasingly suspicious, and one doesn’t have to be a paranoid Russian to think the takedown might have been an ambush. As retired Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney, former U.S. Air Force chief of staff, told Fox News, “This airplane was not making any maneuvers to attack the [Turkish] territory.” He called the Turkish action “overly aggressive” and concluded that the incident “had to be preplanned.”
It certainly puzzled the Israeli military, not known for taking a casual approach to military intrusions. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon told the press on November 29 that a Russian warplane had violated the Israeli border over the Golan Heights. “Russian planes do not intend to attack us, which is why we must not automatically react and shoot them down when an error occurs.”
So why was the plane downed?
Perhaps because, for the first time in four years, some major players are tentatively inching toward a settlement of the catastrophic Syrian civil war, and powerful forces are maneuvering to torpedo that process. If the Russians hadn’t kept their cool, several nuclear-armed powers could well have found themselves in a scary faceoff, and any thoughts of ending the war would have gone a-glimmering.
A Short Score Card
There are multiple actors on the Syrian stage — and a bewildering number of crosscurrents and competing agendas that, paradoxically, make it both easier and harder to find common ground. Easier, because there is no unified position among the antagonists; harder, because trying to herd heavily armed cats is a tricky business.
A short score card on the players:
The Russians and the Iranians are supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and fighting a host of extremist organizations ranging from al-Qaeda to the Islamic State, or ISIS. But each country has a different view of what a post-civil war Syria might look like. The Russians want a centralized and secular state with a big army. The Iranians don’t think much of “secular,” and they favor militias, not armies.
Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and most the other Gulf monarchies are trying to overthrow the Assad regime, and are the major supporters of the groups Russia, Iran, and Lebanon’s Hezbollah are fighting. But while Turkey and Qatar want to replace Assad with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, Saudi Arabia might just hate the Brotherhood more than it does Assad. And while the monarchies are not overly concerned with the Kurds, Turkey is bombing them, and they’re a major reason why Ankara is so deeply enmeshed in Syria.
The U.S., France, and the United Kingdom are also trying to overthrow Assad, but are currently focused on fighting ISIS using the Kurds as their major allies — specifically the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Party, an offshoot of the Turkish Kurdish Workers Party that the U.S. officially designates as “terrorist.” These are the same Kurds that the Turks are bombing and who have a friendly alliance with the Russians.
Indeed, Turkey may discover that one of the price tags for shooting down that SU-24 is the sudden appearance of new Russian weapons for the Kurds, some of which will be aimed at the Turks.
A Suspension of Rational Thought
The Syrian war requires a certain suspension of rational thought.
For instance, the Americans are unhappy with the Russians for bombing the anti-Assad Army of Conquest, a rebel alliance dominated by the Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s franchise in Syria. That would be the same al-Qaeda that brought down the World Trade Center towers and that the U.S. is currently bombing in Yemen, Somalia, and Afghanistan.
Suspension of rational thought is not limited to Syria.
A number of Arab countries initially joined the U.S. air war against the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, because both organizations are pledged to overthrow the Gulf monarchies. But Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar have now dropped out to concentrate their air power on bombing the Houthis in Yemen.
The Houthis, however, are by far the most effective force fighting ISIS and al-Qaeda in Yemen. Both extremist organizations have made major gains in the last few weeks because the Houthis are too busy defending themselves to take them on.
Moves Toward a Settlement
In spite of all this political derangement, however, there are several developments that are pushing the sides toward some kind of peaceful settlement that doesn’t involve regime change in Syria. That is exactly what the Turks and the Gulf monarchs are worried about, and a major reason why Ankara shot down that Russian plane.
The first of these developments has been building throughout the summer: a growing flood of Syrians fleeing the war. There are already almost 2 million in Turkey, over a million each in Jordan and Lebanon, and as many as 900,000 in Europe. Out of 23 million Syrians, some 11 million have been displaced by the war, and the Europeans are worried that many of those 11 million people will end up camping out on the banks of the Seine and the Ruhr. If the war continues into next year, that’s an entirely plausible prediction.
Hence, the Europeans have quietly shelved their demand that Assad resign as a prerequisite for a ceasefire and are leaning on the Americans to follow suit. The issue is hardly resolved, but there seems to be general agreement that Assad will at least be part of a transition government. At this point, the Russians and Iranians are insisting on an election in which Assad would be a candidate because both are wary of anything that looks like “regime change.” The role Assad might play will be a sticking point, but probably not an insurmountable one.
Turkey and Saudi Arabia are adamant that Assad must go, but neither of them is in the driver’s seat these days. While NATO supported Turkey in the Russian plane incident, according to some of the Turkish press, many of its leading officials consider Erdogan a loose cannon. And Saudi Arabia — whose economy has been hard hit by the worldwide fall in oil prices — is preoccupied by its Yemen war, which is turning into a very expensive quagmire.
The second development is the Russian intervention, which appears to have changed things on the ground, at least in the north, where Assad’s forces were being hard pressed by the Army of Conquest. New weapons and airpower have dented a rebel offensive and resulted in some gains in the government’s battle for Syria’s largest city, Aleppo.
The appearance of the Russians essentially killed Turkey’s efforts to create a “no fly zone” on its border with Syria, a proposal that the U.S. has never been enthusiastic about. Washington’s major allies, the Kurds, are strongly opposed to a no fly zone because they see it as part of Ankara’s efforts to keep the Kurds from forming an autonomous region in Syria.
The Bayir-Bucak area and the city of Jarabulus are also the exit point for Turkey’s lucrative oil smuggling operation, apparently overseen by one of Erdogan’s sons, Bilal. The Russians have embarrassed the Turks by publishing satellite photos showing miles of tanker trucks picking up oil from ISIS-controlled wells and shipping it through Turkey’s southern border with Syria.
“The oil controlled by the Islamic State militants enters Turkish territory on an industrial scale,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said November 30. “We have every reason to believe that the decision to down our plane was guided by a desire to ensure the security of this oil’s delivery routes to ports.”
Erdogan and NATO
Erdogan didn’t get quite the response he wanted from NATO following the shooting down of the SU-24. While the military alliance backed Turkey’s defense of its “sovereignty,” NATO then called for a peaceful resolution and de-escalation of the whole matter.
At a time when Europe needs a solution to the refugee crisis — and wants to focus its firepower on the organization that killed 130 people in Paris — NATO cannot be happy that the Turks are dragging them into a confrontation with the Russians, making the whole situation a lot more dangerous than it was before the November 24 incident.
The Russians have now deployed their more modern SU-34 bombers and armed them with air-to-air missiles. The bombers will now also be escorted by SU-35 fighters. The Russians have also fielded S-300 and S-400 anti-aircraft systems, the latter with a range of 250 miles. The Russians say they’re not looking for trouble, but they’re loaded for bear should it happen.
Would a dustup between Turkish and Russian planes bring NATO — and four nuclear armed nations — into a confrontation? That possibility ought to keep people up at night.
Coming to the Table
Sometime around the New Year, the countries involved in the Syrian civil war will come together in Geneva. A number of those will do their level best to derail the talks, but one hopes there are enough sane — and desperate — parties on hand to map out a political solution.
It won’t be easy, and who gets to sit at the table has yet to be decided. The Turks will object to the Kurds; the Russians, Iranians, and Kurds will object to the Army of Conquest; and the Saudis will object to Assad. In the end it could all come apart. It’s not hard to torpedo a peace plan in the Middle East.
But if the problems are great, failure will be catastrophic. That may be the glue that keeps the parties together long enough to hammer out a ceasefire, an arms embargo, a new constitution, and internationally supervised elections.
Conn Hallinan can be read at dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com
We have had three beautiful actions in DC against the TPP. Here is a short video on last night, the second action, when we took over the lobby of Morgan Stanley, blocked multiple streets including the nation's lobby street, K St, shut down major intersections, protested at Monsanto, the Koch Brothers and ended at the Reagan International Trade Center. We had multiple light displays -- light projections onto buildings, panels with messages and people carrying lanterns that looked like toilet paper with a Flush The TPP message. The Capitol City definitely knows there is opposition to the TPP.
By Robert Scheer Oct 24, 2015
The Republicans on that committee investigating Hillary Clinton are idiots for focusing on decisions about consulate security that are technical, clearly below her pay grade and have nothing to do with the bipartisan zeal for creating military mayhem throughout the Middle East.
The real issue, and one on which they are far more culpable than the Obama regime, is the insanity of backing Islamic fanatics—the very ones who killed our ambassador—in the overthrow of secular dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
The ugly reality of the Benghazi investigation is that the Republicans hawks investigating Clinton are fully complicit with the former secretary of state for the murderous pandemonium in Libya that led to the death of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and to the failed state that followed. It is simply immoral to now focus on whether Stevens was properly protected instead of on the nutty bipartisan arrogance of a U.S.-backed policy of regime change that left Libya in chaos, with much of its population in desperate flight from a country now ruled by three competing bands of Islamic fanatics.
Why is the possibly mismanaged security of a U.S. diplomat of more compelling interest than the hundreds of thousands of innocent Libyan civilians sacrificed by a Democratic president in an attempt to placate his militaristic critics from both parties by entering into yet another disruptive imperial adventure? What Hillary Clinton’s emails do verify is that she was one of those hawks pushing President Barack Obama to the militarist side.
“We came, we saw, he died,” Clinton boasted with a chuckle over the brutal death of a defanged dictator, ignoring the fact that the secular Gadhafi, long past his boisterous prime, was hardly a serious threat to the stability of the region. Gadhafi had been in a war with precisely the fanatics that, as she testified, Clinton was counting on to go to the aid of our ambassador, but they rewarded our support for their rebellion by meting out the same brutality they had exercised on Gadhafi himself. So much for the “Smart Power” mantra that Clinton and her ideological compatriot, U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power, have been proclaiming as the harbinger of a new Clinton Doctrine.
That Clinton had strenuously supported the bombing that destabilized Libya beyond recognition as a nation was confirmed in an email to her from her confidant Sidney Blumenthal, who on Aug. 22, 2011, proclaimed the start of the bombing as “a historic moment” and added “you will be credited for realizing it.” Blumenthal went on to predict that “[w]hen Gaddafi himself is finally removed, you should of course make a public statement before the cameras wherever you are, even in the driveway of your vacation home. … You must go on camera. You must establish yourself in the historical record at this moment. … The most important phrase is: ‘successful strategy.’ ”
That email was forwarded by Clinton to Jake Sullivan, her top assistant in the State Department, with an approving, cynical note: “Sid makes a good case for what I should say, but it’s premised on being said after Q goes, which will make it more dramatic. That’s my hesitancy, since I’m not sure how many chances I’ll get.”
Hillary and Bill Clinton cultivate advisers like Blumenthal and Sullivan for their loyalty beyond principle, and Sullivan was on point in speaking of politically exploiting the then-impending end of Gadhafi: “... it might make sense for you to do an op-ed to run right after he falls, making this point. …You can reinforce the op-ed in all your appearances, but it makes sense to lay down something definitive, almost like the Clinton Doctrine.”
The only value in disclosure of the secretary of state’s private emails is to confirm that she was considerably more hawkish than President Obama, and the only question about her zeal is whether it was driven by political cynicism or ideological hubris.
That is a distinction without a difference to the innocent victims of what Clinton trumpets as “Smart Power,” but it may be useful in assessing whether as president she would be even more reckless than any Republican opponent. Quite a limited choice, but one we are likely to be stuck with, given the dropping of Democratic alternatives in the wake of what much of the media has proclaimed a Clinton triumph over her Republican congressional critics.
At one point, it looked as if Rand Paul might provide a libertarian Republican critique of the rampant militarism that grips both parties, but that no longer seems to be in the cards. So it is up to Bernie Sanders to tell us, loud and clear, whether the independent-turned-Democrat offers an alternative to bipartisan warmongering.
Despite Bernie Sanders' pledge not to run a negative campaign (one he's kept so far to the frustration of many supporters) one of Hillary Clinton's major super PAC's Correct the Record has drawn first blood, sending out mailers connecting Sanders to more left-wing politicians like Jeremy Corbyn, the United Kingdom's new Labour Party leader and the late Hugo Chavez, the socialist leader of Venezuela from 1999 to 2013. The Huffington Post reports:
Clinton's camp has long said it has no plans to attack Sanders. But the super PAC, called Correct the Record, departed from its defense of Clinton's record as a former secretary of state in an email Monday that compares Sanders with Corbyn. Correct the Record, led by Clinton ally David Brock, also has sent trackers after Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley.
The email, which was sent to a Huffington Post reporter in response to a question about Sanders' recent supportfor Corbyn's victory in the UK Labour leadership race, is the first time a super PAC coordinating with Clinton has gone negative. This comes after recent polls show Sanders surging past Clinton by 10 points in Iowa and 20 points in New Hampshire.
"It is disappointing that Secretary Clinton's super PAC is spreading disinformation about Bernie," Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs told the Huffington Post via email. "This is exactly the kind of politics that Bernie is trying to change. To equate bringing home heating oil to low-income Vermonters with support for the Chavez government is dishonest."
Correct the Record is run by David Brock, the chairman of Media Matters for America, a nominally liberal media watchdog 501(c)3. Correct the Record shares office space with Media Matters which has, of late, done virtually no defending of Bernie Sanders while it runs daily counter-spin for Clinton. The last story Media Matters tweeted about the Vermont senator was July 26.
Bree Newsome, a black woman, took down the flag yesterday. It was raised again less than an hour later. Michael Moore has offered to pay her bail and her legal expenses. She and her assistant, a white man named Jimmy Tyson, were both arrested.
The mandate was to persuade a fraction of Democrats — 30 House members and 15 senators, give or take — to buck the progressive wing of the party and side with Obama.
Obama’s Cabinet was also deployed in force. Secretary of State John Kerry told Democrats that the country needed the deal to compete in the global economy. Labor Secretary Tom Perez sought to convince wary Democrats that it wouldn’t weaken labor protections. Others, including Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, White House economic adviser Jeffrey Zients, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and White House chief of staff Denis McDonough, regularly lobbied Democrats.
Pelosi, while wary, was accommodating throughout most of the process. She allowed Froman and a range of senior administration officials to hold upward of a dozen meetings with House Democrats to talk about different aspects of the trade deal — from food safety with Vilsack, to Vietnam trade relations with State and Pentagon officials, to Mexican labor standards with Perez.
Serious threats emerged along the way. Perhaps the most ominous one was a proposal drafted by Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). They wanted to prevent countries in the TPP from artificially manipulating their currencies to boost their exports. Japan was staunchly opposed to the idea, and it risked upsetting the delicate international trade talks.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew personally warned senators that the president would veto the trade bill if it were adopted, and Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen, weighed in against it, too.
The administration circulated a 16-page document attacking the plan, and organized a briefing with 50 senior-level Senate aides to seek its dismissal. Staff for Portman, along with Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), pressed their case in a spirited discussion.
It was unclear until the vote whether the plan would pass. That day, Ryan and Hatch urged several Republicans to switch their votes. They and the administration prevailed on a 48-51 vote.
“It was a scare,” said one Republican involved in the efforts to kill it.
To get the trade package over the finish line, though, the administration couldn’t just play defense. Senior-level Cabinet officials dropped into the districts of wary Democrats — in Texas, California and Washington state — to try to sell their constituents on the virtue of the trade pact. Froman, for instance, traveled to Dallas to talk trade alongside Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, who ended up voting for the plan.
In the end, Obama himself sealed the deal. He spent an inordinate amount of time lobbying key Democrats, including Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Patty Murray of Washington. When Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) was threatening to vote against a key procedural motion in May, he placed an emergency call to the Senate cloakroom to allay her concerns on a related issue: the expiration of the Export-Import Bank [reportedly, The bank, a requirement of Boeing sales, did expire but Cantwell went along anyway.-mm]
The U.S. military facility on the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean represents a horrific example of the human costs of war and imperialism.
"... the administrations of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson convinced the British government to detach the Chagos Archipelago from colonial Mauritius and create a new colony, which they called the British Indian Ocean Territory. Its sole purpose would be to house U.S. military facilities."
The US 'caused immeasurable losses and pain to our people and country,' said Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung
Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung speaks at a military parade as part of the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon in Ho Chi Minh City , Vietnam, April 30, 2015.
In a ceremony on Thursday to mark the 40th anniversary of the end of what the Vietnamese call the War of American Aggression, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung sharply denounced the "barbarous crimes" committed by the United States.
"They [the U.S.] committed countless barbarous crimes, caused immeasurable losses and pain to our people and country," Dung said to the crowd of state leaders, war veterans, and civilians gathered in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon.
"Our homeland had to undergo extremely serious challenges," he added.
At least three million Vietnamese people were killed in the war, which also took the lives of 58,000 U.S. military service members.
The chemical weapon known as Agent Orange, deployed heavily by the U.S. military forces, continues to cause birth defects and take life in Vietnam. According to the Vietnam Association of Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin, approximately three million Vietnamese people have faced deadly sickness, disability, and disease as a result.
The U.S. has never compensated Vietnamese people for the destruction caused by Agent Orange or the war at large.
"I was watching The Speech by Binyamin Netanyahu before the Congress of the United States.
Row upon row of men in suits (and the occasional woman), jumping up and down, up and down,
applauding wildly, shouting approval. It was the shouting that did it. Where had I heard that before?
And then it came back to me. It was another parliament in the mid-1930s. The Leader was speaking.
Rows upon rows of Reichstag members were listening raptly. Every few minutes they jumped up and
shouted their approval.
A day of bloodshed on Kiev's main square, nearly a year ago, marked the end of a winter of protest against the government of president Viktor Yanukovych, who soon afterwards fled the country. More than 50 protesters and three policemen died. But how did the shooting begin? Protest organisers have always denied any involvement - but one man told the BBC a different story.
Read it at http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-31359021
When House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) decided to invite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a Joint Session of Congress on Iran in early March, he probably thought it'd go a lot like it did in 2011. That year, Netanyahu received 29 standing ovations – more than President Obama got during his State of the Union that year.
But Obama turned the tables on Netanyahu, refusing to meet with him just two weeks before the Israeli elections. He also announced that his vice president, Joe Biden, would not attend the address.
Shortly after Obama's objection, Democratic Members of Congress started to announce that they wouldn't attend the speech, either. The first was Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), who wrote in a January 29th Huffington Post column that he will “not participate in a calculated slight from the speaker and the House leadership to attack necessary diplomacy.”
AlterNet has compiled a list of the 21 House Democrats and three Senate Democratic Caucus members who are refusing to attend the speech so far:
Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ)
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC)
Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA)
Rep. John Lewis (D-GA)
Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY)
Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME)
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN)
Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX)
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX)
SENATE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS
Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT)
The U.S. news media has failed the American people often in recent years by not challenging U.S. government falsehoods,
as with Iraq’s WMD. But the most dangerous violation of journalistic principles has occurred in the Ukraine crisis,
which has the potential of a nuclear war.
“...emblematic of Democratic Party Third Way politics that rose in the 1990s. In this brand of politics, you don’t stake out populist positions on issues then use them to motivate voters of the traditional progressive coalition, who are large in number but tend to have lower voter turnout rates (young people, racial minorities, the working class). Instead, you strive to show that you can work across the aisle and win a small segment of upper-middle class swing voters who tend to be white, live in the suburbs and sometimes vote for non-Republicans. In doing so, not only do you have to moderate your rhetoric — focusing not on class issues or poverty but rather the idea that Republicans are extreme and obstinate and that Democrats can be serious managers — but you also open yourself up to a class of very wealthy donors who are wary of fundraising for progressive Democrats.
More specifically, “Take, for example, Nunn’s jobs plan. The majority of the plan has little in the way of specifics, choosing instead to offer various pro-corporate pablum such as “providing certainty to businesses that are hamstrung by political leaders,” “reducing the regulatory burden on self-employed workers and all businesses that are often overwhelmed by complicated regulations” and enacting “comprehensive tax reform that lowers the corporate tax rate.” One area where she does get specific is calling for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which is estimated to create 35 permanent jobs for all of America. What’s more likely than Nunn believing that 35 jobs for people who may not even be Georgians is good policy is that her campaign has decided that it’s yet another way to brandish her bipartisan credentials — and rake in fundraising. TransCanada, the firm that is seeking to build the pipeline, has on its payroll McKenna, Long & Aldridge. The legal and lobbying firm is Nunn’s sixth-largest pool of donors.”
“Obama’s opposition research team got off to a slower start than the RNC’s; it was short on cash and understaffed and most of its early efforts were aimed at assessing Obama’s own vulnerabilities. But it eventually reached similar conclusions about Clinton, though tailored for liberal, overwhelmingly anti-war voters in the Democratic primaries. Obama’s opposition research book focused—often in microscopic detail—on Clinton’s Iraq reversal.
(As if to prove that point, Clinton’s own war room pushed out, off the record, a steady stream of clips and rumors about Obama’s less savory associations, from indicted Chicago developer Tony Rezko, to the onetime radical Bill Ayers, to the firebrand Rev. Jeremiah Wright of “goddamn America” infamy.)
Obama’s aides peddled their share of oppo, too, but succeeded where the others failed because they were able to focus the vague misgivings about Clinton on a single point—Iraq, which was the dominant issue for primary voters—enabling doubts about Clinton’s judgment, trustworthiness and character to flow from her initial support for the war and later reversals. For Obama, who cultivated an above-politics image, it made for a superficially less negative-feeling campaign. He could attack Clinton on the issues while keeping his hands clean.
“You couldn’t trust her on Iraq, and that was really the entire ballgame, so we devoted all of our energies to tracking down every scrap of video and audio of her talking about Iraq,” recalled a member of the Obama ’08 brain trust who interacted with the research team. “Whitewater and all that crap didn’t matter; it was old news. We didn’t even bother to send anybody down to Arkansas until much later. It was all about Iraq. And we focused-grouped the hell out of that, and that’s what led in part to the ‘change’ meme, which was really kind of an anti-Hillary theme when you think about it.”
It all coalesced into a single devastating paragraph Obama delivered with brutal force at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa, in November 2007. Hillary Clinton, he told the party activists that night, was too cautious, too calculating, too caught up in the politics of the past. Even today, two full campaign cycles later, that broadside is a kind of Rosetta Stone for anyone crafting an anti-Clinton message. “The same old Washington textbook campaigns just won’t do,” Obama said, as Clinton staffers stood in the wings, stunned. “That’s why not answering questions ’cause we are afraid our answers won’t be popular just won’t do. That’s why telling the American people what we think they want to hear instead of telling the American people what they need to hear just won’t do. Triangulating and poll-driven positions because we’re worried about what Mitt or Rudy might say about us just won’t do. If we are really serious about winning this election, Democrats, we can’t live in fear of losing it.”
WASHINGTON — A dozen Nobel Peace Prize laureates are urging President Obama to make “full disclosure to the American people of the extent and use of torture” by the United States, including the release of a long-delayed Senate report about the C.I.A.’s torture of terrorism suspects after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The laureates told Mr. Obama, who was awarded the Peace Prize himself in 2009, that the report’s prospective release has brought the United States to a “crossroads,” and that he must do more to bring closure to an era when the United States set an example that “will be used to justify the use of torture by regimes around the world.
“It remains to be seen whether the United States will turn a blind eye to the effects of its actions on its own people and on the rest of the world, or if it will take the necessary steps to recover the standards on which the country was founded, and to once again adhere to the international conventions it helped to bring into being,” they wrote.
The joint letter was organized by two of the laureates, Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and former President José Ramos-Horta of East Timor, and is part of a broader online petition campaign at TheCommunity.com, whose chairman is Mr. Ramos-Horta. An advance copy was provided to The New York Times.
The appeal comes as the White House continues to wrestle with how much of a 480-page executive summary of the report should be declassified, an issue that pits the C.I.A. against the mostly Democratic members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The primary remaining obstacle in the negotiations is the Central Intelligence Agency’s insistence that pseudonyms of intelligence officers mentioned in the report be blacked out.“The question is whether the key facts are redacted,” Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon and a member of the committee, said last week. “I’m not giving in on this question.”
Dean Boyd, a C.I.A. spokesman, said that the agency believes that showing that particular officers were associated with multiple events, along with dates and locations, could help identify them and put them in danger.
Bernadette Meehan, a National Security Council spokeswoman, said Mr. Obama agrees that the C.I.A.’s rendition, detention and interrogation program of the George W. Bush era “was inconsistent with our values as a nation, and that public scrutiny, debate and transparency will help to inform the public’s understanding of the program to ensure that such a program will never be used again.”
The Nobel laureates’ letter also urges Mr. Obama to adopt “firm policy and oversight restating and upholding international law related to conflict, including the Geneva Convention and the U.N. Convention Against Torture.” The administration is debating whether to embrace or reject a Bush-era interpretation that a provision in the torture treaty banning cruel treatment does not apply abroad.
After the Bush administration revealed its narrow interpretation of the treaty in 2005, Congress enacted a statute banning cruel treatment anywhere. Mr. Obama ordered strict compliance with the statute when he took office in 2009.
But the Obama administration has never taken an official stance on the whether the treaty separately imposes legal obligations abroad. It must do so in a presentation before the U.N. next month. State Department officials are pushing to abandon the Bush-era interpretation, but military and intelligence lawyers are objecting, arguing that doing so could have operational impacts and that more study is required.
The officials opposed to accepting the cruelty provision as applying abroad insist they do not want to resume abusive interrogations, which are barred by the 2005 statute anyway, but worry that accepting the treaty provision as applying abroad could have unintended consequences on other operations, such as by suggesting that other treaties with similar jurisdictional language also apply everywhere.
In an interview, Mr. Tutu said the letter was inspired by news of the administration debate over the torture treaty, saying it was “disturbing” that the Obama team was even thinking of embracing the “foul thinking” that “ghastly things” that are crimes on domestic soil are permitted abroad. That dovetailed with other matters, like the continued use of indefinite detention without trial at the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, as contributing to “a grave sense of sadness and of being let down” by Mr. Obama, he said.
Other laureates who signed the letter include Mohammad ElBaradei of Egypt, who was awarded the Peace Prize in 2005; Leymah Gbowee, Liberia, 2011; Muhammad Yunus, Bangladesh, 2006; Óscar Arias Sanchez, Costa Rica, 1987; John Hume, Northern Ireland, 1998; F. W. de Klerk, South Africa, 1993; Jody Williams, United States, 1997; Bishop Carlos X. Belo, East Timor, 1996; Betty Williams, Northern Ireland, 1976; and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Argentina, 1980.
WASHINGTON -- White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough is personally negotiating how much of the Senate's so-called torture report, a probe into the CIA’s post-9/11 detention and interrogation program, will be redacted, according to sources involved in the negotiations.
McDonough's leading role in the redaction discussion has raised eyebrows in the Senate, given that his position comes with a broad array of urgent responsibilities and that the Obama White House has a team of qualified national security advisers.
Despite the White House’s public reluctance to get involved in the widely aired spat between the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee over the report, McDonough’s role suggests that the Oval Office sees the feud as a high-stakes one.
The White House confirmed McDonough’s involvement in the negotiations, but would not discuss the extent of it.
“We’re not going to get into the details of our discussions, but White House officials, including Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, are in regular touch with [Intelligence Committee] leadership on a variety of matters, including to discuss the committee’s review of the Bush Administration’s rendition, detention and interrogation program, in an effort to help ensure the executive summary is completed and declassified consistent with national security interests,” said National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan.
Sources involved in the discussions also said McDonough's involvement has gone beyond negotiating redactions. During the last weeks of July, the intelligence community was bracing itself for the release of the Senate investigation's executive summary, which is expected to be damning in its findings against the CIA. The report was due to be returned to the Senate panel after undergoing an extensive declassification review, and its public release seemed imminent.
Over the span of just a few days, McDonough, who makes infrequent trips down Pennsylvania Avenue, was a regular fixture, according to people with knowledge of his visits. Sources said he pleaded with key Senate figures not to go after CIA Director John Brennan in the expected furor that would follow the release of the report’s 500-page executive summary.
The White House said the purpose of the trips was to negotiate the terms of the report's release, not specifically to defend the CIA head. "The Chief of Staff's agenda was about how we could work together to meet the President’s desire to ensure the executive summary is completed and declassified consistent with national security interests, so that we can shed light on this program and make sure it is never repeated. These were not discussions about Director Brennan," Meehan said.
McDonough's personal involvement in the decisions around which parts of the torture report to redact illustrates how in the national security realm, differences between the two parties often dissolve when one takes control of the executive branch. The report itself, meanwhile, sidesteps the role of Bush administration officials in ordering or approving torture, focusing instead only on the agency, McClatchy Newspapers has reported.
The relationship between the CIA, its chief congressional overseers and the White House -- underscored by the widely known coziness between McDonough and Brennan -- has been tense over plans to release the report's executive summary. Lawmakers voted to declassify the document over six months ago, but its public reveal has been stalled indefinitely due to negotiations over what the White House and the agency wish to keep secret.
The White House’s delicate position as the middleman has been front and center as disputes over the report have played out. The five-year, $40 million study has been wrought with tension, culminating in March when the closed-door feud over the report's construction spilled into the public forum, with Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) accusing the CIA of improperly monitoring and accessing computers her staff had used to compile the report. The CIA, meanwhile, accused panel staff of slipping highly classified information out of a secure agency facility.
The alleged snooping, also first revealed by McClatchy Newspapers, took place in the context of an interbranch bureaucratic battle between the committee, charged with overseeing the agency, and the CIA, which bristles at oversight. One intelligence community source said the Senate committee "went about the report like an inquisition," which led to "an enemy vs. enemy adversarial relationship."
Both charges were referred to the Justice Department, which declined to open any investigations. Brennan, however, was forced to apologize to the committee after a CIA inspector general’s report revealed that agency personnel did improperly access a computer drive that was designated for Feinstein's staff's use.
Several lawmakers saw the apology as a vindication for Feinstein, whose allegations Brennan had previously denied, and key lawmakers rallied around calls for Brennan's ouster amid the controversy. Both Feinstein's office and the CIA declined to comment for this story.
Although it had proved reluctant to wade into the dispute, the White House rose to Brennan's defense and firmly silenced calls for his resignation. Despite what sources described as sensational conclusions about the CIA’s apparent access to Senate computers, the Oval Office expressed “full confidence” in its chief spy leader, who previously served as an Obama White House counterterrorism advisor.
According to sources familiar with the CIA inspector general report that details the alleged abuses by agency officials, CIA agents impersonated Senate staffers in order to gain access to Senate communications and drafts of the Intelligence Committee investigation. These sources requested anonymity because the details of the agency's inspector general report remain classified.
"If people knew the details of what they actually did to hack into the Senate computers to go search for the torture document, jaws would drop. It's straight out of a movie," said one Senate source familiar with the document.
The CIA has contended that the improper access was the result of a security breach investigation, after Feinstein's staff came to possess an internal CIA document commonly called "The Panetta Review" that the agency says the panel was not entitled to have.
A person familiar with the events surrounding the dispute between the CIA and Intelligence Committee said the suggestion that the agency posed as staff to access drafts of the study is untrue.
“CIA simply attempted to determine if its side of the firewall could have been accessed through the Google search tool. CIA did not use administrator access to examine [Intelligence Committee] work product,” the source said.
It is still not clear when the anxiously awaited report's executive summary will be released. Robert Grenier, a veteran CIA officer who was the top counterterrorism official from 2004 to 2006, told HuffPost that the Intelligence Community suspects Democrats have been spooked by the advance of the Islamic State, also called ISIS, and are holding the report for political reasons.
"At a time when ISIS is on the march and beheading American journalists, some Democrats apparently think now is not the time to be advocating going soft on terrorists. The speculation I hear is that the Senate Democrats will wait until the elections are safely over," Grenier said.
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Last week the U.S. government submitted to the District Court in Washington, D.C., the most recent standard operating procedures (SOPs) for force-feeding in the Guantánamo Bay detention facility. What remains of the documents, after redactions, is a shameful exercise in doublespeak that attempts to disguise what is really happening in the prison.
The SOPs were submitted in a case brought by Abu Wa’el Dhiab, an inmate represented by Reprieve, the international human rights organization that I head. Dhiab is a 43-year-old Syrian and father of four who has been held without trial or charge in Guantánamo for 12 years. The U.S. government told Dhiab four years ago that he was cleared for release, and yet to this day he remains behind bars. In a last resort to get back to his wife and children, he, along with many others, embarked on a hunger strike. His case concerns the manner in which that entirely legitimate hunger strike has been brutally opposed by the prison authorities.
The SOPs continually offer feigned concern for the prisoners. The “sole focus” of the doctors inserting the nasal tubes “is the health and welfare of their patients”; the force-feeding is carried out according to procedures performed “in nursing homes worldwide”; assessments are to be made during the feeding to check “the emotional well-being of the detainee.” One typical instruction says that after restraining and force-feeding a prisoner, “a debriefing session is important.” The instruction goes on to say — in a sickening parody of customer service — that medical staffers should note “any questions and feedback provided by the detainee.”
Read more closely, though, and the cracks soon begin to open. The public learns what is involved when a man is dragged from his cell, strapped to a chair with five belts and held down as a tube — perhaps dangerously lubricated with olive oil — is forced through his nose, down his throat and esophagus and into his stomach so that he can be pumped full of liquid.
Euphemisms are used throughout, but in trying to hide the truth, they become only more bizarre and frightening. Guards are told to begin the restraint process with “verbal redirection and reassurance” before moving to “limit setting,” “reality orientation” and “verbal behavior contacts.” If all that fails, though, the final step is far clearer: “show of force.”
A section of the SOPs deals with the actual feeding. No checking on emotional well-being here. Guards are told how to position themselves behind the prisoners to hold their heads in order to “reduce head and jaw motion during insertion of the EF [enteral feeding] tube”; the tube’s insertion is tested by “inflating the stomach, inserting water and checking for the return of stomach fluid”; then the feeding tube is “taped to the detainee’s nose and forehead” and the “feed flow” is started.
Obliquely, through the checklists and medical forms, the reader can visualize the grotesque scenes that take place daily in the feeding rooms. What do you do when a convulsing prisoner bites a feeding tube? How do you slow the fluid pumping rate if the prisoner’s stomach is becoming distended? Who, precisely, in the crowd surrounding the restraint chair, is allowed to pull out the tube in emergencies?
There is no genuine care for welfare in these SOPs. Guards are even given responses to parrot in case a prisoner ever asks for help: “Detainee demands to speak to the doctor: Respond: ‘I will write a note in your chart for the doctor.’”
Perhaps the most vivid image emerges from a checklist titled “Use of restraints and seclusion.” On it, the guard is required to observe the prisoner and take notes using the appropriate codes to describe his behavior. The options provided place us before the cell: “Beating or kicking door,” “yelling or screaming,” “mumbling incoherently,” “crying,” “harmful to self,” “requesting release.”
Every day, American soldiers are being made to stand in front of metal cells, peer through peepholes and tick these boxes. Although the guidelines may appear at first to be complex and professional, these SOPs are a shameful cover-up, nothing more. The American people must see them for what they are and reject them without reserve.
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