Monday, February 28, 2005

Raindrops fallin' on my head

OK, it's time for every Viet Nam era vet to sit up and take notice: The Bush Administration is trying to desert you. Higher co-pays, less access to VA doctors and hospitals, and now this, from Alberto Gonzales, the Attorney General who thinks you have the right to torture captives, which means, you know, that the enemy has the right to torture you.

Read this in today's NYTimes, and get really really angry:

The Justice Department is urging a federal judge in Brooklyn to dismiss a lawsuit aimed at forcing a re-examination of one of the most contentious issues of the Vietnam War, the use of the defoliant Agent Orange.
. . .

One of the plaintiffs' lawyers, Constantine P. Kokkoris, said in an interview that the Justice Department's argument was misplaced because the government had not beenued in the case. He said the lawsuit raised questions about the conduct of the corporations that were limited to their supplying what he called contaminated herbicide.

The chemical companies argue that they produced Agent Orange following government specifications and that its use in Vietnam was necessary to protect American soldiers. They have long argued that there is no clear link between exposure to Agent Orange and many of the health problems attributed to it.

No clear link, eh? Hey G. I. Joe, moybe you came back OK, but did you have any buddies that weren't so lucky? The documentation is pretty clear. Too many men came back with serious afflictions traced to Agent Orange exposure. And many of these were men who believed in the cause, or at least, accepted their fates during those traumatic days of the Draft.

So your government asked, no, demanded that you go and get your ass shot at. And this is how they continue to repay you? Do the soldiers returning from Iraq have it any better? Or how about those from Gulf War I, who are showing signs of illness. Is this how they should be treated?

Any of you who have served in the military and who still support this terrible war and the government's treatment of your brothers and sisters, I just have one question:

What the hell is wrong with you?

Gates of delirium

Father Greeley asks the unasked question?

How long can Bush get away with lies?

As the criminal, sinful war in Iraq enters its third year, the president goes to Europe to heal the wounds between the United States and its former allies, on his own terms of course. The White House propaganda mill will hail it as another victory for the president and ignore the fact that most Europeans still consider the war dangerous folly and the president a dangerous fool.

One hears new rationalizations for the war on this side of the Atlantic. After the hearings on Secretary of State Rice, a Republican senator, with all the self-righteous anger that characterizes many such, proclaimed, "The Democrats just have to understand that the president really believed there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq." This justification is not unlike the one heard frequently at the White House, "The president believed the intelligence agencies of the world."

Would it not be much better to have a president who deliberately lied to the people because he thought a war was essential than to have one who was so dumb as to be taken in by intelligence agencies, especially those who told him what he wanted to hear?

Note that he's not talking about a lack of commitment to truth, he said lies. Would that the good Father could spread his message far and wide, as the MSM surely hasn't done.

Greeley also spreads his blame to the Three Stooges:

Note the three most important Cabinet positions. Rice said that it was better to find the weapons of mass destruction than to see a mushroom cloud. "Judge" Gonzales said the Geneva Convention was "quaint" and in effect legitimated the de facto policy of torture. Rumsfeld repealed the "Powell Doctrine" -- only go to war when you have the massive force necessary to win decisively and quickly. Brilliant businessman that he is (like Robert McNamara of the Vietnam era), he thought he could win with 130,000 (unlike at least 200,000 as the army chief of staff insisted) and hence made the current "insurgency" inevitable.

More has been said about that. In this bizzarro world, failure is rewarded with praise; deceit with employment. As Chris Rock said tonight at the Oscars, "Imagine if you work at the Gap, and your drawer is short by 13 trillion dollars. And then you attack Banana Republic because they are selling toxic tank tops. And after everyone's dead, you discover they weren't even selling tank tops!" (paraphrased, sorry)

The presence of these three towering giants in the administration certainly confirms that the president is confident that he is "right" on Iraq and that he has a mandate from the American people and from God which confirms that he is "right."

Nothing, in other words, has changed in the last two years. The war is still the "right thing to do," it is still part of the "war against terrorism," it is still essential to keep Arabs from blowing up our skyscrapers.

You can still get away with the "big lie" as long as Karl Rove and his team of spinners keep providing persuasive rationalizations. The American public is still supine, uneasy about the war, but not willing yet to turn decisively against it. Will that still be the case next year when we "celebrate" the third anniversary of the war? Is the patience of the American people that long suffering? Is there no outrage left in the country?

As someone once said, if you're not outraged, you're not paying attention. Or as Bob Dole said back in '96, "Where's the outrage?" Republicans have mastered the art of feigned outrage when someone assaults their decency-SpongeBob is a corrupting force on our kids says James Dobson. But when deaths are involved, lies told, citizen's rights and money stolen, well, somehow the glance is turned away, and the gaze focuses on other issues, like the alleged harrassment of "legitimate journalist" and paid gay excort James "Jeff Gannon" Guckert.

Makes me proud to be an American.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

We gotta get out of this place

From the WaPo today we learn that "Fix Social Security by destroying it" movement may be in some trouble with the folks who claim to be supporting it:

Even critics eager to read the obituary for the most ambitious version of Bush's Social Security plan acknowledge it is too early to write it. But the initial response suggests the idea is struggling.

Many anxious GOP legislators say they have received clear caution signals from constituents on trips home, and several polls reflect the headwind Bush is facing. Significantly, a recent Washington Post poll, conducted in conjunction with the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University, showed that personal accounts win majority support from voters, but that support drops well below 50 percent when people learn details.

These details include the long-term cost of the change, which the White House acknowledges is in the trillions of dollars; the risk to people who choose the investment option; and the fact that personal accounts do not extend the solvency of Social Security unless they are paired with benefit cuts or tax increases in the traditional program.

And this:

Meanwhile, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said that he is discussing with Democratic colleagues a compromise plan that would guarantee low-income beneficiaries will do better under a new program than the existing system, even if this increases the program's cost.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid says this:

...Reid has declared that Senate Democrats are united in their opposition to personal accounts carved out of Social Security. That is a deal-killer if true, since as a practical matter the most controversial ideas typically need a supermajority of 60 votes to end filibusters and allow a vote.

And of course the popular support is pretty conditional; those who understand the proposals don't like them:

Many anxious GOP legislators say they have received clear caution signals from constituents on trips home, and several polls reflect the headwind Bush is facing. Significantly, a recent Washington Post poll, conducted in conjunction with the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University, showed that personal accounts win majority support from voters, but that support drops well below 50 percent when people learn details.

Folks, wake the neighbors, tell the kids, keep the pressure on, this pig won't ever sing.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Every breath you take

I'll be watching you.

Geovv Parrish has this at Working for Change:

Back when I was in school, we used to joke that the administrators treated us like we were in some sort of private prison.

Turns out we were just a bit ahead of our time.

In rural Sutter, California, a town just north of Sacramento with a population of 2,300, a controversial new program has all of the students in the one-school district being forced to wear radio-frequency identification badges that can track the students. It's the same technology used to track cattle in feedlots, or product inventory in factories.

The badges, introduced at Brittan Elementary School in January, are defended by school administrators as making attendance-gathering easier. (You know how arduous THAT task is. It must be the hardest thing teachers do all day...) And, presumably, it can help find students who get lost on the way to the restroom -- at least, the ones without the wherewithal to ditch the badges. The badges are also supposed to "reduce vandalism and improve student safety," although it's not clear how.

Naturally, some parents -- who weren't consulted before the system was imposed -- and the ACLU are up in arms about this latest invasion of student privacy. Beyond the obvious, parents are also concerned that information encoded in the badge could fall into the wrong hands, or that the radiation from the badge might pose a health hazard to the kids.

Seems like a good idea to me, being able to keep track of the little bastards. Societies have longed for this ability for ages. Why, just the other day someone wrote:

Presumably she could be trusted to find a safe place. In general you could not assume that you were much safer in the country than in London. There were no telescreens, of course, but there was always the danger of concealed microphones by which your voice might be picked up and recognized; besides, it was not easy to make a journey by yourself without attracting attention. For distances of less than 100 kilometres it was not necessary to get your passport endorsed, but sometimes there were patrols hanging about the railway stations, who examined the papers of any Party member they found there and asked awkward questions.

Seems pretty handy, keeping track of everyone, everywhere, all the time. Add in traffic cams, video surveillance in publics places, and it's the dream come true for fascists the world over.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

In the court of the crimson king

The seemingly pending openings on the Supreme Court have many folks worried, liberals and conservatives alike. And with William Rehnquist looking like he might be down for the count, the chatter is about who might replace him, as well as who might be appointed when some of the others, including O'Connor, resign.

Of course, the goal, as always, is to appoint the most qualified jurists, the ones with experience, who have published opinions and have withstood the vetting process to assure that they have no idealogical agenda, but rather believe in the Constitution.

Constitution, what is it? It's supposed to be the law of the land, but that's not important right now.

DavidNYC at DailyKos has this assessment of the likely candidates:

The New York Times is reporting that Chief Justice Rehnquist is still on the DL as the Supreme Court reconvenes for the second half of the judicial season on Tuesday. A lot of speculation has focused on who will replace Old Bill at the top of the lineup - will it be Nino? could it be (gasp!) Clarence - but to me, the more interesting question is which rookie will get called up from the farm team.

I scoured through numerous news accounts and they all keep pointing toward the same basic list of eleven candidates:

Samuel A. Alito Jr., a judge on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia who has been nicknamed "Scalito" because he has views similar to those of conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Janice Rogers Brown, the first black woman to serve on California's Supreme Court. Her nomination to a federal appeals court has been blocked by Senate Democrats.

Miguel Estrada, a native of Honduras whose nomination to an appeals court was also blocked by Democrats. He's a former clerk to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Emilio Miller Garza, judge on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. Bush's father, the first President Bush, considered the Hispanic judge a Supreme Court prospect.

Alberto R. Gonzales, [Attorney General, about whom little else need be said at this point].

Edith Jones, a judge on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans and former general counsel for the Texas Republican Party. Bush's father considered her for the high court.

J. Michael Luttig, put on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., by President Bush's father. Clerked for Scalia when Scalia was an appeals court judge.

Theodore B. Olson, who was Bush's solicitor general until this summer and represented him in the 2000 Bush v. Gore case. Olson's wife, Barbara, was killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

John Roberts, a former Rehnquist clerk named by President Bush to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Larry Thompson, who was deputy attorney general and the Bush administration's highest-ranking black law-enforcement official until he quit in 2003 to join a think tank, Brookings Institution. He is a longtime friend of Justice Clarence Thomas.

James Harvie Wilkinson III, judge on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and author of a decision that gave the government broad authority to hold U.S. citizens as enemy combatants without constitutional protections. The ruling was overturned by the Supreme Court.

As is often the case with potential SCOTUS nominees, these aren't people whom (for the most part) we've heard of. But a little Googling should rectify that. Let's all get to work and find out what skeletons (or at least, what poorly-reasoned extremist legal opinions) lurk in this gang's collective closet. We're gonna have a confirmation fight on our hands no matter who Bush names. Batter up!

P.S. Credit to spiggz for originally inspiring me to post on this topic.

I included the whole post because, well, it was really good.

Read it, and worry.

Friday, February 11, 2005

What'd I say

Poor Richard's Almanac from Jan. 25th, 2001, has this entry:

We urgently need such a Principals level review on the al Qida network.

. . .

al Qida is the active, organized, major force that is using a distorted version of Islam as its vehicle to achieve two goals:

--to drive the US out of the Muslim world, forcing the withdrawal of our military and ecomonic presence in countries from Morocco to Indonesia;

--to replace moderate, modern, Western regimes in Muslim contries with theocracies modeled along the lines of the Taliban.

. . .

Attached is the year-end 2000 strategy on al Qida developed by the last Administration to give to you. Also attached is the 1998 strategy. Neither was a "covert action only" approach. Both incorporated diplomatic, economic, military, public diplomacy and intelligence tools. Using the 2000 paper as background, we could prepare a decision paper/guide for a PC review.

So I'm pretty sure that Richard Clarke was concerned about these al Qida folks as a bit of a potential problem to the US. So what did National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice do? Funny you should ask. Here's a little timeline:

The January 25, 2001, memo, recently released to the National Security Archive by the National Security Council, bears a declassification stamp of April 7, 2004, one day prior to Rice's testimony before the 9/11 Commission on April 8, 2004. Responding to claims that she ignored the al-Qaeda threat before September 11, Rice stated in a March 22, 2004 Washington Post op-ed, "No al Qaeda plan was turned over to the new administration."

You say plan, I say plan, I dunno. Maybe just semantics. Here's more:

Asked by Hadley to offer major initiatives, on January 25, 2001 Clarke forwarded his December 2000 strategy paper and a copy of his 1998 Delenda plan to the new national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice. Clarke laid out a proposed agenda for urgent action by the new Administration: Approval of covert assistance to the Northern Alliance; significantly increase funding; choosing a standard of evidence for attributing responsibility for the Cole and deciding on a response; going forward with new Predator missions in the spring and preparation of an armed version; and more work on terrorist fundraising.

. . .

Clarke asked on several occasions for early principals meetings on these issues, and was frustrated that no early meeting was scheduled. No principals committee meetings on Al Qaida were held until September 4th, 2001. Rice and Hadley said this was because the deputies committee needed to work through many issues relating to the new policy on Al Qaida. The principals committee did meet frequently before September 11th on other subjects, Rice told us, including Russia, the Persian Gulf and the Middle East peace process. Rice and Hadley told us that, although the Clinton administration had worked very hard on the Al Qaida program, its policies on Al Qaida, quote, "had run out of gas," and they therefore set about developing a new presidential directive and a new, comprehensive policy on terrorism.

Holy crap. Does it ever end. Freedom is on the march, I guess, so that makes it all OK. After all, the administration took Poor Richard's admonition seriously, as reported here:

TIMOTHY ROEMER, Commission Member: OK. With my 15 minutes, let's move into the Bush administration.

On January 25th, we've seen a memo that you've written to Dr. Rice urgently asking for a principals' review of Al Qaida. You include helping the Northern Alliance, covert aid, significant new '02 budget authority to help fight Al Qaida and a response to the USS Cole. You attach to this document both the Delenda Plan of 1998 and a strategy paper from December 2000.

Do you get a response to this urgent request for a principals meeting on these? And how does this affect your time frame for dealing with these important issues?

CLARKE: I did get a response, and the response was that in the Bush administration I should, and my committee, counterterrorism security group, should report to the deputies committee, which is a sub-Cabinet level committee, and not to the principals and that, therefore, it was inappropriate for me to be asking for a principals' meeting. Instead, there would be a deputies meeting.

So the responce was "Go away, kid, you bother me."

I'm so tired of this. These people are so craven, so morally corrupt that there is no lie that is too great, no untruth too bold, no evasion too cowardly for them. These people were warned about Al Qaeda (however the hell you Anglicize the Arabic spelling), and they instead chose to worry about anything and everything else.

John Ashcroft was covering up titties in the Whitel House, Karl Rove was plotting to overthrow the constitution, Ari Fleischer was spinning more webs than a black widow, Don Rumsfeld was designing an army based on SimCity, and GWBush was working hard. Could they have prevented 9/11? No, probably not. But they could have at least acted like al Qaeda was important.

Because they were.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Lawyers, guns and money

One of the many John Ashcroft balls in the air fell today as told by Reuters:

A New York lawyer aided terrorism by helping a client send messages to militant followers, a federal jury found on Thursday in a case critics said stemmed from Bush administration efforts to discourage the defense of accused terrorists.

Lynne Stewart, 65, long a defender of the poor and unpopular, was convicted of helping her imprisoned client, Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, to contact followers in Egypt with messages that could have ended a cease-fire there and ignited violence.

Abdel-Rahman was found guilty in 1995 of conspiring to attack U.S. targets, including the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. He was serving a life term when the crimes charged against Stewart occurred.

Stewart was convicted of all five counts against her, including two terrorism charges that combined carry a maximum 15-year prison term. All five counts combined carry a maximum term of 30 years, but it is unlikely she will be sentenced to such a lengthy term


and this:

The case attracted attention from U.S. lawyers, some of whom believed Stewart was the target of vindictive prosecutors who wanted to punish her for her leftist beliefs and others who said she willingly broke the law.

"It's unbelievable," said Ivan Fisher, a New York defense lawyer. He said she was "absolutely" a target of the Bush administration's anti-terrorism policies.

Jeff Fogel, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said, "There are some (lawyers) who will be scared and won't take these cases, but there are others who might be even more zealous to demonstrate that we won't be cowed."

Newly appointed Torturer-General Alberto Gonzales said this:

the convictions "send a clear, unmistakable message that this department will pursue both those who carry out acts of terrorism and those who assist them with their murderous goals."

The message is clear: don't screw with us, don't help anone we dislike, or we will crush your head.

Stewart plans to appeal the verdict.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Secret agent man

What evil lies in the heart of man? Only the CIA knows...

We now know more than before, about the heinous history of our great Central Intelligence Agency, courtesy of FOIA document releases to the non-profit The National Security Archive. From Haaretz, a liberal Israeli newspaper (think Jewish folks might find this disturbing?):

Five of Adolph Eichmann's Nazi assistants were recruited and employed by the Central Intelligence Agency after World War II, according to recently declassified intelligence documents.

. . .

The revelations cast a negative light not only on American intelligence activity but also the U.S. Army's conduct in Germany at the conclusion of the war. The military made efforts to recruit members of the SS and the Gestapo into its ranks despite simultaenously waging a campaign of de-Nazification over vanquished Germany, a process which included arresting and trying Nazi war criminals.

The documents also reveal in great detail CIA efforts to recruit Reinhard Gehlen, who was the Wermacht's chief intelligence officer for the eastern front during the war.

The recruitment evolved into a new intelligence sub-organization known as "Gehlen's Organization," which served as the basis for what would later become West Germany's foreign intelligence service, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND).

Nice. Freedom is on the march. Yeah. We also know some other stuff about the checkered past of the CIA:

Developed from the wartime Office of Strategic Services and set up by Congress as part of the National Security Act, on the lines of the British Secret Service, the CIA was intended solely for use overseas in the Cold War. It was involved in, for example, the restoration of the Shah of Iran in 1953, South Vietnam (during the Vietnam War), Chile (the coup against President Allende), and Cuba (the Bay of Pigs). On the domestic front, it was illegally involved in the Watergate political scandal and in the 1970s lost public confidence when US influence collapsed in Iran, Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Yemen, and elsewhere.

Re: Chile:

In September 14, 1970, a deputy to then National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger wrote him a memo, classified SECRET / SENSITIVE, arguing against covert operations to block the duly elected Chilean socialist Salvador Allende from assuming the presidency. "What we propose is patently a violation of our own principles and policy tenets," noted Viron Vaky. "If these principles have any meaning, we normally depart from them only to meet the gravest threat to us., e.g. to our survival. Is Allende a mortal threat to the U.S.?" Vaky asked. "It is hard to argue this."

Kissinger ignored this advice. The next day he participated in a now-famous meeting where President Nixon instructed CIA Director Richard Helms to "save Chile" by secretly fomenting a coup to prevent Allende's inauguration. When those covert operations failed, Kissinger goaded Nixon into instructing the entire national security bureaucracy "on opposing Allende" and destabilizing his government. "Election of Allende as president of Chile poses one of [the] most serious challenges ever faced in this hemisphere," says a newly declassified briefing paper Kissinger gave to Nixon two days after Allende's inauguration. "Your decision as to what to do may be most historic and difficult foreign affairs decision you will have to make this year.... If all concerned do not understand that you want Allende opposed as strongly as we can, result will be steady draft toward modus vivendi approach."

Re: Iran:

To illustrate the dark side of American oil policy, we offer two tales, stitched together from declassified government documents and oil-industry memos, involving a pair of Iraq's neighbors, Iran and Afghanistan. The first one begins with the rise of a member of Iran's parliament, Mohammed Mossadegh, an impassioned speaker and popular politician who had long chafed at British domination over his country's oil.

. . .

On Aug. 19, 1953, after the deaths of about 300 people in street riots, the 71-year-old Premier was overthrown. He was replaced by a retired army general, Fazollah Zahedi. The American-friendly Shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, who had earlier fled the country, returned triumphantly, resumed the throne and reasserted his control. Media accounts of the coup were seemingly straightforward. The Washington Post reported that Iran had been saved from falling into communist hands and that the communists were blaming Brigadier General H. Norman Schwarzkopf "for alleged complicity in the coup." The paper said Schwarzkopf, whose namesake son would lead U.S. forces nearly a half-century later as they drove the Iraqi military out of Kuwait, had visited Iran "but only to see friends, the State Department said." TIME reported: "This was no military coup, but a spontaneous popular uprising."

It was anything but. When Mossadegh delayed settling with Anglo-Iranian on the takeover of the company, the British approached the CIA with a plan to remove the Premier and get Britain's oil back. The British could not do it alone, since they had left Iran. Allen Dulles, the CIA director, and his brother John Foster Dulles, the Secretary of State, agreed. The Dulles brothers assigned the task of overseeing the clandestine venture to Kermit Roosevelt, a longtime intelligence operative and the grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt. In the months leading up to the coup, Roosevelt spent much of his time in Tehran, coordinating efforts of CIA agents and Iranian sympathizers. To ensure the cooperation of a then indecisive Shah, the CIA turned to one of his old friends, General Schwarzkopf, who in 1942-48 worked with an internal-security force under palace command that helped the Shah maintain rule.

The CIA's fingerprints were everywhere. Operatives paid off Iranian newspaper editors to print pro-Shah and anti-Mossadegh stories. They produced their own stories and editorial cartoons and published fabricated interviews. They secured the cooperation of the Iranian military. They spread antigovernment rumors. They prepared phony documents to show secret agreements between Mossadegh and the local Communist Party. They masqueraded as communists, threatened conservative Muslim clerics and even staged a sham fire-bombing of the home of a religious leader. They incited rioters to set fire to a pro-Mossadegh newspaper. They stage-managed the appearance of Mossadegh's successor, General Zahedi, whose personal bank account they fattened.

Is it any wonder that we find this new verification of widely held beliefs, that the US government and its operatives are truly the craven villians and hypocrites they seem to be, and nothing they do is surpassed by other despots around the world. Right wingers will sputter and whine "Realpolitik...self interests...national defense...we had to do it."

Bullshit. We simply set out on a course to take what we want, when we want, with apparently no thoughts to long term ramifications. The Iranian coup we engineered led directly to the '79 revolution. The Chilean coup led directly to the disappearances of thousands of innocents.

And the merging of Nazi oficers into the modern German security apparatus led to...well, we will have to wait for further horrors, soon, at a theater near you. Starring Henry Kissinger, Donald Rumsfeld, Allen Dulles, Adolph Eichman, and a cast of thousands.

When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Everybody wants to rule the world

In a lovely moment of irony, Condoleeza Rice says this today in the NYTimes:

"I don't think anybody thinks that the unelected mullahs who run that regime are a good thing for the Iranian people or for the region," Ms. Rice said to reporters on her plane to London.

This would be the mullahs who have run the country since the '79 revolution, the same ones who signed off on the deals GE and Halliburton made to work in the country we refer to as part of the Axis Of Evil. But that's not important now.

The NYTimes also had this today:

Preliminary election returns released Thursday by Iraqi authorities showed that 72 percent of the 1.6 million votes counted so far from Sunday's election went to an alliance of Shiite parties dominated by religious groups with strong links to Iran. Only 18 percent went to a group led by Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiite who favors strong ties to the United States. Few votes went to Sunni candidates.

We destroyed this country so we could engineer elections that, instead of favoring our guy Allawi, the former Saddam supporter and Baathist thug who was on the CIA payroll, led to the promotion of guys who are in tune with the Shi'ite mullahs in Iran. In case you forgot, the Axis Of Evil was Iran, Iraq, and North Korea. So we seem to have invaded Iraq so we could ensure that it could remain a member of the Axis. Nice work.

Since we seem to be poised on the brink of invading Iran, does that mean we will need to re-invade Iraq? After all, we can't let it remain a member of the Axis Of Evil. We just don't seem to be doing that well so far. And I'm pretty sure the Iraqi folks who voted on the election aren't real happy with our plans so far.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

One way, or another

David Leavitt has an amusing/outrageous Photoshop graphic on his blog today, Levity in Action: McCain Gonzales

Here's some of what he says:

We encourage all our Senators to stand up against torture by refusing to confirm Alberto Gonzales as the next U.S. Attorney General - the top law enforcer in the nation. Publicly, Gonzales says he is against torture; but privately, he insists that rapes and beatings aren't torture because they don't cause organ failure or death. His office distributed 50 page memos on how to avoid prosecution for torture - by redefining it. These led directly to the Abu Ghraib photos you've seen, and continue to ruin our reputation in the world.

We hope Senator John McCain, who was abused as a POW in Vietnam, will stand up against prisoner abuse and vote against Gonzales, but so far we've been disappointed. Meanwhile, military leaders strongly oppose Gonzales. We sincerely hope McCain doesn't belong in that photograph, and we're eager to revise it and apologize if we've misunderstood his silence.

You can contact John McCain's office at (202) 224-2235
You can easily reach any other Senator by clicking here.

Alberto Gonzales actually has a long record of helping criminals get around the law, instead of helping to enforce it.
In today's news alone, U.S. courts have ruled again that holding Guantanamo prisoners without access to attorneys has been illegal - just the latest in a series of illegal and unconstitutional acts by a White House that has been relying on Gonzales's advice.

today, Gonzales is being added to an international war crimes case. The evidence against him includes his own testimony before the Senate this month! He still condones cruelty and abuse of prisoners, and evidently thinks the President is above the law. This testimony even convinced several Senators, who were planning to support him, that he couldn't be a worse choice for U.S. Attorney General.

Pretty good stuff. I think this poses a legitimate question for Senator McCain:

Whom do you support, the GOP, or the troops? Seems like a mutually exclusive answer is required.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

I bless the rains down in africa

The irony is just too much. Every sentient creature on the planet knows that the tragedy in the Darfur region of Sudan needs intervention, and that what's going in is virtual genocide. Amnesty International has this to say:

Over 70,000 people are believed to have lost their lives since the conflict in Darfur, Sudan erupted in February 2003. Systematic human rights abuses have occurred by all parties involved in the conflict, but primarily by the Sudanese government and government-backed Janjawid militia. Over 1.5 million civilians have been internally displaced by the conflict and 200,000 have sought refuge in neighboring Chad.

Bummer, dude. But we had that TV show that raised all that relief money...Oh wait, that was for something else. Well, the US government is sending...Oh yeah, that was for something else.

The UN appointed a commission to look at this whole picture, and they came back with this:

A United Nations commission investigating violence in the Darfur region of Sudan reported Monday that it had found a pattern of mass killings and forced displacement of civilians that did not constitute genocide but that represented crimes of similar gravity that should be sent to the International Criminal Court for prosecution.

In a 176-page report, the five-member panel said that its finding that genocide had not been committed "should not be taken in any way as detracting from the gravity of the crimes perpetrated in that region," and that "international offenses such as the crimes against humanity and war crimes that have been committed in Darfur may be no less serious and heinous than genocide."

Well, maybe not genocide, but still, I'm pretty sure that it's real bad. So we should really do something about this. I mean, if we can work up enough energy to care about the Tsunami in Indonesia, we ought to be really upset by man's deliberate inhumanity to man, as shown in Sudan.

But then again, no. Because:

The commission was appointed by Secretary General Kofi Annan in October to determine whether genocide had occurred in Darfur, in Western Sudan, where about 70,000 villagers have been killed and 1.8 million driven from their land.

It was also asked to determine how anyone convicted should be punished, and it answered by saying it "strongly" recommended that the Security Council refer the Darfur crimes to the international court in The Hague. It said the crimes in Darfur met the jurisdictional terms of the 1998 treaty creating the court.

That course of action is favored by most members of the 15-member Council, but the United States has said it will vigorously resist because it objects to the court.

So we really want to do something about this, because really bad people are behaving really badly against those poor, unfortunate folks. But, well, we can't because then we might be held accountable for some of the really really bad things our people do. Get this:

The administration proposed last week that the Darfur charges be sent to a new tribunal to be run jointly by the African Union and the United Nations and to be based at the war crimes court in Arusha, Tanzania, which is trying suspects in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Pierre-Richard Prosper, the United States ambassador at large for war crimes, briefed major countries at the United Nations on the American alternative, explaining afterward, "We don't want to be party to legitimizing the I.C.C."

So we don't want to legitimize the ICC, because it might find fault with US actions in foreign conflicts. And of course we can't allow the UN any legitimacy because it might find fault with US actions, etc. So we seem stuck, now, don't we.

Do we have any support for out position? Sure lots. We are joined in our objection to the ICC by such defenders of democracy as:

The United States of America was one of only 7 nations (joining China, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Qatar and Israel) to vote against the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in 1998.

That's good company we keep. Stalwart friends in the quest for, you know, freedom is on the march and stuff. Here's a bit more about our rush to comply with international standards of justice:

The Bush administration's hostility to the ICC has increased dramatically in 2002. The crux of the U.S. concern relates to the prospect that the ICC may exercise its jurisdiction to conduct politically motivated investigations and prosecutions of U.S. military and political officials and personnel. The U.S. opposition to the ICC is in stark contrast to the strong support for the Court by most of America's closest allies.

In an unprecedented diplomatic maneuver on 6 May, the Bush administration effectively withdrew the U.S. signature on the treaty. At the time, the Ambassador-at-large for War Crimes Issues Pierre-Richard Prosper stated that the administration was "not going to war" with the Court. This has proved false; the renunciation of the treaty has paved the way for a comprehensive U.S. campaign to undermine the ICC.

First, the Bush administration negotiated a Security Council resolution to provide an exemption for U.S. personnel operating in U.N. peacekeeping operations. The administration failed in May to obtain an exemption for peacekeepers in East Timor. In June the Bush administration vetoed an extension of the UN peacekeeping mission for Bosnia-Herzegovina unless the Security Council granted a complete exemption. Ultimately, the U.S. failed in its bid for an iron-clad exemption, although the Security Council approved a limited, one year exemption for U.S. personnel participating in UN peacekeeping missions or UN authorized operations. The Security Council has expressed its intention to renew this exemption on 30 June next year.

Second, the Bush administration is requesting states around the world to approve bilateral agreements requiring them not to surrender American nationals to the ICC. The goal of these agreements ("impunity agreements" or so-called "Article 98 agreements") is to exempt U.S. nationals from ICC jurisdiction. They also lead to a two-tiered rule of law for the most serious international crimes: one that applies to U.S. nationals; another that applies to the rest of the world's citizens. Human Rights Watch urges states not to sign impunity agreements with the United States.

Thirdly, the U.S Congress has assisted the Bush administration's effort to obtain bilateral impunity agreements. The Congress passed the American Servicemembers' Protection Act (ASPA), which was signed into law by President Bush on 3 August. The major anti-ICC provisions in ASPA are:

  • a prohibition on U.S. cooperation with the ICC;
  • an "invasion of the Hague" provision: authorizing the President to "use all means necessary and appropriate" to free U.S. personnel (and certain allied personnel) detained or imprisoned by the ICC;
  • punishment for States that join the ICC treaty: refusing military aid to States' Parties to the treaty (except major U.S. allies);
  • a prohibition on U.S. participation in peacekeeping activities unless immunity from the ICC is guaranteed for U.S. personnel.

However, all of these provisions are off-set by waiver provisions that allow the president to override the effects of ASPA when "in the national interest". The waiver provisions effectively render ASPA meaningless.

So clearly we don't give a crap about any accountability for us. Makes it a bit difficult to proclaim that we care about any kind of international justice if we don't join in the discussion. It's one thing to point the fickle finger of international blame elsewhere, but we simply can't allow it to besmirch the reputation of the US. We, after all, are clearly beacons of liberty:

In the era of Saddam Hussein, Abu Ghraib, twenty miles west of Baghdad, was one of the world’s most notorious prisons, with torture, weekly executions, and vile living conditions. As many as fifty thousand men and women—no accurate count is possible—were jammed into Abu Ghraib at one time, in twelve-by-twelve-foot cells that were little more than human holding pits.

. . .

Taguba’s report listed some of the wrongdoing: Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees; pouring cold water on naked detainees; beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair; threatening male detainees with rape; allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell; sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick, and using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting a detainee.

So clearly we should not support the ICC, because they would probably not support us. Makes me proud to be an American.