Gitmo Groups Call Out Obama Over Political Cowardice April 30, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Health, Human Rights, Torture.
Tags: congress, Criminal Justice, detainee transfer, force feedin, force feeding, Guantanamo, guantanamo detainee, human rights, hunger strike, jacob chamberlain, jon queally, medical ethics, Obama, roger hollander, torture
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‘Congress has very little to do with it’: Following press conference, groups say Obama has only himself to blame for Guantanamo
U.S. President Barack Obama stated at a press conference on Tuesday that he would like to shut down the Guantanamo Bay prison but said that Congress was to blame for blockading any such action.
However, rights groups are calling Obama’s bluff, saying he actually does have the power to transfer detainees and put an end to the indefinite detention, solitary confinement, and torture inherent within the military prison—without the approval of Congress—and that he simply lacks the political courage to do so.
Obama stated Tuesday:
Now Congress determined that they would not let us close it and despite the fact that there are a number of the folks who are currently in Guantanamo who the courts have said could be returned to their country of origin or potentially a third country. . . . And so I’m going to — as I’ve said before, we’re — examine every option that we have administratively to try to deal with this issue. But ultimately, we’re also going to need some help from Congress.
In response, lawyers for Guantanamo detainees at the Center for Constitutional Rights stated, “We praise the president for re-affirming his commitment to closing the base but take issue with the impression he strives to give that it is largely up to Congress.”
Rather than waiting for Congress to make a move on Guantanamo, CCR reports Tuesday that Obama has the autonomy to take a number of actions:
- Congress is certainly responsible for imposing unprecedented restrictions on detainee transfers, but President Obama still has the power to transfer men right now. He should use the certification/waiver process created by Congress to transfer detainees, starting with the 86 men who have been cleared for release, including our client Djamel Ameziane.
- Congress may have tied one hand behind his back, but he has tied the other: he should lift his self-imposed moratorium on transfers to Yemen regardless of a detainee’s status. It’s collective punishment based on citizenship, and needs to be reevaluated now.
- President Obama should appoint a senior government official to shepherd the process of closure, and should give that person sufficient authority to resolve inter-agency disputes.
- The President must demonstrate immediate, tangible progress toward the closure of Guantanamo or the men who are on hunger strike will die, and he will be ultimately responsible for their deaths.
Likewise, the ACLU affirmed Tuesday that Obama holds certain powers to release at least half of the Guantanamo detainees:
There are two things the president should do. One is to appoint a senior point person so that the administration’s Guantánamo closure policy is directed by the White House and not by Pentagon bureaucrats. The president can also order the secretary of defense to start certifying for transfer detainees who have been cleared, which is more than half the Guantánamo population.
Carlos Warner, an attorney representing 11 Guantanamo prisoners, said today:
I applaud President Obama’s remarks — he hasn’t mentioned Guantanamo in years — but the fact is that Congress has very little to do with it. NDAA as written allows the President to transfer individuals if it’s in the national security of the United States. The President’s statement made clear that Guantanamo negatively impacts our national security. The question is not whether the administration has the authority to transfer innocent men, but whether it has the political courage to do so.
And writing at the Lawfare Tuesday, Benjamin Wittes adds that Obama’s comments on Tuesday are a direct contradiction of his own self imposed policies. Wittes states:
The President’s comments are bewildering because his own policies give rise to the vast majority of the concerns about which he so earnestly delivered himself in these remarks.
Remember that Obama himself has imposed a moratorium on repatriating people to Yemen. And Obama himself has insisted that nearly 50 detainees cannot either be tried or transferred.Published on Tuesday, April 30, 2013 by Common Dreams
‘Torture Reinforcements’ Not ‘Medical Personnel’ Arrive to Combat Gitmo Hunger Strike
US Military Calls in ‘Force-Feeding Teams’ as Guantanamo Hunger Strike Continues
The US military has confirmed that at least 40 “medical personnel” have arrived at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in order to expand a force-feeding operation designed to counter an ongoing hunger strike by more than 100 prisoners protesting their indefinite detention and ill treatment.
But because the procedure of “force-feeding” is widely held as a form of torture, critics of the practice may well view the medical teams as nothing more than ‘torture reinforcements’ as the number of those approved for the painful process continues to grow and their conditions deteriorate.
Military authorities repeatedly claim that force-feedings are somehow necessary, but experts are unequivocal when they declare that the procedure is torture.
The United Nations Human Rights Commission considers the practice of force-feeding—in which detainees are strapped to a restraining chair, have tubes pushed up their nostrils and liquids pumped down their throats—a clear form of torture. In addition, the World Medical Association prohibits its physicians from participating in force-feeding and the American Medical Association has just sent a letter to the Pentagon calling the practice an affront to accepted medical ethics.
One detainee, speaking recently through his lawyer David Remes, described the process by saying it felt a “razor blade [going] down through your nose and into your throat.”
In an interview with the Guardian, Remes discussed the treatment of those at Guantanamo as he pushed back against the US military’s claims that it is safeguarding the prisoners by torturing them. “It’s like the way you would treat an animal,” he said. Watch:
Despite testimony like this and the many objections by human rights advocates, reports indicate that at least 21 men have been approved for force feeding at the US prison.
As The Guardian reports:
Authorities said that the “influx” of medical reinforcements had been weeks in the planning. But the news will fuel speculation that the condition of hunger-striking prisoners at Guantánamo Bay is deteriorating. Shaker Aamer, the last British resident being kept at the centre, told his lawyer earlier this month that authorities will soon see fatalities as a result of the current action.
“I cannot give you numbers and names, but people are dying here,” said Aamer, who is refusing food.
The action is a protest against conditions at the centre, as well as the indefinite nature of the remaining prisoners’ confinement. Aamer has been cleared for release twice, but is still behind bars after 11 years. He has never been charged or faced trial but the US refuses to allow him to return to the UK, despite official protests by the British government.
Late last week, president of the American Medical Association, Dr. Jeremy Lazarus, sent a letter to US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel in order to remind the Pentagon that the AMA’s long-held view is that force feeding is both an unethical and inhumane practic practice.
As Reuters report:
[The AMA letter] urged the defense secretary “to address any situation in which a physician may be asked to violate the ethical standards of his or her profession.”
Hagel had just returned from a trip to the Middle East and it was unclear whether he had seen the letter, said Pentagon spokesman Army Lieutenant Colonel Todd Breasseale.
Asked if military doctors had raised ethical concerns about being asked to perform force-feedings, Breasseale said, “I can tell you there have been no organized efforts, but I cannot speak for individual physicians.
Vince Warren, director of the Center for Constitutional Rights which represents many of the detainees, welcomed the AMA’s letter.
“In reaffirming its long-standing opposition to force feeding Guantanamo prisoners, the country’s most prominent medical association has delivered a stinging rebuke to the Obama administration’s wholly inadequate response to the hunger strik,” Warren said. “The administration cannot force feed its way out of this growing medical emergency.”
He added, “The only true solution is to resume transfers of prisoners and close Guantanamo.”
America’s Drones Are Homeward Bound July 17, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Constitution, Criminal Justice, War on Terror.
Tags: Ann Wright, congress, drone, drone caucus, drone missiles, drone surveillance, Homeland Security, kill list, presidential assassination
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Americans have been protesting and getting arrested at U.S. drone bases and research institutions for years, and some members of Congress are starting to respond to the pressure.
But it’s not that drones are being used to extrajudicially execute people, including Americans, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia that has U.S. lawmakers concerned. Rather it’s the possible and probable violation of Americans’ privacy in the United States by unlawful drone surveillance that has caught the attention of legislators.
Rep. Jeff Landry, R-La., says “there is distrust amongst the people who have come and discussed this issue with me about our government. It’s raising alarm with the American public.” Based on those discussions, Landry has placed a provision in a defense spending bill that would prohibit information gathered by drones without a warrant from being used as evidence in court.
Two other legislators, Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., introduced identical bills to bar any government agency from using a drone without a warrant to “gather evidence or other information pertaining to criminal conduct or conduct in violation of a regulation.”
No one in Congress, however, has introduced legislation requiring the government to provide to a neutral judge evidence of a criminal act committed by a person to be targeted for assassination by a drone, or allowing such a person the right to defend himself against the U.S. government’s allegations.
Under President Obama’s signature national security policy, being a young male in the tribal region of Pakistan is often sufficient evidence to warrant execution. The kill committee members from the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of Defense act as the prosecution, judge and jury for “low-level” targets. The president, consulting his “kill list,” makes the decision on “high-value” targets, including American citizens.
Weaponizing Drones in the United States
Acknowledging that drones have killed people in other countries, Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., placed a provision in another bill that would prohibit the Department of Homeland Security from arming its drones. (Homeland Security operates surveillance drones on the borders with Mexico and Canada.)
Holt may wish to extend the prohibition against arming drones to local law enforcement. The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office in Texas used a Homeland Security grant to purchase a $300,000, 50-pound ShadowHawk helicopter drone that can be equipped with a 40 mm grenade launcher and a 12-gauge shotgun. When the sheriff’s office announced that the drone would be used by the county’s SWAT team, a spokesman said there were no plans to arm it but left open the possibility that deputies might decide to adapt the drone to fire tear gas canisters and rubber bullets.
The Drone Caucus Wants to Open Civilian Airspace
Getting their legislation passed by their colleagues in Congress will be an uphill battle for the above-mentioned lawmakers concerned about privacy and the need for search warrants.
As a result of intense lobbying by the drone industry, headed by two of the biggest manufacturers, General Atomics and Lockheed Martin, Congress formed the Unmanned Systems Caucus that now has 60 members. The group’s website states that its mission is “to educate members of Congress and the public on the strategic, tactical and scientific value of unmanned systems; actively support further development and acquisition of more systems; and to more effectively engage the civilian aviation community on unmanned system use and safety.”
The drone caucus successfully passed legislation this year that requires the Federal Aviation Administration to identify six places across the country by 2013 that will be used for testing how to safely fly drones in the same area as traditional planes. The regulator has until Sept. 30, 2015, to formulate a plan to integrate up to 30,000 drones into U.S. airspace.
The dedication of activists and the modest efforts of a few concerned members of Congress have so far failed to halt the flight of drones from the battlefield to our homeland.
Ann Wright is a 29 year US Army/Army Reserves veteran who retired as a Colonel and a former US diplomat who resigned in March, 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq. She served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia. In December, 2001 she was on the small team that reopened the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. She is the co-author of the book “Dissent: Voices of Conscience.” (www.voicesofconscience.com)
US Congress passes authoritarian anti-protest law March 3, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Democracy, Occupy Wall Street Movement.
Tags: #occupy movement, anti-protest, civil liberties, congress, Criminal Justice, democracy, demonstrations, dhs, first amendment, Freedom of speech, Homeland Security, ndaa, occupy wall street, political protest, roger hollander, tom carter
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By Tom Carter 3 March 2012, World Socialist Web Site, www.wsws,org
A bill passed Monday in the US House of Representatives and Thursday in the Senate would make it a felony—a serious criminal offense punishable by lengthy terms of incarceration—to participate in many forms of protest associated with the Occupy Wall Street protests of last year. Several commentators have dubbed it the “anti-Occupy” law, but its implications are far broader.
The bill—H.R. 347, or the “Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011”—was passed by unanimous consent in the Senate, while only Ron Paul and two other Republicans voted against the bill in the House of Representatives (the bill passed 388-3). Not a single Democratic politician voted against the bill.
The virtually unanimous passage of H.R. 347 starkly exposes the fact that, despite all the posturing, the Democrats and the Republicans stand shoulder to shoulder with the corporate and financial oligarchy, which regarded last year’s popular protests against social inequality with a mixture of fear and hostility.
Among the central provisions of H.R. 347 is a section that would make it a criminal offense to “enter or remain in” an area designated as “restricted.”
The bill defines the areas that qualify as “restricted” in extremely vague and broad terms. Restricted areas can include “a building or grounds where the President or other person protected by the Secret Service is or will be temporarily visiting” and “a building or grounds so restricted in conjunction with an event designated as a special event of national significance.”
The Secret Service provides bodyguards not just to the US president, but to a broad layer of top figures in the political establishment, including presidential candidates and foreign dignitaries.
Even more sinister is the provision regarding events of “national significance.” What circumstances constitute events of “national significance” is left to the unbridled discretion of the Department of Homeland Security. The occasion for virtually any large protest could be designated by the Department of Homeland Security as an event of “national significance,” making any demonstrations in the vicinity illegal.
For certain, included among such events would be the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, which have been classified as National Special Security Events (NSSE), a category created under the Clinton administration. These conventions have been the occasion for protests that have been subjected to ever increasing police restrictions and repression. Under H.R. 347, future protests at such events could be outright criminalized.
The standard punishment under the new law is a fine and up to one year in prison. If a weapon or serious physical injury is involved, the penalty may be increased to up to ten years.
Also criminalized by the bill is conduct “that impedes or disrupts the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions” and “obstructs or impedes ingress or egress to or from any restricted building or grounds.” These provisions, even more so than the provisions creating “restricted areas,” threaten to criminalize a broad range of protest activities that were previously perfectly legal.
In order to appreciate the unprecedented sweep of H.R. 347, it is necessary to consider a few examples:
A wide area around the next G-20 meeting or other global summit could be designated “restricted” by the Secret Service, such that any person who “enters” a that area can be subject to a fine and a year in jail under Section 1752(a)(1) (making it a felony to enter any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority to do so).
Senator Rick Santorum, the ultra-right Republican presidential candidate, enjoys the protection of the Secret Service. Accordingly, a person who shouts “boo!” during a speech by Santorum could be subject to arrest and a year of imprisonment under Section 1752(a)(2) (making it a felony to “engag[e] in disorderly or disruptive conduct in” a restricted area).
Striking government workers who form a picket line near any event of “national significance” can be locked up under Section 1752(a)(3) (making it a crime to imped[e] ingress or egress to or from any restricted building or grounds).
Under the ancien regime in France, steps were taken to ensure that the “unwashed masses” were kept out of sight whenever a carriage containing an important aristocrat or church official was passing through. Similarly, H.R. 347 creates for the US president and other top officials a protest-free bubble or “no-free-speech zone” that follows them wherever they go, making sure the discontented multitude is kept out of the picture.
The Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act is plainly in violation of the First Amendment to the US Constitution, which was passed in 1791 in the aftermath of the American Revolution. The First Amendment provides: “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech . . . or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” (The arrogance of the Democratic and Republican politicians is staggering—what part of “Congress shall make no law” do they not understand?)
H.R. 347 comes on the heels of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which was signed by President Obama into law on December 31, 2011. The NDAA gives the president the power to order the assassination and incarceration of any person—including a US citizen—anywhere in the world without charge or trial.
The passage of H.R. 347 has been the subject of a virtual blackout in the media. In light of the unprecedented nature of the bill, which would effectively overturn the First Amendment, this blackout cannot be innocent. The media silence therefore represents a conscious effort to keep the American population in the dark as to the government’s efforts to eviscerate the Bill of Rights.
The bill would vastly expand a previous law making it misdemeanor to trespass on the grounds of the White House. An earlier version of the bill would have made it a felony just to “conspire” to engage in any of the conduct described above. The bill now awaits President Obama’s signature before it becomes the law of the land.
What lies behind the unprecedented attack underway on the US Constitution and Bill of Rights is a growing understanding in the ruling class that the protests that took place around the world against social inequality in 2011 will inevitably re-emerge in more and more powerful forms in 2012 and beyond, as austerity measures and the crashing economy make the conditions of life more and more impossible for the working class. The virtually unanimous support in Congress H.R. 347, among Democrats as well as Republicans, reflects overriding sentiment within the ruling establishment for scrapping all existing democratic rights in favor of dictatorial methods of rule.
This sentiment was most directly expressed this week by Wyoming Republican legislator David Miller, who recently introduced a bill into the state legislature that would give the state the power, in an “emergency,” to create its own standing army through conscription, print its own currency, acquire military aircraft, suspend the legislature, and establish martial law. “Things happen quickly sometimes—look at Libya, look at Egypt, look at those situations,” Miller told the Star-Tribune in Casper, Wyoming. Repeating arguments employed by every military dictatorship over the past century, Miller declared, “We wouldn’t have time to meet as a Legislature or even in special session to do anything to respond.” Miller’s so-called “doomsday law” was defeated in the Wyoming legislature Tuesday by the narrow margin of 30-27.
Tags: anti-union, Colombia, colombia kiillings, colombia paramilitaries, colombia violence, congress, Free Trade, human rights, jim mcgovern, juan manuel santos, labor, labor killings, Latin America, libardo cardona, roger hollander, trade pacts, trade unionists, unions, vivian sequera
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Trade Pacts Move Forward, But Colombia Still UnSafe for Unionists
BOGOTA, Colombia — A new study challenges claims from the administration of President Barack Obama that Colombia is making important strides in bringing to justice killers of labor activists and so deserves U.S. congressional approval of a long-stalled free trade pact.
US President Barack Obama meets with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, on April 7, 2011. Yesterday Obama submitted three trade pacts to Congress despite continued concerns about their impact on the US economy and human rights violations in Colombia. (Reuters)
The Human Rights Watch study found “virtually no progress” in getting convictions for killings that have occurred in the past 4 1/2 years.
It counted just six convictions obtained by a special prosecutions unit from 195 slayings between January 2007 and May 2011, with nearly nine in 10 of the unit’s cases from that period in preliminary stages with no suspect formally identified.
Democrats in the U.S. Congress have long resisted bringing the Colombia trade pact to a vote, citing what they said is insufficient success in halting such killings.
The White House disagrees, and says Colombia has made significant progress in addressing anti-unionist violence.
US President Barack Obama sent long-stalled free trade deals with Colombia, Panama and South Korea to Congress and pressed lawmakers to approve them “without delay.” Republicans endorse the bill overall and say it will increase U.S. exports by $13 billion a year and support tens of thousands of jobs.
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk recently said the trade agreements are “an integral part of the President’s plan to create jobs here at home.”
But in Colombia, the world’s most lethal country for labor organizing, the killings haven’t stopped. At least 38 trade unionists have been slain since President Juan Manuel Santos took office in August 2010, says Colombia’s National Labor School.
“A major reason for this ongoing violence has been the chronic lack of accountability for cases of anti-union violence,” Human Rights Watch said in a letter sent last Thursday to Colombian Chief Prosecutor Viviane Morales that details the study’s findings.
Convictions have been obtained for less than 10 percent of the 2,886 trade unionists killed since 1986, and the rights group said it found “severe shortcomings” in the work of a special unit of Morales’ office established five years ago to solve the slayings. The letter says the unit has demonstrated “a routine failure to adequately investigate the motive” in labor killings as well as to “bring to justice all responsible parties.”
A chief finding: The 74 convictions achieved over the past year owe largely to plea bargains with members of illegal far-right militias who confessed to killings in exchange for leniency.
They did so under the so-called Justice and Peace law that gave paramilitary fighters reduced prison sentences of up to eight years in exchange for laying down their arms and confessing to crimes. That law expired at the end of 2006, the year the free trade pact was signed.
Only in a handful of cases did prosecutors pursue evidence that the paramilitaries who confessed acted on the orders of politicians, employers or others, Human Rights Watch says.
Prosecutors “made virtually no progress in prosecuting people who order, pay, instigate or collude with paramilitaries in attacking trade unionists,” the letter states. “What is at stake is the justice system’s ability to act as an effective deterrent to anti-union violence.”
Of the more than 275 convictions handed down through May, 80 percent were against former members of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC. The head of international affairs in the chief prosecutor’s office, Francisco Echeverri, told the AP that it has put 513 people in prison.
In nearly half of 50 recent convictions reviewed by Human Rights Watch, the judges cited “evidence pointing to the involvement of members of the security forces or intelligence services, politicians, landowners, bosses or co-workers.” Yet in only one of those cases was such an individual convicted.
In the case of a gym teacher and union activist killed in the northwestern town of San Rafael in 2002, one of the paramilitaries who confessed to the crime said it was committed at the request of the mayor, according to the judge’s decision.
The man who was mayor at the time and was re-elected in 2008, Edgar Eladio Giraldo, is not being formally investigated and has not been questioned about the killing, said Hernando Castaneda, chief of the special unit.
“I have no knowledge of that and did not know that I was involved in that,” Giraldo told The Associated Press by telephone when asked about the killing of Julio Ernesto Ceballos.
A spokeswoman for Chief Prosecutor Morales said Sunday that her boss had not yet yet seen the Human Rights Watch letter.
Dan Kovalik of the United Steel Workers said the study’s findings and the continued killings “prove what labor is telling the White House: The labor rights situation in Colombia is not improving, and passage of the FTA is not appropriate.”
A memo soon to be released by the AFL-CIO deems Colombia noncompliant with the “Labor Action Plan” Santos and Obama agreed to in April as a condition for White House approval of the free trade pact.
In the memo, shown to the AP, the labor federation finds neither “economic, political, or moral justification for rewarding Colombia with a free trade agreement.”
Deputy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Nkenge Harmon said Friday when presented with the study’s findings that Colombia’s record prosecuting “perpetrators of violence” against labor activists “has improved significantly,” though she added that Colombian officials acknowledge more needs to be done.
Harmon also stressed that additional Colombian resources are being dedicated to the issue and that the U.S. government “is working intensively with them through training and support.”
Human Rights Watch acknowledged that annual trade unionists killings are only a quarter of what they were a decade ago. And it applauded some measures taken by Chief Prosecutor Morales, including her announcement that an additional 100 police investigators would be assigned to the special investigative unit.
But HRW regional director Jose Miguel Vivanco said “the challenge (Morales) is facing remains huge.”
A U.S. congressman who has met with various Colombian presidents on human rights issues, Jim McGovern, a Democrat from Massachusetts, doesn’t think enough has been done to reverse what he called a “dismal” record.
Said McGovern: “My worry is that if you approve the FTA at this particular point you remove all the pressure off the powers that be in Colombia to actually make a sincere, honest and concerted attempt to improve the situation.”
Associated Press writers Vivian Sequera and Libardo Cardona contributed to this report.
Tags: Boehner, congress, danny schechter, debt ceiling, debt criisis, debt crisis, Obama, roger hollander, tea party, Wall Street
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Oh, the gnashing of the teeth, Oh, the flamboyant tactics. Oh, all the breaking news excitement on cable news as the debt ceiling countdown saga went down to the wire with an intense political confrontation of a kind we haven’t seen before …
Or maybe we had—in the TARP debate and so-called Obamacare vote, to cite but two moments of high political drama. Once again, all the key players knew the outcome but wanted to keep us guessing because it served everyone’s interests.
For Boehner and the boys on the GOP side it was the great leadership test subplot. He would prove how tough he was, demonstrate his leadership mettle, get equal time with the president, and even look presidential. The orange tan was gone. His moment had in the sunlight had come as he roped the Tea party kids into the politically correct corral. The Congressman from Ohio was now a national force to be reckoned with,
Let’s not forget that he had become Wall Street’s butt boy, had been put on their financial slush fund, had many of the big money lobbyists on his side even as the financiers whined and complained about exaggerated threats to the world economy.
They made some noise but not too much. They well remember the wit and wisdom of ex-White House aide and now Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel about a crisis being a terrible opportunity to waste.
The Wall Street powercrats are high stakes poker players and this was one game they knew they would win in a political arena dependent on their beneficence.
At the same time, as the media compared the charade to the uncertainty of who would be chosen as this week’s Bachelorette reality TV Show. The Tea Party even got Charles Schumer and Jon Stewart going by reaching into the home video collections for sound bite from Ben Affleck’s flick, The Town, a bank robbery shoot em’ up set in Charlestown MA.
Only the pols on the hill had their eyes set on slightly bigger banks as they served bigger banksters.
Some analysts put their tactics down to “lunacy.” Others to irrationality but this gambit was far more rational than most commentators realized. It reminded me of Richard Nixon’s well-concocted madman strategy to make the Vietnamese think he was crazy enough to blow up their dykes or even drop the big one. It was a well-calculated fear tactic, a shrewd maneuver in a game of psychological warfare.
Paul Krugman understood what was going on, seconding my own analysis of the kamikaze tactics the right was using. He wrote what most of the media obfuscated about:
“The facts of the crisis over the debt ceiling aren’t complicated. Republicans have, in effect, taken America hostage, threatening to undermine the economy and disrupt the essential business of government unless they get policy concessions they would never have been able to enact through legislation. And Democrats – who would have been justified in rejecting this extortion altogether – have, in fact, gone a long way toward meeting those Republican demands.”
And, oh yes, the President had some big skin in the game. It gave him the posturing moment he needed to show how “balanced” he was, and how centrist he could become.
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) argued that Obama talked left to move right, as the Washington Post explained:
Forget about “winning the future”–Barack Obama wants to win the center. That’s what the Washington Post is telling readers (7/25/11):
Obama ‘Big Deal’ on Debt a Gamble to Win the Center
Advisers think securing his plan would ensure general-election victory
The Post’s Zachary A. Goldfarb (who can’t be held responsible for the headline) explained that Obama was making Republicans an offer they couldn’t refuse….
“Obama’s political advisers have long believed that securing such an agreement would provide an enormous boost to his 2012 campaign, according to people familiar with White House thinking. In particular, they want to preserve and improve the president’s standing among independents.”
FAIR dipped into their own archive to reminds of us of an article from September 2009 which showed the President was under pressure even then to drop a focus on jobs to concentrate on the deficit.
In other words, this whole strategy is not new but years in the making:
“Parroting the Republican Party, corporate media have recently devoted much energy to deploring the federal deficit and chastising President Barack Obama for not focusing enough on balancing the budget. Very soon, media warn, either spending must be cut or taxes will need to be raised across the board—an argument that rests on the assumption that deficit reduction is, indeed, the top economic priority”
And, so, White House priorities shifted subtly to please the plutocrats and try to neutralize the Tea Party fanatics by co-opting their program the way Bill Clinton did in 1996, It was called “triangulation” then. Obama’s own supporters call it “betrayal” now; Obama’s pro-Wall Street economic team assured they wouldn’t give the men on The Street too much to worry about.
And so what happens now? The Republicans get their bill, unify their ranks even though it’s just more show and tell. As Reuters explains, its all a prelude to coming back to the bargaining table at the 11th hour to make a deal that both sides can use to political advantage.
Read this and as you do, read between the lines;
“The House of Representatives approved a Republican deficit plan on Friday that has no chance of becoming law but could pave the way for a last-ditch bid for bipartisan compromise to avert a crippling national default.”
This was the scenario—more akin to a Kabuki play than a real political fight. It’s more like professional wrestling of the kind they perform at the Capitol Arena not far from Capitol Hill.
The audience is hyped. The wrestlers pretend to hate each other, and arouse the crowd with acts of physical aggression. The match looks fierce, but, as everyone knows, it is fixed and scripted.
They musclemen throw each other around the ring, sometimes even gushing blood. The big bruisers denounce each other until it’s over to the count of 1-2-3; the bad guy always goes down.
The match ends, imagine that, just in time for a commercial break. Here it will end at the debt ceiling deadline. Each side will claim victory.
There is no ceiling on these political shenanigans. It’s just part of fast-paced game designed to keep the public on the sidelines and on the edge of uncertainly while the media keeps the politicians in the spotlight and excites the base in both parties,
In the end, the media will salute both sides for putting country above party. The only deficit here is one of political morality and honesty.
You tell me: am I too cynical, or is this the way what some call politricks has become?
Mediachannel’s News Dissector Danny Schechter investigates the origins of the economic crisis in his book Plunder: Investigating Our Economic Calamity and the Subprime Scandal (Cosimo Books via Amazon). Comments to email@example.com
Making the US Economy “Scream” June 10, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Right Wing.
Tags: Allende, Chile, cia, congress, democracy, economy, Obama, Republican Party, republicans, right wing, robert parry, roger hollander
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Roger’s note: this article is interesting because of its creative association of the current tactics of the neo-fascist right in the US with the tactics used by the US government to destabilize foreign governments that were attempting social change in a way considered to be a threat to US geopolitical interests (and setting a bad example). One wonders why the author failed to mention the most radical example of this in recent history, the not so secret assault on the Sandinista government in Nicaragua via support for the bloody Contras. Nevertheless, it is a most perceptive comparison. Sadly, however, the article soon descends into an analysis of party politics in the US that misses the point by a mile. It fails to see the Democratic Party and President Obama’s complicity and implies that control by the Democratic Party of the branches of government will somehow right the situation, as if it were its mostly impotent liberal wing that really guides the Democratic Party. Obama’s escalation of the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the invasion of Libya, his cabinet choices in the areas of economics and defense (war), Secretary Clinton’s aggressive neo Monroe Doctrine approach to Latin America, the president’s failure to come out in support of labor in Wisconsin … these are just some of the areas where the president and the Party have shown themselves to be genuine Republicrats. The article suggests that some of Obama’s supporters have become disillusioned because of how he has been stymied by Republican obstruction. I argue that Obama himself has given enough reason for such disillusionment. If one is to take seriously the stated thesis of the article about the domestic tactics of the Republican Party, with the obeisance and support of the mainstream media, then it is clear that we are in serious trouble, that a comparison with Nazi tactics in Weimar Germany need to be looked at; and that simply electing Democrats to Congress and the presidency is by far not the solution. And being attacked by the radical Republican right does not confer political sainthood. I remember when the John Birch Society accused Eisenhower of being a Communist.
Modern Republicans have a simple approach to politics when they are not in the White House: Make America as ungovernable as possible by using almost any means available, from challenging the legitimacy of opponents to spreading lies and disinformation to sabotaging the economy.
Over the past four decades or so, the Republicans have simply not played by the old give-and-take rules of politics. Indeed, if one were to step back and assess this Republican approach, what you would see is something akin to how the CIA has destabilized target countries, especially those that seek to organize themselves in defiance of capitalist orthodoxy.
To stop this spread of “socialism,” nearly anything goes. Take, for example, Chile in the early 1970s when socialist President Salvador Allende won an election and took steps aimed at improving the conditions of the country’s poor.
Under the direction of President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the CIA was dispatched to engage in psychological warfare against Allende’s government and to make the Chilean economy “scream.”
U.S. intelligence agencies secretly sponsored Chilean news outlets, like the influential newspaper El Mercurio, and supported “populist” uprisings of truckers and housewives. On the economic front, the CIA coordinated efforts to starve the Chilean government of funds and to drive unemployment higher.
Worsening joblessness could then be spun by the CIA-financed news outlets as proof that Allende’s policies didn’t work and that the only choice for Chile was to scrap its social programs. When Allende compromised with the Right, that had the additional benefit of causing friction between him and some of his supporters who wanted even more radical change.
As Chile became increasingly ungovernable, the stage was set for the violent overthrow of Allende, the installation of a rightist dictatorship, and the imposition of “free-market” economics that directed more wealth and power to Chile’s rich and their American corporate backers.
Though the Allende case in Chile is perhaps the best known example of this intelligence strategy (because it was investigated by a Senate committee in the mid-1970s), the CIA has employed this approach frequently around the world. Sometimes the target government is removed without violence, although other times a bloody coup d’etat has been part of the mix.
Home to Roost
So, it is perhaps fitting that a comparable approach to politics would eventually come home to roost in the United States, even to the point that some of the propaganda funding comes from outside sources (think of Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Washington Times and Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.)
Obviously, given the wealth of the American elites, the relative proportion of the propaganda funding is derived more domestically in the United States than it would be in a place like Chile (or some other unfortunate Third World country that has gotten on Washington’s bad side).
But the concept remains the same: Control as much as possible what the population gets to see and hear; create chaos for your opponent’s government, economically and politically; blame if for the mess; and establish in the minds of the voters that they’re only way out is to submit, that the pain will stop once your side is back in power.
Today’s Republicans have fully embraced this concept of political warfare, whereas the Democrats generally have tried to play by the old rules, acquiescing when Republicans are in office with the goal of “making government work,” even if the Republicans are setting the agenda.
Unlike the Democrats and the Left, the Republicans and the Right have prepared themselves for this battle, almost as if they are following a CIA training manual. They have invested tens of billions of dollars in a propaganda infrastructure that operates 24/7, year-round, to spot and exploit missteps by political enemies.
This vertically integrated media machine allows useful information to move quickly from a right-wing blog to talk radio to Fox News to the Wall Street Journal to conservative magazines and book publishing. Right-wing propagandists are well-trained and well-funded so they can be deployed to all manner of public outlets to hammer home the talking points.
When a Democrat somehow does manage to get into the White House, Republicans in Congress (and even in the Courts) are ready to do their part in the destabilization campaign. Rather than grant traditional “honeymoon” periods of cooperation with the president’s early policies, the battle lines are drawn immediately.
In late 1992, for instance, Bill Clinton complained that his “honeymoon” didn’t even last through the transition, the two-plus months before a new president takes office. He found himself facing especially harsh hazing from the Washington press corps, as the mainstream media – seeking to shed its “liberal” label and goaded by the right-wing media – tried to demonstrate that it would be tougher on a Democrat than any Republican.
The mainstream press hyped minor “scandals” about Clinton’s Whitewater real estate investment and Travel-gate, a flap about some routine firings at the White House travel office. Meanwhile, the Right’s rapidly growing media was spreading false stories implicating Clinton in the death of White House aide Vince Foster and other “mysterious deaths.”
Republicans in Congress did all they could to feed the press hysteria, holding hearings and demanding that special prosecutors be appointed. When the Clinton administration relented, the choice of prosecutors was handed over to right-wing Republican Appeals Court Judge David Sentelle, who consciously picked political enemies of Clinton to oversee zealous investigations.
The use of scandal-mongering to destabilize the Clinton administration finally peaked in late 1998 and early 1999 when the Republican-controlled House voted impeachment and Clinton had to endure (but survive) a humiliating trial in the Senate.
The Republican strategy, however, continued into Campaign 2000 with Vice President Al Gore facing attacks on his character and integrity. Gore was falsely painted as a delusional braggart, as both right-wing and mainstream media outlets freely misquoted him and subjected him to ridicule (while simultaneously bowing and scraping before Republican candidate George W. Bush).
When Gore managed to win the national popular vote anyway – and would have carried the key state of Florida if all legally cast ballots were counted – the Republicans and the Right rose up in fury demanding that the Florida count be stopped before Bush’s tiny lead completely disappeared. Starting a minor riot in Miami, the Republicans showed how far they would go to claim the White House again.
Five Republican partisans on the U.S. Supreme Court – wanting to ensure that the new president would keep their side in control of the courts and recognizing that their party was prepared to spread disorder if Gore prevailed – stopped the counting of votes and made Bush the “winner.”
Despite this partisan ruling, Gore and the Democrats stepped back from the political confrontation. The right-wing press cheered and gloated, while the mainstream news media urged the people to accept Bush as “legitimate” for the good of the country.
For most of Bush’s disastrous presidency, this dynamic remained the same. Though barely able to complete a coherent sentence, Bush was treated with great deference, even when he failed to protect the country from the 9/11 attacks and led the nation into an unprovoked war with Iraq. There were no combative investigations of Bush like those that surrounded Clinton.
Even at the end of Bush’s presidency – when his policies of deregulation, tax cuts for the rich and massive budget deficits combined to create the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression – the prevailing message from the Establishment was that it was unfair to lay too much blame on Bush.
Shortly after Barack Obama took office in 2009, a Republican/right-wing talking point was to complain when anyone took note of the mess that Bush had left behind: “There you go again, blaming Bush.”
Immediately, too, the Republicans and the Right set to work demonizing and destroying Obama’s presidency. Instead of allowing the Democrats to enact legislation aimed at addressing the financial and economic crisis, the Senate Republicans launched filibuster after filibuster.
When Obama and the Democrats did push through emergency legislation, such as the $787 billion stimulus package, they had to water it down to reach the 60-vote super-majority. The Republicans and the Right then quickly laid the blame for high unemployment on the “failed” stimulus.
There also were waves of propaganda pounding Obama’s legitimacy. The Right’s news media pressed bogus accusations that Obama had been born in Kenya and thus was not constitutionally eligible to be president. He was denounced as a socialist, a Muslim, a fascist, an enemy of Israel, and pretty much any other charge that might hit some American hot button.
When Obama welcomed American students back to school in 2009, the Right organized against his simple message – urging young people to work hard – as if it were some form of totalitarian mind control. His attempt to address the growing crisis in American health care was denounced as taking away freedoms and imposing “death panels.”
Soon, billionaires like oil man David Koch and media mogul Murdoch, were promoting a “grassroots” rebellion against Obama called the Tea Party. Activists were showing up at presidential speeches with guns and brandishing weapons at rallies near Washington.
The high-decibel disruptions and the “screaming” economy created the impression of political chaos. Largely ignoring the role of the Republicans, the press faulted Obama for failing to live up to his campaign promise to bring greater bipartisanship to Washington.
Hearing the discord framed that way, many average Americans also blamed Obama; many of the President’s supporters grew demoralized; and, as happened with Allende in Chile, some on the Left turned against Obama for not doing more, faster.
By November 2010, the stage was set for a big Republican comeback. The party swept to victory in the House and fell just short in the Senate. But Congress was not the Republicans’ true goal. What they really want is the White House with all its executive powers.
However, following Obama’s success in killing Osama bin Laden on May 2 and with what is widely regarded as a weak Republican presidential field, the Right’s best hope for regaining complete control of the U.S. government in 2012 is to sink the U.S. economy.
Already, the Republican success in limiting the scope of the stimulus package and then labeling it a failure – combined with deep cuts in local, state and federal government spending – have helped push the economy back to the brink where a double-dip recession is now a serious concern.
Despite these worries – and a warning from Moody’s about a possible downgrade on U.S. debt if Congress delays action on raising the debt limit – the Republicans are vowing more brinksmanship over the debt-limit vote. Before acting, they are demanding major reductions in government spending (while refusing to raise taxes on the rich).
So, Obama and the Democrats face another conundrum. If they slash spending too much, they will further stall the recovery. However, if they refuse to submit to this latest round of Republican blackmail, they risk a debt crisis that could have devastating consequences for the U.S. economy for years – even decades – to come.
Either way, the right-wing media and much of the mainstream press will put the blame on Obama and the Democrats. They will be held accountable for failing to govern.
The Republican propaganda machine will tell the American people that they must throw Obama and the Democrats out of office for stability to return. There will be assurances about how the “magic of the market” will bring back the bright days of prosperity.
Of course, the reality of a new Republican administration, especially with a GOP Congress, would be the return of the old right-wing nostrums: more tax cuts for the rich, less regulation of corporations, more military spending, and more privatization of social programs.
Any budget balancing will come at the expense of labor rights for union employees and shifting the costs for health care onto the backs of the elderly. Yet, all this will be surrounded by intense propaganda explaining the public pain as a hangover from misguided government “social engineering.”
There is, of course, the possibility that the American people will see through today’s Republican CIA-style strategy of “making the economy scream.” Americans might come to recognize the role of the pseudo-populist propagandists on Fox News and talk radio.
Or Republicans might have second thoughts about playing chicken on the debt limit and running the risk of a global depression. Such a gamble could redound against them. And, it’s hard to believe that even their most ardent billionaire-backers would find destruction of their stock portfolios that appealing.
But there can be a momentum to madness. We have seen throughout history that events can get out of hand, that thoroughly propagandized true believers can truly believe. Sometimes, they don’t understand they are simply being manipulated for a lesser goal. Once the chaos starts, it is hard to restore order.
That has been another bloody lesson from the CIA’s operations in countries around the world. These covert actions can have excessive or unintended consequences.
Ousting Allende turned Chile into a fascist dictatorship that sent assassins far and wide, including Washington, D.C. Ousting Mossadegh in Iran led to the tyranny of the Shah and ultimately to an extreme Islamist backlash. Ousting Arbenz in Guatemala led to the butchery of some 200,000 people and the rise of a narco-state. Such examples can go on and on.
However, these CIA-type techniques can be very seductive, both to U.S. presidents looking for a quick fix to some international problem and to a political party trying to gain a decisive edge for winning. These methods can be especially dangerous when the other side doesn’t organize effectively to counter them.
The hard reality in the United States today is that the Republicans and the Right are now fully organized, armed with a potent propaganda machine and possessing an extraordinary political will. They are well-positioned to roll the U.S. economy off the cliff and blame the catastrophe on Obama.
Indeed, that may be their best hope for winning Election 2012.
After 40 Years, the Complete Pentagon Papers June 8, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, History, War.
Tags: bradley manning, congress, daniel ellsberg, executive branch, first amendment, government secrecy, leslie h. gelb, michael cooper, national security, pentagon papers, rand corporation, roger hollander, sam roberts, Vietnam War, war, wikileaks
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It may be a first in the annals of government secrecy: Declassifying documents to mark the anniversary of their leak to the press. But that is what will happen Monday, when the federal government plans to finally release the secret government study of the Vietnam War known as the Pentagon Papers 40 years after it was first published by The New York Times.
At first blush, it sounds like the release of one of the worst-kept secrets in history — finally unlocking the barn door four decades after the horses bolted. The study, after all, has already been published by The Times and other newspapers, resulting in a landmark First Amendment decision by the Supreme Court. It has been released in book form more than once. But it turns out that those texts have been incomplete: When all 7,000 pages are released Monday, officials say, the study can finally be read in its original form.
That it took until the era of WikiLeaks for the government to declassify the Pentagon Papers struck some participants as, to say the least, curious.
“It’s absurd,” said Daniel Ellsberg, the former RAND Corporation analyst who worked on the report and later provided it to The Times. He said Tuesday that the report should not have been secret even in 1971, when newspapers first published it, adding: “The reasons are very clearly domestic political reasons, not national security at all. The reasons for the prolonged secrecy are to conceal the fact that so much of the policy making doesn’t bear public examination. It’s embarrassing, or even incriminating.”
When Mr. Ellsberg first leaked the study, he had to take it volume by volume out of a safe in his office and ferry it to a small advertising company owned by the girlfriend of a colleague who had Xerox machine. Page by page, they copied it in all-night sessions. Now the National Archives and Records Administration will scan it and — behold — it will be online quickly.
Leslie H. Gelb, the president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, who was the director of the task force that wrote the report, said he was surprised it had remained officially classified all these years, after so much of it had been made public. “It should have been declassified a long, long time ago,” he said.
But the secrecy has persisted. Timothy Naftali, the director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, said that when he recently put together an exhibit on Watergate, he wanted to display just the blue cover of the Pentagon Papers report. “I was told that the cover was classified,” he said, adding that he was astounded.
There is intrigue even in the release itself. Archivists touched off a new round of feverish speculation when they originally announced that 11 never-before-published words of the 7,000-page report would remain redacted all these years later, only to reverse themselves and announce Tuesday that the 11 words would be published after all.
Archivists originally joked that they would hold a Mad Libs contest, to see who could guess them. But even though the 11 words will be published after all, they have not said what they were — sparking a bit of a guessing game. Thomas S. Blanton, the director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University, said he guessed the words had something to do with intelligence capabilities, or references to people who are still alive who had been sources, or North Vietnamese diplomats.
“The criticism of their redacting the 11 words in the first place is that it’s self-defeating,” Mr. Blanton said. “You’re just flagging them for everyone to identify what they are.”
The bigger question is what new material will be made public for the first time. Several archivists who have seen the complete report declined invitations to repeat history and leak the full version of the Pentagon Papers to The Times. But there are some indications of what will be in it.
Until now, the complete text of the report — officially known as the Report of the O.S.D. Vietnam Task Force — has been as elusive to researchers as a clean copy of Hamlet has been to generations of Shakespeare scholars. The version Mr. Ellsberg provided to the press was incomplete. A book published by Beacon Press, based on a copy from Senator Mike Gravel, Democrat of Alaska, had missing sections. And a version published by the government was heavily redacted.
When Mr. Ellsberg originally leaked the Pentagon Papers, he did so because he wanted to stop the Vietnam War — so he left out sections about peace negotiations with North Vietnam. “I omitted them because I thought that Nixon would use the release as an excuse for breaking off negotiations with North Vietnam,” he said in an interview. “I frankly didn’t want to give him that excuse.”
Those sections about the negotiations had been declassified for years. But they will now appear in the context in which they were first written, along with several volumes that have not been published, including a section on the United States training the Vietnamese national army, a statistical survey of the war from 1965 to 1967 and some supporting documents.
Mr. Gelb said he thought the depth of the reports had been exaggerated over time, and noted that his team was extremely limited in what it was able to draw on to produce them.
“They are almost catch-as-catch-can studies based on available documents,” he said. “This thing was not meant to be in any sense a definitive history, or even a definitive bureaucratic history. It was just a history put together by very smart guys on the run.”
But Mr. Ellsberg said there were still plenty of lessons to be drawn.
“The rerelease of the Pentagon Papers is very timely, if anyone were to read it,” he said.
He said they demonstrate the wisdom of giving war-making powers to Congress — a power that he lamented has been increasingly usurped by the executive branch.
“It seems to me that what the Pentagon Papers really demonstrated 40 years ago was the price of that practice,” he said. “Which is that letting a small group of men in secret in the executive branch make these decisions — initiate them secretly, carry them out secretly and manipulate Congress, and lie to Congress and the public as to why they’re doing it and what they’re doing — is a recipe for, a guarantee of Vietnams and Iraqs and Libyas, and in general foolish, reckless, dangerous policies.”
Mr. Ellsberg said he wished more people would come forward to release information that could stop these wars, praising Pfc. Bradley E. Manning, the military intelligence analyst who is jailed on charges that he leaked a trove of government files to WikiLeaks.
“If he did what he’s accused of, then he’s my hero, because I’ve been waiting for somebody to do that for 40 years,” Mr. Ellsberg said. “And no one has.”
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Traitors (How Congress Profits from War) May 27, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, War.
Tags: Afghanistan, Afghanistan War, am general, bill young, christopher rice, congress, gates, humvede, Petraeus, roger hollander, treason, war, war on terror, war profiteers
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‘When you’re the world’s sole superpower, and you’ve been bogged down for eight years by pismire adversaries who don’t have an air force or a navy or an army or even a defense budget, you’re not fighting a “war on terror”, you’re getting fleeced by Congress and crooked private contractors who are opposed to any “exit strategy”‘.
Petraeus for equipment to protect troops in Afghanistan. The money has been held up because it would be taken from a
project benefiting a major contributor to the committee chairman, Bill Young, R-Fa.
by without this equipment, the lives of our troops are at greater risk.”
resolutions, or if it enacts the spending bill recently passed by House Republicans. (L.A. Times 3/6/2011) Gates said it
would leave the military unable “to properly carry out its mission, maintain readiness and prepare for the future.”
Humvees than it wants. They are manufactured by AM General – which happens to be Young’s third-largest campaign
contributor. Its executives have funneled him more than $80,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
and may not be able to detect explosives.
the most commonly encountered explosives, increasing the chance of a dog missing a bomb in a vehicle or luggage. That puts
U.S. lives at risk. (The Sun 10/09/2010 AP)
Tags: afghanistant war, congress, dadt, gays in military, Iraq war, JOHN T. BENNETT, military, military budget, nuclear, nuclear war, nuclear weapons, roger hollander, start, war
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Roger’s Note: A single word: INSANE.
Roger PS: DEFENSE spending? I am old enough to remember when it was more accurately called the WAR DEPARTMENT. I am not joking, kiddies.
by John T. Bennett
The House Armed Services Committee early Thursday approved a spending measure that clears the Pentagon and Energy Department to spend nearly $700 billion next fiscal year.
The panel approved a baseline Pentagon spending level of $553 billion, matching the Obama administration’s request. It also authorized the Energy Department to spend $18 billion on nuclear weapons projects, and cleared the military to spend $118 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The $690 billion defense authorization measure is expected to hit the House floor the week of May 23, according to aides.
The marathon markup began Wednesday morning and stretched into the early morning hours of Thursday.
As one day became another, the committee approved an amendment aimed at delaying a repeal of the ban on openly gay military service members. Democrats threw out the so-called “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy last year during a lame-duck legislative session, against the wishes of most Republicans.
The provision approved by the panel would add the four service chiefs to the list of military leaders that must certify the military to official end the ban. The services are in the midst of training personnel on how they should behave in the post-“Don’t ask” era.
Experts see the amendment — which has brought the ire of gay groups — as a delaying tactic, with even those who supported it acknowledging the chiefs inevitably will sign on.
Panel Republicans pushed through language reiterating that the U.S. is at war with al Qaeda and the Taliban, with Democrats charging they are looking to use it as a tool in the policy debate over detainees.
The committee engaged in a sometimes-testy partisan debate over various amendments brought by Republicans that would put a number of stipulations on the New START nuclear weapons reduction treaty the Obama administration hammered out last year with Russia. The Senate has ratified that pact, but House GOP members want to make sure this — and future — presidents live up to terms of the deal made to secure ratification.
To get GOP support in the Senate, President Obama agreed to spend billions to upgrade America’s existing nuclear arsenal.
The House Armed Services panel approved several amendments that would require presidential notification if specific aspects of the nation’s nuclear targeting strategy are changed and keep “forward-deployed nuclear forces … based in Europe.”
Another New START amendment would limit the executive branch’s ability to spend funds between 2011 and 2017 to retire any system covered by the U.S.-Russia treaty. Democrats charged the amendment was too broad and undefined, with several claiming it would “tie the hands” of Obama and future presidents.
It does, however, contain an out for the executive branch, stating such retirements can move forward if the secretaries of Energy and Defense “may jointly waive the limitation” in a written notification to Congress.
On Wednesday afternoon, the committee adopted a provision that would trigger a competition to build F-35 fighter engine if certain improvements are made to the primary power plant. The panel also killed an amendment to strip $380 million from the F-35 program by cutting the planned buy of the Marines’ B variant by two jets.
On nearly all major hardware programs, the committee’s bill includes the funding levels sought by the Obama administration.
One exception was a big-ticket missile program, however.
After a heated exchange between senior Democratic and Republican panel members, the committee agreed to propose adding $100 million to the Ground Based Midcourse Defense missile program. As a part of that debate, Republicans agreed to add the same amount to the bill for National Guard and Reserve equipment by taking $100 million from a troubled project to place an advanced sensor on a C-12 aircraft.
The debate got so intense that, at its conclusion, panel Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.) advised his members to “calm down” as the committee prepared for a dinner break.