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Three-Fifths of an Attorney General Declares POWs “Non-Persons” July 24, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Constitution, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Torture.
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Roger’s note: Congratulations.  Barak Obama and Eric Holder, with the essential contribution of George Bush, have managed to score a trifecta: a policy and implementation at Guantanamo Bay that is all three, Orwellian, Kafkaesque and Lewis Carroll at the same time.  Torture, indefinite detention, and people who are not persons.  “Execution first, then the trial” shouted the Queen.

And by the way, the three fifths of a person of African slaves that was in the original constitution is even worse than it appears at face value.  Slaves would have been better off if not considered as persons at all.  The southern states lobbied for three fifths so that their slaves would be counted in the census, which in turn determined their level of representation in the House of Representative.  More slaves on the roll via the three fifths gave the southern state more political clout with which to defend slavery.  Thus, being counted as less than fully human was a double whammy against the slaves.  Kafka would have loved it.

 

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Protestors gathered in New York City’s Time Square in April of 2013 to raise awareness of detainee hunger strikes and indefinite imprisonment of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. (Photo: flickr / cc /Jordan P)

 

Hand it to President Obama for appointing Eric Holder the first African American Attorney General in US history. Then try to fathom that after generations of civil and human rights work by African Americans — whom the US Constitution once called “3/5 of a person” — it is Holder who declared some brown skinned prisoners of war to be “non-persons.” The men are held outside the law by the US at Guantánamo Bay.

Attorneys for the POWs have asked for an order that would allow group prayers during the holy month of Ramadan, but Holder’s Justice Dept. has formally replied that the men aren’t entitled to relief under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) because the Supreme Court has not found that Guantánamo’s prisoners “are ‘persons’ to whom RFRA applies.”

Holder calls the men “unprivileged enemy belligerents detained overseas during a period of ongoing hostilities.” Calling them prisoners of war would require respecting their human rights.

Cori Crider, an attorney with the legal charity Reprieve who represents some of the men, said in a statement, “I fail to see how the President can stand up and claim Guantánamo is a scandal while his lawyers call detainees non-persons in court. If the President is serious about closing this prison, he could start by recognizing that its inmates are people — most of whom have been cleared by his own Government.”

According to AG Holder, US Appeals Court rulings mean Guantánamo’s POWs — whom he calls “nonresident aliens outside the US sovereign territory” — are “not protected ‘person[s].’” In the infamous Hobby Lobby case Holder argues, the Supreme Court refused to say that the word “‘person’ as used in RFRA includes a nonresident alien outside sovereign United States territory.”

Even if RFRA applied to the POWs, Holder claims, the law “cannot overcome the judicial presumption against extraterritorial application of statutes.” Translation: US Law doesn’t apply at Gitmo, or, the reason the US isolates non-persons at an off-shore military penal colony in the first place is so we can ignore or violate “statutes” with impunity. And if we convince ourselves that “unprivileged enemy belligerents” are not people, we should be able to sleep even if we violate the US torture statute (18 USC, Sec. 1, Ch. 113C), the Convention Against Torture and the US War Crimes Act (18 USC, Sec. 2441) ¾ for years on end.

America’s indefinite imprisonment without charges, hunger strikers and force-feeding

My own jail and prison time, all for political protests, has always come with a clear sentence: six days, 90 days, 180 days; 54 months in all. Anybody who’s been on the inside knows that a release date gives you something fast to hold on to, even if you’re called by a number, fed through a slot, handcuffed for court. But imagine 156 months in a nihilistic “extraterritorial” military prison, with no charges, no trial, no sentence, no visits, phone calls or mail, and no hope.

This is what the USA imposes at Guantánamo, a torturous psychological vice of legal oblivion and manufactured futurelessness. Add to this appalling construction the fact that 72 of 149 remaining inmates were approved for release more than four years ago — but are chained up anyway. Scores of Gitmo’s inmates have looked into this man-made oblivion and decided to die. They are using the only power they have left, the dreadful hunger-strike, both as a protest against their endless detention without trial and their only means of eventually ending it.

The US military has chosen to force-feed hunger strikers, gruesomely plunging plastic tubes up the non-persons’ noses. This abuse violates laws against torture, and the force-feeding schedule is the original basis for the religious rights petition so vigorously opposed by Obama and Holder. The ghastly traumatic stress resulting from enduring force-feeding and the regime of its application make Ramadan’s prayerful group reflection impossible. US District Judge Gladys Kessler has, according to Charlie Savage in the New York Times, publicly condemned the abuse for causing “agony.” For PR purposes the Pentagon and Justice Department call the abuse “enteral feeding.”

Mr. Holder has called “not credible” the prisoners’ complaints about “alleged aspects of enteral feeding” and “allegations that detainees who were being enterally fed were not permitted to pray communally during Ramadan in 2013.” But after the number of hunger strikers reached 106 last year, the military halted its public reporting of the strike.

Significantly, a Navy medical officer at Guantánamo has become the first prison official known to refuse force-feeding duty. The unidentified nurse’s refusal was acknowledged by the Pentagon July 15.

If Holder wins his frightening argument denying the humanity of the men at Guantánamo, even the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals could object. The ASPCA says its vision is that “the US is a humane community in which all animals are treated with respect and kindness.”

Iraq Crisis: Created by Bush & Blair and Bankrolled by Saudi Arabia June 13, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
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Roger’s note: I have found Robert Fisk to be the most reliable analyst of Middle East affairs.  He has lived and reported from there for decades.  Here he describes how all the death and destruction wreaked by the Bush/Blair gang of warmongers, not only leaves Iraq in a state of bloody chaos, but also results in a victory of the very forces of Islamic extremism that the illegal war was supposed to overcome (long after Bush and Blair have left office with their millions and declared victory).

 

Bush and Blair said Iraq was a war on Islamic fascism. They lost

Young men in Baghdad chant slogans against Isis outside the main army recruiting centre yesterday, where they are volunteering to fight the extremist group. (Credit: Karin Kadim/AP)

So after the grotesquerie of the Taliban and Osama bin Laden and 15 of the 19 suicide killers of 9/11, meet Saudi Arabia’s latest monstrous contribution to world history: the Islamist Sunni caliphate of Iraq and the Levant, conquerors of Mosul and Tikrit – and Raqqa in Syria – and possibly Baghdad, and the ultimate humiliators of Bush and Obama.

From Aleppo in northern Syria almost to the Iraqi-Iranian border, the jihadists of Isis and sundry other groupuscules paid by the Saudi Wahhabis – and by Kuwaiti oligarchs – now rule thousands of square miles.

“Bush and Blair destroyed Saddam’s regime to make the world safe and declared that Iraq was part of a titanic battle against ‘Islamofascism.’ Well, they lost.”

Apart from Saudi Arabia’s role in this catastrophe, what other stories are to be hidden from us in the coming days and weeks?

The story of Iraq and the story of Syria are the same – politically, militarily and journalistically: two leaders, one Shia, the other Alawite, fighting for the existence of their regimes against the power of a growing Sunni Muslim international army.

While the Americans support the wretched Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his elected Shia government in Iraq, the same Americans still demand the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad of Syria and his regime, even though both leaders are now brothers-in-arms against the victors of Mosul and Tikrit.

The Croesus-like wealth of Qatar may soon be redirected away from the Muslim rebels of Syria and Iraq to the Assad regime, out of fear and deep hatred for its Sunni brothers in Saudi Arabia (which may invade Qatar if it becomes very angry).

We all know of the “deep concern” of Washington and London at the territorial victories of the Islamists – and the utter destruction of all that America and Britain bled and died for in Iraq. No one, however, will feel as much of this “deep concern” as Shia Iran and Assad of Syria and Maliki of Iraq, who must regard the news from Mosul and Tikrit as a political and military disaster. Just when Syrian military forces were winning the war for Assad, tens of thousands of Iraqi-based militants may now turn on the Damascus government, before or after they choose to advance on Baghdad.

No one will care now how many hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been slaughtered since 2003 because of the fantasies of Bush and Blair. These two men destroyed Saddam’s regime to make the world safe and declared that Iraq was part of a titanic battle against “Islamofascism.” Well, they lost. Remember that the Americans captured and recaptured Mosul to crush the power of Islamist fighters. They fought for Fallujah twice. And both cities have now been lost again to the Islamists. The armies of Bush and Blair have long gone home, declaring victory.

Under Obama, Saudi Arabia will continue to be treated as a friendly “moderate” in the Arab world, even though its royal family is founded upon the Wahhabist convictions of the Sunni Islamists in Syria and Iraq – and even though millions of its dollars are arming those same fighters. Thus does Saudi power both feed the monster in the deserts of Syria and Iraq and cosy up to the Western powers that protect it.

We should also remember that Maliki’s military attempts to retake Mosul are likely to be ferocious and bloody, just as Assad’s battles to retake cities have proved to be. The refugees fleeing Mosul are more frightened of Shia government revenge than they are of the Sunni jihadists who have captured their city.

We will all be told to regard the new armed “caliphate” as a “terror nation.” Abu Mohamed al-Adnani, the Isis spokesman, is intelligent, warning against arrogance, talking of an advance on Baghdad when he may be thinking of Damascus. Isis is largely leaving the civilians of Mosul unharmed.

Finally, we will be invited to regard the future as a sectarian war when it will be a war between Muslim sectarians and Muslim non-sectarians. The “terror” bit will be provided by the arms we send to all sides.

Obama Gives Bush “Absolute Immunity” For Everything August 27, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush.
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by Abby Zimet

Days before Bradley – now Chelsea – Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for helping expose U.S. war crimes in Iraq, the Obama Department of Justice filed a petition in federal court arguing that the perpetrators of those crimes - Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld et al – enjoy “absolute immunity” against criminal charges or civil liability. The filing came in a suit brought by Sundus Shaker Saleh, an Iraqi single mother and refugee now living in Jordan, who alleges that the planning and waging of the Iraq war under false pretenses constituted a “crime of aggression” under a law used in the Nuremberg trials. With neither Congress nor Obama willing to hold Bush & Co. accountable for the Iraq catastrophe, supporters see the suit as a last-chance tactic to force the issue back into the public eye – an effort the Obama adminstration clearly opposes. More, all dispiriting, on the increasingly flawed Bush-Obama-lesser-of-two-evils thesis, and the current culture of impunity.

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Tell Congress: Repeal the blank check for perpetual war June 4, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in 9/11, George W. Bush, War on Terror.
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The email below is from Congresswoman Barbara Lee, a fearless progressive with an unparallelled record of doing what is right under the toughest of circumstances. She was the ONLY member of Congress to vote against giving George W. Bush a blank check for war in the wake of 9/11. She started a petition on org.credoaction.com, where activists can launch their own campaigns for progressive change. We strongly urge you to sign Representative Lee’s petition to repeal the overly broad resolution Congress passed in 2001 that gave President George Bush a blank check to wage war anywhere at any time, and that is still in effect today
Dear roger,

I started my own campaign on CREDO’s new site that allows activists to start their own petitions.

My petition, which is to Congress, asks the following:

Support HR 198 – Repeal of the Authorization for Use of Military Force – legislation that will reexamine and ultimately repeal the flawed blank check authorization to the president to wage war, anywhere at any time.

Now is the time for the U.S. Congress to repeal the overly broad 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force.

On September 14, 2001, I was the sole member of either house of Congress to vote against the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force. That misguided resolution is a blank check for war. It has been used to justify activities, such as warrantless surveillance, indefinite detention and the lethal use of drones, that fly in the face of our constitutional values. I am convinced that military engagement with no end in sight actually undermines our long-term national security.

This is not who we Americans think we are or who we want to be. This is why I have introduced legislation – HR 198 – that will reexamine and ultimately repeal the flawed blank-check Congressional authorization for the president to wage war anywhere at any time.

My bill already has more than a dozen congressional co-sponsors. But a public show of support for this effort is critical now as Congress is getting ready to consider whether to continue the blank check for the executive branch to wage endless war. That’s why I’m asking you to sign on as a citizen co-sponsor.

Click here to learn more and add your name to my petition to Congress, to ask them to repeal the blank-check authorization of war by supporting HR 198.

Thank you for your support.

Rep. Barbara Lee

http://act.credoaction.com/go/782?t=6&akid=8062.1644223.Rya1yR

Picture of the Week April 28, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in George W. Bush, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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by Abby Zimet

With all the boot-licking coverage of last week’s rewriting of history, this photo was nowhere in sight. Yes, it’s real: Melissa Stockwell, the first female U.S. soldier to lose a limb in Iraq, reading the Pledge of Allegiance. By Alex Wong for Getty. Worth many thousands of words.

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The Last Letter March 20, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Imperialism, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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Roger’s note: I want you to picture Bush and Cheney reading this letter.  Notice the arrogance, the smugness, the disgusting grins as they dismiss these heartfelt letter with less concern than they would flicking an annoying fly of the table.  They are impervious to moral criticism,  they act with virtually complete impunity.  It is frustrating, it is infuriating that so much power is in the hands of such reduced human beings.  It is our present reality.  They coined the phrase “axis of evil.”  Ironic. 

“How many times can a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn’t see?”  Bob Dylan

 

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A Message to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney From a Dying Veteran

To: George W. Bush and Dick Cheney
From: Tomas Young

I write this letter on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War on behalf of my fellow Iraq War veterans. I write this letter on behalf of the 4,488 soldiers and Marines who died in Iraq. I write this letter on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of veterans who have been wounded and on behalf of those whose wounds, physical and psychological, have destroyed their lives. I am one of those gravely wounded. I was paralyzed in an insurgent ambush in 2004 in Sadr City. My life is coming to an end. I am living under hospice care.

I write this letter on behalf of husbands and wives who have lost spouses, on behalf of children who have lost a parent, on behalf of the fathers and mothers who have lost sons and daughters and on behalf of those who care for the many thousands of my fellow veterans who have brain injuries. I write this letter on behalf of those veterans whose trauma and self-revulsion for what they have witnessed, endured and done in Iraq have led to suicide and on behalf of the active-duty soldiers and Marines who commit, on average, a suicide a day. I write this letter on behalf of the some 1 million Iraqi dead and on behalf of the countless Iraqi wounded. I write this letter on behalf of us all—the human detritus your war has left behind, those who will spend their lives in unending pain and grief.

You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans—my fellow veterans—whose future you stole.

I write this letter, my last letter, to you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. I write not because I think you grasp the terrible human and moral consequences of your lies, manipulation and thirst for wealth and power. I write this letter because, before my own death, I want to make it clear that I, and hundreds of thousands of my fellow veterans, along with millions of my fellow citizens, along with hundreds of millions more in Iraq and the Middle East, know fully who you are and what you have done. You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans—my fellow veterans—whose future you stole.

Your positions of authority, your millions of dollars of personal wealth, your public relations consultants, your privilege and your power cannot mask the hollowness of your character. You sent us to fight and die in Iraq after you, Mr. Cheney, dodged the draft in Vietnam, and you, Mr. Bush, went AWOL from your National Guard unit. Your cowardice and selfishness were established decades ago. You were not willing to risk yourselves for our nation but you sent hundreds of thousands of young men and women to be sacrificed in a senseless war with no more thought than it takes to put out the garbage.

I joined the Army two days after the 9/11 attacks. I joined the Army because our country had been attacked. I wanted to strike back at those who had killed some 3,000 of my fellow citizens. I did not join the Army to go to Iraq, a country that had no part in the September 2001 attacks and did not pose a threat to its neighbors, much less to the United States. I did not join the Army to “liberate” Iraqis or to shut down mythical weapons-of-mass-destruction facilities or to implant what you cynically called “democracy” in Baghdad and the Middle East. I did not join the Army to rebuild Iraq, which at the time you told us could be paid for by Iraq’s oil revenues. Instead, this war has cost the United States over $3 trillion. I especially did not join the Army to carry out pre-emptive war. Pre-emptive war is illegal under international law. And as a soldier in Iraq I was, I now know, abetting your idiocy and your crimes. The Iraq War is the largest strategic blunder in U.S. history. It obliterated the balance of power in the Middle East. It installed a corrupt and brutal pro-Iranian government in Baghdad, one cemented in power through the use of torture, death squads and terror. And it has left Iran as the dominant force in the region. On every level—moral, strategic, military and economic—Iraq was a failure. And it was you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, who started this war. It is you who should pay the consequences.

To read Chris Hedges’ recent interview with Tomas Young, click here.

I would not be writing this letter if I had been wounded fighting in Afghanistan against those forces that carried out the attacks of 9/11. Had I been wounded there I would still be miserable because of my physical deterioration and imminent death, but I would at least have the comfort of knowing that my injuries were a consequence of my own decision to defend the country I love. I would not have to lie in my bed, my body filled with painkillers, my life ebbing away, and deal with the fact that hundreds of thousands of human beings, including children, including myself, were sacrificed by you for little more than the greed of oil companies, for your alliance with the oil sheiks in Saudi Arabia, and your insane visions of empire.

I have, like many other disabled veterans, suffered from the inadequate and often inept care provided by the Veterans Administration. I have, like many other disabled veterans, come to realize that our mental and physical wounds are of no interest to you, perhaps of no interest to any politician. We were used. We were betrayed. And we have been abandoned. You, Mr. Bush, make much pretense of being a Christian. But isn’t lying a sin? Isn’t murder a sin? Aren’t theft and selfish ambition sins? I am not a Christian. But I believe in the Christian ideal. I believe that what you do to the least of your brothers you finally do to yourself, to your own soul.

My day of reckoning is upon me. Yours will come. I hope you will be put on trial. But mostly I hope, for your sakes, that you find the moral courage to face what you have done to me and to many, many others who deserved to live. I hope that before your time on earth ends, as mine is now ending, you will find the strength of character to stand before the American public and the world, and in particular the Iraqi people, and beg for forgiveness.

 

Dig Continued: Vietnam veteran and peace activist Ron Kovic on what it’s like to be wounded in war.

Confronting the lies about the Iraq invasion March 18, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Iraq and Afghanistan, Media, War.
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Please circulate this message widely among your friends and family.

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Statement by Brian Becker, national coordinator of the ANSWER Coalition, on the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq

Confronting the lies about the Iraq invasion

Ten years ago, the United States and Britain invaded Iraq. The history of how this invasion came about has been largely falsified by both the right-wing supporters of the invasion and the liberal commentators who opposed the war.

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500,000 rally against looming war on Jan 18, 2003

 

The core argument of the professional liberal commentators and historians is that Bush hoodwinked the country and the general public, with the help of a supplicant media, by scaring people into thinking that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and the Bush administration had to invade to defend America and its people.

The fallacious handwringing liberal position was typified in the recent 10th-anniversary account of the war by Micah Sifry, published by the National Memo.

“But 10 years ago, it was not a good time to be a war skeptic in America. It rarely is. The vast majority of ‘smart’ and ‘serious’ people had convinced themselves that in the face of Saddam Hussein’s alleged stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction, the prudent thing to do was to go to war to remove him from power,” writes Sifry.

This is a fanciful and false account.

The “country” was not hoodwinked. There was no general feeling that the U.S. must strike first or be engulfed by Saddam Hussein’s military.

The opposite was true. The people of this country—and the world—mobilized in unprecedented numbers prior to a military conflict under the banner: “Stop the War Before it Starts.”

An unprecedented, massive anti-war movement

In the months prior to the invasion, I was the central organizer of the mass anti-war actions in Washington, D.C., that brought many hundreds of thousands of people into the streets of the capital in repeated demonstrations—on Oct. 26, 2002; Jan. 18, 2003; and March 15, 2003.

The Jan. 18, 2003, demonstration filled up a vast expanse of the Mall west of the Capitol building, which houses the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. The Washington Post described the Jan. 18 demonstration as the largest anti-war protest since the end of the Vietnam War.

In addition to the Washington demonstrations, there were mass anti-war protests in cities throughout the United States, on both the east and west coasts and nearly everywhere in between.

Thousands of organizations and millions of individuals were participants and organizers in this grassroots global movement.

On Feb. 15, 2003, there were coinciding demonstrations in more than 1,000 cities in almost every country—including many hundreds of cities and towns in the United States.

The rise of a global anti-war movement of such magnitude—before the actual start of military hostilities—was without precedent in human history. Mass anti-war movements and even revolutions have occurred inside one or more of the warring countries at the time of their defeat or perceived defeat, but the Iraq anti-war movement of 2002-2003 was in anticipation of a war and before the gruesome impact of the slaughter could be seen and felt.

The depth of the movement was breathtaking for the organizers and the participants. Millions went into the streets over and over and over again. They knew that they were in a race against time. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld were likewise racing to go to war, not because Iraq was getting stronger or closer to having weapons of mass destruction but because this global grassroots anti-war movement had the potential to shake the political status quo to its very foundations

In February 2003, The New York Times described the global anti-war movement as the world’s “second super-power.”

Why the race toward war

It was under these circumstances that the “mass media” went into overdrive to promote the war. Anti-war voices on television were booted off the air. The airwaves were filled up with the obviously bogus imagery that Iraq in league with unspecified “Muslim terrorists” was about to engulf the United States in a nuclear mushroom cloud. The message was that war was inevitable and that protests were futile.

Bush rushed hundreds of thousands of troops to Kuwait in a race to launch the invasion that they knew was likely to destroy the Iraqi military in a few weeks.

The Democratic Party leaders in Congress had already acquiesced to Bush and Cheney’s war demands. Even though the calls and letters to Congress against the war were running 200 to 1, both the Senate and the House of Representatives, by lopsided margins, passed resolutions on Oct. 11, 2002, authorizing Bush to use the armed forces of the United States against Iraq.

The Iraq invasion was a criminal enterprise. Millions of Iraqis died, more than five million were forced into the miserable life of refugees, thousands of U.S. troops were killed and tens of thousands of others suffered life-changing physical and mental injuries.

Today, Bush and Cheney are writing books and collecting huge speaking fees. They are shielded from prosecution by the current Democratic-led government.

The war in Iraq was not simply a “mistake” nor was it the consequence of a hoodwinked public. It was rather a symptom of the primary reality of the modern-day political system in the U.S. This system is addicted to war. It relies on organized violence, or the threat of violence, to maintain the dominant position of the United States all over the world. The U.S. has invaded or bombed one country after another since the end of the so-called Cold War. It has military bases in 130 countries and spends more on lethal violence than all other countries combined. Yes, in the United States the adult population is encouraged to vote every two or four years for one of two ruling-class parties that enforce the global projection of U.S. empire with equal vigor when they take turns at the helm. And this is labeled the exercise of “democracy” and proof that the United States is indeed the land of the free.

The invasion of Iraq succeeded in creating mass human suffering and death. What Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld failed to anticipate was that the Iraqi people, like all people everywhere, would never willingly accept life under occupation. It was the unanticipated resistance of the Iraqi people that eventually forced the withdrawal of the occupation forces nine long years later.

Brian Becker was the lead organizer of the largest anti-war demonstrations in Washington, D.C., between Oct. 26, 2002, and the start of the Iraq invasion on March 19, 2003. The October demonstration drew 200,000 people. Less than two months later, on Jan. 18, 2003, approximately 500,000 demonstrated again in what the Washington Post called the “largest anti-war demonstration” in Washington, D.C., since the end of the Vietnam War. On Feb. 15, 2003, millions of people demonstrated in nearly 1,000 cities around the world, including several hundred cities and towns in the United States. On March 15, just four days before the start of the invasion, 100,000 demonstrated once gain in Washington, D.C.

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Obama: A GOP President Should Have Rules Limiting the Kill List November 27, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Constitution, Criminal Justice, Democracy, Pakistan, War, War on Terror.
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Roger’s note: No one says it better than Glenn Greenwald.

Published on Tuesday, November 27, 2012 by The Guardian/UK

The president’s flattering view of himself reflects the political sentiments in his party and the citizenry generally

  by  Glenn Greenwald

For the last four years, Barack Obama has not only asserted, but aggressively exercised, the power to target for execution anyone he wants, including US citizens, anywhere in the world. He has vigorously resisted not only legal limits on this assassination power, but even efforts to bring some minimal transparency to the execution orders he issues.

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama during the second US presidential debate. (Photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters)

This claimed power has resulted in four straight years of air bombings in multiple Muslim countries in which no war has been declared – using drones, cruise missiles and cluster bombs – ending the lives of more than 2,500 people, almost always far away from any actual battlefield. They are typically targeted while riding in cars, at work, at home, and while even rescuing or attending funerals for others whom Obama has targeted. A substantial portion of those whom he has killed – at the very least – have been civilians, including dozens of children.

Worse still, his administration has worked to ensure that this power is subject to the fewest constraints possible. This was accomplished first by advocating the vague, sweeping Bush/Cheney interpretation of the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) – whereby the President can target not only the groups which perpetrated the 9/11 attack (as the AUMF provides) but also those he claims are “associated” which such groups, and can target not only members of such groups (as the AUMF states) but also individuals he claims provide “substantial support” to those groups. Obama then entrenched these broad theories by signing into law the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act, which permanently codified those Bush/Cheney interpretation of these war powers.

From the start, Obama officials have also ensured that these powers have no physical limits, as they unequivocally embraced what was once the core and highly controversial precept of Bush/Cheney radicalism: that the US is fighting a “global war” in which the “whole world is a battlefield”, which means there are no geographical constraints to the president’s war powers. In sum, we have had four straight years of a president who has wielded what is literally the most extreme and tyrannical power a government can claim – to execute anyone the leader wants, even his own citizens, in total secrecy and without a whiff of due process – and who has resisted all efforts to impose a framework of limits or even transparency.

But finally, according to a new article on Sunday by The New York Times’ Scott Shane, President Obama was recently convinced that some limits and a real legal framework might be needed to govern the exercise of this assassination power. What was it that prompted Obama finally to reach this conclusion? It was the fear that he might lose the election, which meant that a Big, Bad Republican would wield these powers, rather than a benevolent, trustworthy, noble Democrat – i.e., himself [emphasis added]:

“Facing the possibility that President Obama might not win a second term, his administration accelerated work in the weeks before the election to develop explicit rules for the targeted killing of terrorists by unmanned drones, so that a new president would inherit clear standards and procedures, according to two administration officials. . . .

“The matter may have lost some urgency after Nov. 6. But . . . Mr. Obama and his advisers are still debating whether remote-control killing should be a measure of last resort against imminent threats to the United States, or a more flexible tool, available to help allied governments attack their enemies or to prevent militants from controlling territory. . . .

For years before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the United States routinely condemned targeted killings of suspected terrorists by Israel, and most countries still object to such measures.

“But since the first targeted killing by the United States in 2002, two administrations have taken the position that the United States is at war with Al Qaeda and its allies and can legally defend itself by striking its enemies wherever they are found.

“Partly because United Nations officials know that the United States is setting a legal and ethical precedent for other countries developing armed drones, the U.N. plans to open a unit in Geneva early next year to investigate American drone strikes. . . .

“The attempt to write a formal rule book for targeted killing began last summer after news reports on the drone program, started under President George W. Bush and expanded by Mr. Obama, revealed some details of the president’s role in the shifting procedures for compiling ‘kill lists’ and approving strikes. Though national security officials insist that the process is meticulous and lawful, the president and top aides believe it should be institutionalized, a course of action that seemed particularly urgent when it appeared that Mitt Romney might win the presidency.

“‘There was concern that the levers might no longer be in our hands,’ said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity. With a continuing debate about the proper limits of drone strikes, Mr. Obama did not want to leave an ‘amorphous’ program to his successor, the official said. The effort, which would have been rushed to completion by January had Mr. Romney won, will now be finished at a more leisurely pace, the official said.”

Now that Obama rather than Romney won, such rules will be developed “at a more leisurely pace”. Despite Obama’s suggestion that it might be good if even he had some legal framework in which to operate, he’s been in no rush to subject himself to any such rules in four full years of killing thousands of people. This makes it safe to assume that by “a more leisurely pace”, this anonymous Obama official means: “never”.

There are many important points raised by this report: Kevin Gosztola and Marcy Wheeler, among others, have done their typically excellent job of discussing some of them, while this Guardian article from Sunday reports on the reaction of the ACLU and others to the typical Obama manipulation of secrecy powers on display here (as usual, these matters are too secret to permit any FOIA disclosure or judicial scrutiny, but Obama officials are free to selectively leak what they want us to know to the front page of the New York Times). I want to focus on one key point highlighted by all of this:

Democratic Party benevolence

The hubris and self-regard driving this is stunning – but also quite typical of Democratic thinking generally in the Obama era. The premise here is as self-evident as it is repellent:

I’m a Good Democrat and a benevolent leader; therefore, no limits, oversight, checks and balances, legal or Constitutional constraints, transparency or due process are necessary for me to exercise even the most awesome powers, such as ordering people executed. Because of my inherent Goodness and proven progressive wisdom, I can be trusted to wield these unlimited powers unilaterally and in the dark.

Things like checks, oversight and due process are desperately needed only for Republicans, because – unlike me – those people are malevolent and therefore might abuse these powers and thus shouldn’t be trusted with absolute, unchecked authority. They – but not I – urgently need restrictions on their powers.

This mentality is not only the animating belief of President Obama, but also the sizable portion of American Democrats which adores him.

There are many reasons why so many self-identified progressives in the US have so radically changed their posture on these issues when Barack Obama replaced George W. Bush. Those include (a) the subordination of all ostensible beliefs to their hunger for partisan power; (b) they never actually believed these claimed principles in the first place but only advocated them for partisan opportunism, i.e., as a way to discredit the GOP President; and (c) they are now convinced that these abuses will only be used against Muslims and, consumed by self-interest, they concluded that these abuses are not worth caring about because it only affects Others (this is the non-Muslim privilege enjoyed by most US progressives, which shields them from ever being targeted, so they simply do not care; the more honest ones of this type even admit this motivation).

But the primary reason for this fundamental change in posture is that they genuinely share the self-glorifying worldview driving Obama here. The core premise is that the political world is shaped by a clean battle of Good v. Evil. The side of Good is the Democratic Party; the side of Evil is the GOP. All political truths are ascertainable through this Manichean prism.

This is the simplistic, self-flattering morality narrative that gets reinforced for them over and over as they sit for hours every day having their assumptions flattered and validated (and never questioned or challenged) by watching MSNBC, reading pro-Obama blogs that regularly churn out paeans to his greatness, and drinking up the hundreds of millions of dollars of expertly crafted election-year propaganda from the Party that peddles this Justice League cartoon.

The result is that, for so many, it is genuinely inconceivable that a leader as noble, kind and wise as Barack Obama would abuse his assassination and detention powers. It isn’t just rank partisan opportunism or privilege that leads them not to object to Obama’s embrace of these radical powers and the dangerous theories that shield those powers from checks or scrutiny. It’s that they sincerely admire him as a leader and a man so much that they believe in their heart (like Obama himself obviously believes) that due process, checks and transparency are not necessary when he wields these powers. Unlike when a GOP villain is empowered, Obama’s Goodness and his wisdom are the only safeguards we need.

Thus, when Obama orders someone killed, no due process is necessary and we don’t need to see any evidence of their guilt; we can (and do) just assume that the targeted person is a Terrorist and deserves death because Obama has decreed this to be so. When Obama orders a person to remain indefinitely in a cage without any charges or any opportunity to contest the validity of the imprisonment, that’s unobjectionable because the person must be a Terrorist or otherwise dangerous – or else Obama wouldn’t order him imprisoned. We don’t need proof, or disclosed evidence, or due process to determine the validity of these accusations; that it is Obama making these decisions is all the assurance we need because we trust him.

Similar sentiments shaping the Bush era

This mindset is so recognizable because it is also what drove Bush followers for years as they defended his seizures of unchecked authority and secrecy powers. Those who spent years arguing against the Bush/Cheney seizure of extremist powers always confronted this mentality at bottom, once the pseudo-intellectual justifications were debunked: George Bush is a Good man and a noble leader who can be trusted to exercise these powers in secret and with no checks, because he only wants to keep us safe and will only target the Terrorists.

Molded by exactly the same species of drooling presidential hagiography now so prevalent in progressive circles – compare this from the Bush era to things like this and this – conservatives believed that Bush was a good man and a great leader and thus needed no safeguards or transparency. If Bush wanted to eavesdrop on someone, or wanted to imprison someone, then – solely by virtue of his decree – we could and should assume the person was a Terrorist, or at least there was ample evidence to believe he was.

We were graced with a leader we could trust to exercise unlimited war powers in the dark. This is precisely the same mentality applied by Democrats (and by Obama himself) to the current President, except it not only justifies due-process-free eavesdropping and detention but also execution.

Faith v. reason and evidence

It is, for several reasons, extraordinary that so many citizens have been successfully trained to so venerate their Party’s leaders that they literally believe no checks or transparency are necessary, even as those leaders wield the most extremist powers: executing people, bombing multiple countries, imprisoning people with no charges, mass monitoring and surveilling of entire communities.

For one, there is ample evidence that virtually every leader of both major parties over the last century systematically abused these powers because they were able to exercise them in the dark. It was this discovery by the Church Committee that led to the reforms of the mid-1970s – reforms grounded in the premise that virtually all leaders, by virtue of human nature, will inevitably abuse these powers, exercise them for ignoble ends, if they operate without serious restraints and oversight. One has to ignore all of this historic evidence in order to place trust in any particular leader to exercise these powers without checks.

Then there is all the specific evidence of all the post-9/11 abuses. Over the last decade, the US government – under both parties – has repeatedly accused people of being Terrorists and punished them as Terrorists who were nothing of the sort. Whether due to gross error or more corrupt motives, the Executive Branch and its various intelligence and military agencies have proven beyond any reasonable doubt that their mere accusation that someone is a Terrorist – unproven with evidence and untested by any independent tribunal – is definitively unreliable.

Even beyond that, it is well-documented that the US government, under Obama, often targets people for death when they don’t even know the identity of the person they’re trying to kill. From the Sunday New York Times article:

“Then there is the matter of strikes against people whose identities are unknown. In an online video chat in January, Mr. Obama spoke of the strikes in Pakistan as ‘a targeted, focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists.’ But for several years, first in Pakistan and later in Yemen, in addition to ‘personality strikes’ against named terrorists, the CIA and the military have carried out ‘signature strikes’ against groups of suspected, unknown militants.

“Originally that term was used to suggest the specific ‘signature’ of a known high-level terrorist, such as his vehicle parked at a meeting place. But the word evolved to mean the ‘signature’ of militants in general – for instance, young men toting arms in an area controlled by extremist groups. Such strikes have prompted the greatest conflict inside the Obama administration, with some officials questioning whether killing unidentified fighters is legally justified or worth the local backlash.”

It is truly staggering to watch citizens assert that their government is killing “Terrorists” when those citizens have no clue who is being killed. But that becomes even more astounding when one realizes that not even the US government knows who they’re killing: they’re just killing anyone whose behavior they think generally tracks the profile of a Terrorist (“young men toting arms in an area controlled by extremist groups”). And, of course, the Obama administration has re-defined “militant” to mean “all military-age males in a strike zone” – reflecting their propagandistic sloganeering that they are killing Terrorists even when they, in fact, have no idea who they are killing.

In light of all this evidence, to continue to blindly assume that unproven government accusations of “Terrorist” are tantamount to proof of those accusations is to embrace the type of faith-based trust that lies at the core of religious allegiance and faith in a god, not rational citizenship. Yet over and over, one encounters some form of this dialogue whenever this issue arises:

ARGUMENT: The US government shouldn’t imprison/kill/surveil people without providing evidence of their guilt.

GOVERNMENT-DEFENDING RESPONSE: But these are Terrorists, and they have to be stopped.

OBVIOUS QUESTION: How do you know they’re Terrorists if no evidence of their guilt has been presented and no due process accorded?

Ultimately, the only possible answer to that question – the only explanation for why this definitively authoritarian mentality persists – is because people have been so indoctrinated with the core Goodness of their particular party leader that they disregard all empirical evidence, and their own rational faculties, in order to place their blind faith in the leader they have grown to love and admire (if my leader says someone is a Terrorist, then I believe they are, and I don’t need to see evidence of that).

One can reasonably debate the extent to which democracy requires that some degree of trust be vested in the capabilities and judgment of whichever political leaders one supports. But however far that trust should extend, surely it must stop well before the vesting of the power to imprison and kill in total secrecy, far from any battlefield and without any checks or due process.

Core principles disregarded in lieu of leader-love

The Times article describes the view of Obama that some “drone rules” would be needed to be developed in light of the possibility of Romney’s victory. But at least some such rules already exist: they’re found in these things called “the Constitution” and “the Bill of Rights”, the Fifth Amendment to which provides:

“No person shall be . . . deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law;”

Yet all of that has been tossed aside in lieu of a deeply disturbing and unhealthy faith-based belief that our leader can make these determinations without the need for any such bothersome impediments.

To me, this comment, left in response to a Gawker post from Sunday on the new NYT article, perfectly conveys the sentiment I heard for years in right-wing circles to justify everything Bush did in secret, and is now just as miserably common in progressive circles to justify Obama’s wielding of the same and even greater powers:

“The fact of the matter is that the complexities of security and war go far beyond what those interested in appearing morally superior are willing to concede. It just so happens that a lot of liberals are most interested in the appearance of moral superiority. . . .

“I used to be the exact same way, but then I actually genuinely considered how I would feel if I held the weight of the presidency and these decisions. I have no doubt that most liberals, when presented with that, would act just as Obama has. . . .

“I’m liberal, I’m no fan of war, I’m no fan of Republican fanaticism and thumping America-is-the-best nonsense across the globe. But I can understand why drone strikes might be the most expedient option in a war. Or, perhaps more precisely, can understand just how incapable I am of understanding. And instead of supposing myself worthy of understanding the complexity and therefore offering criticism, I trust those more intelligent than myself. But a lot of my fellow liberals don’t believe there are people more intelligent than themselves. I have no self-loathing of liberals. Its just like a moderate Republican finding the right wing of their party crazy even if they believe in most of the same stuff.”

That’s the Platonic form of authoritarian leader-faith:

I don’t need to know anything; my leader doesn’t need to prove the truth of his accusations; he should punish whomever he wants in total secrecy and without safeguards, and I will assume that he is right to do so (as long as I and others like me are not the ones targeted) because he is superior to me and I place my faith in Him.

Anyone who thinks the leader (when he’s of my party) should have to show proof before killing someone, or allow them due process, is being a childish purist. I used to be like that – until Obama got in office, and now I see how vital it is to trust him and not bother him with all this “due process” fanaticism. That’s what being an adult citizen means: trusting one’s leader the way children trust their parent.

This is the only sentiment that can explain the comfort with allowing Obama (and, before him, Bush) to exercise these extreme powers without checks or transparency. This is exactly the sentiment any Obama critic confronts constantly, even if expressed a bit more subtly and with a bit more dignity.

Ultimately, what is most extraordinary about all of this – most confounding to me – is how violently contrary this mentality is to the ethos with which all Americans are instilled: namely, that the first and most inviolable rule of government is that leaders must not be trusted to exercise powers without constant restraints – without what we’re all taught in elementary school are called “checks and balances”. Here is how Thomas Jefferson expressed this warning in the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798:

“In questions of power…let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.”

And here is what John Adams said in his 1772 Journal:

“There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty”.

It is literally impossible to conceive of any mindset more at odds with these basic principles than the one that urges that Barack Obama – unlike George Bush or Mitt Romney or whoever the scary GOP villain of the day is – can be trusted to unilaterally and secretly kill or imprison or surveil anyone he wants because he is a Good man and a trustworthy leader and therefore his unproven accusations should be assumed true. But this is, overwhelmingly, the warped and authoritarian sentiment that now prevails in the bulk of the Democratic Party and its self-identified “progressive” faction, just as it did in the GOP and its conservative wing for eight years.

Ultimately, this unhealthy and dangerous trust in one’s own leader – beyond just the normal human desire to follow – is the by-product of over-identifying with the brand-marketed personality of politicians. Many East and West Coast progressives (which is overwhelmingly what Democratic Party opinion leaders are) have been trained to see themselves and the personality traits to which they aspire in Obama (the urbane, sophisticated, erudite Harvard-educated lawyer and devoted father and husband), just as religious conservatives and other types of Republicans were trained to see Bush in that way (the devout evangelical Christian, the brush-clearing, patriotic swaggering cowboy, and devoted father and husband).

Politicians are thus perceived like contestants in a reality TV show: viewers decide who they like personally and who they dislike – but the difference is that these images are bolstered with hundreds of millions of dollars of relentless, sophisticated, highly manipulative propaganda campaigns (there’s a reason the Obama 2008 campaign won multiple branding awards from the advertising and marketing industry). When one is taught to relate to a politician based on a fictitious personal relationship, one comes to place excessive trust in those with whom one identifies (the way one comes to trust, say, a close family member or loved one), and to harbor excessive contempt for those one is trained to see as the villain character. In sum, citizens are being trained to view politicians exactly the way Jefferson warned was so dangerous: “In questions of power…let no more be heard of confidence in man.”

There’s one final irony worth noting in all of this. Political leaders and political movements convinced of their own Goodness are usually those who need greater, not fewer, constraints in the exercise of power. That’s because – like religious True Believers – those who are convinced of their inherent moral superiority can find all manner to justify even the most corrupted acts on the ground that they are justified by the noble ends to which they are put, or are cleansed by the nobility of those perpetrating those acts.

Political factions driven by self-flattering convictions of their own moral superiority – along with their leaders – are the ones most likely to abuse power. Anyone who ever listened to Bush era conservatives knows that this conviction drove them at their core (“you are with us or with the Terrorists”), and it is just as true of Obama-era progressives who genuinely see the political landscape as an overarching battle between forces of Good (Democrats: i.e., themselves) and forces of Evil (Republicans).

Thus should it be completely unsurprising that Obama (and his most ardent followers) genuinely believe that rules are urgently necessary to constrain Republicans from killing whoever they want, but that such urgency ceases to exist when that power rests in the hands of the current benevolent leader. Such a dangerous and perverse mindset is incredibly pervasive in the citizenry, and goes a long way toward explaining why and how the US government has been able to seize the powers it has wielded over the last decade with so little resistance, and with no end in sight.

© 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited

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Glenn Greenwald

Glenn Greenwald is a columnist on civil liberties and US national security issues for the Guardian. A former constitutional lawyer, he was until 2012 a contributing writer at Salon.  His most recent book is, With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful. His other books include: Great American Hypocrites: Toppling the Big Myths of Republican PoliticsA Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency, and How Would a Patriot Act? Defending American Values from a President Run Amok. He is the recipient of the first annual I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism.

War Tribunal Finds Bush, Cheney Guilty of War Crimes May 13, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Torture, War on Terror.
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Published on Sunday, May 13, 2012 by Common Dreams

 

Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal orders reparations be given to torture victims

- Common Dreams staff

Former US President George W Bush, his Vice-President Dick Cheney and six other members of his administration have been found guilty of war crimes by a tribunal in Malaysia.

Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal president judge Tan Sri Lamin Mohd Yunus (center) delivering the verdict yesterday. He is flanked by says reparations should be given to the complainant war crime victims. With him are Prof Salleh Buang (left) and Datuk Mohd Sa’ari Yusof. (Photo/Hasriyasyah Sabudin) Bush, Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and five of their legal advisers were tried in their absence and convicted on Saturday.

Victims of torture told a panel of five judges in Kuala Lumpur of their suffering at the hands of US soldiers and contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Among the evidence, Briton Moazzam Begg, an ex-Guantanamo detainee, said he was beaten, put in a hood and left in solitary confinement. Iraqi woman Jameelah Abbas Hameedi said she was stripped and humiliated in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison.

Transcripts of the five-day trial will be sent to the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, the United Nations and the Security Council.

A member of the prosecution team, Professor Francis Boyle of Illinois University’s College of Law, said he was hopeful that Bush and his colleagues could soon find themselves facing similar trials elsewhere in the world.

The eight accused are Bush; former US Vice President Richard Cheney; former US Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld; former Counsel to Bush, Alberto Gonzales; former General Counsel to the Vice President, David Addington; former General Counsel to the Defense Secretary, William Haynes II; former Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo.

Tribunal president judge Tan Sri Lamin Mohd Yunus said the eight accused were also individually and jointly liable for crimes of torture in accordance with Article 6 of the Nuremberg Charter. “The US is subject to customary international law and to the principles of the Nuremberg Charter and exceptional circumstances such as war, instability and public emergency cannot excuse torture.”

* * *

The Star (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) reports:

Bush Found Guilty of War Crimes

KUALA LUMPUR: The War Crimes Tribunal has convicted former US President George W. Bush and seven of his associates as war criminals for torture and inhumane treatment of war crime victims at US military facilities.

However, being a tribunal of conscience, the five-member panel chaired by tribunal president judge Lamin Mohd Yunus had no power to enforce or impose custodial sentence on the convicted eight.

“We find the witnesses, who were victims placed in detention illegally by the convicted persons and their government, are entitled to payment of reparations,” said Lamin at a public hearing held in an open court at the Kuala Lumpur Foundation to Crimi­na­lize War yesterday.

He added that the tribunal’s award of reparations would be submitted to the War Crimes Commission and recommended the victims to find a judiciary entity that could enforce the verdict.

The tribunal would also submit the finding and records of the proceedings to the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, the United Nations’ Security Council.

On Thursday, head of the prosecution Prof Gurdial Singh Nijar said Bush had issued an executive order to commit war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Five former Iraqi detainees, who were tortured while being detained in various prisons, including Guantanamo Bay, were called to give their testimonies before the Tribunal during the trial which started on May 7.

* * *

The Malaysia Sun reports:

[...] In a unanimous vote on Saturday the symbolic Malaysian war crimes tribunal, part of an initiative by former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad, found the former US President guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Former Malaysian Premier Mahatir Mohamad said of Bush and others: “These are basically murderers and they kill on large scale.”Seven of his former political associates, including former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, were also found guilty of war crimes and torture.

Press TV has reported the court heard evidence from former detainees in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay of torture methods used by US soldiers in prisons run by the American forces.

One former inmate described how he had been subjected to electric shocks, beatings and sexual abuse over a number of months.

A high ranking former UN official, former UN Assistant Secretary General, Denis Halliday, who also attended the trial, later told Press TV that the UN had been too weak during the Bush administration to enforce the Geneva Conventions.

He said: “The UN is a weak body, corrupted by member states, who use the Security Council for their own interests. They don’t respect the charter. They don’t respect the international law. They don’t respect the Geneva Conventions… A redundant, possibly a dangerous, and certainly corrupted organization.”

Following the hearing, former Malaysian premier Mahatir said of Bush and others: “These are basically murderers and they kill on large scale.”

It was the second so-called war crimes tribunal in Malaysia.

The token court was first held in November 2011 during which Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair were found guilty of committing “crimes against peace” during the Iraq war.

Ignatieff linked to Iraq war planning April 20, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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BRIAN LILLEY, Parliamentary Bureau

First posted: Wednesday, April 20, 2011 6:00:00 EDT AM
http://www.ottawasun.com/2011/04/20/ignatieff-linked-to-iraq-war-planning

OTTAWA – As a politician in Canada, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff has said that he was on the sidelines of the Iraq war, but new information reveals he was on the front lines of pre-invasion planning when he worked in the U.S.

Ignatieff — long known to be a supporter of the decision to invade — was part of an academic advisory team that helped U.S. state department and American military officials conduct strategy sessions.

The academic-turned-politician was singled out in a Pentagon briefing the day before the invasion started.

One of the top officials in Air Command cited Ignatieff’s work in helping the military ready comprehensive plans to mitigate collateral damage while preparing for the invasion.

“I personally have been working with The Carr Center for Human Rights,” said U.S. Col. Gary Crowder on March 19, 2003. “Michael Ignatieff and Sarah Sewell (another Carr Center employee) and their program are a wonderful program.”

Crowder told reporters that he was working with Ignatieff on how to best conduct the war while minimizing civilian deaths.

“They bring non-governmental organizations, military officers, policy makers (and) media into a forum in which we can discuss these issues and better understand exactly each of our requirements,” Crowder said.

“If we’re required to conduct military operations, we would desire to conduct those while minimizing collateral damage and unintended damage.”

While leading the Carr Center, Ignatieff sponsored workshops with high-level U.S. military leaders prior to the invasion of the Iraq.

Ignatieff was one of the leading liberal voices supporting the war and his workshops and writings helped former U.S. President George Bush’s administration push the message that the war was necessary.

Tensions heated up in September 2002 when U.S. President George W. Bush told world leaders at a UN General Assembly session to confront the “grave and gathering danger” of Iraq — or stand by while the U.S. acted.

United Nations weapons inspectors returned to Iraq the following month backed by a resolution that threatened serious consequences if Iraq was found to have been hiding weapons of mass destruction.

In March 2003, chief weapons inspector Hans Blix reported that Iraq was offering better co-operation, but insisted that inspectors needed more time to do their job.

On March 17, Bush gave dictator Saddam Hussein 48 hours to leave Iraq or face war.

Three days later, the U.S. launched an invasion which toppled Hussein’s government, sparking years of violence in the bloodied country. No weapons of mass destruction were ever found.

Hussein was captured hiding in a hole in the town of Adwar, near Tikrit, in December 2003 and later executed for crimes against humanity.

In his own interviews, Ignatieff has said supporters of the war — like himself — hadn’t thought everything through despite having seen plenty of details on the plan for the invasion and during the post-invasion.

“First of all, there was some real failures in post-invasion planning,” Ignatieff told PBS interviewer Charlie Rose in September 2003.

“I saw matrices, you know, checklists compiled by, you know, the department of the army and army planners. They had some of the stuff that you’d want on a good post-invasion checklist, but what I think happened on that side was the military victory occurred so quickly that the post-invasion followup just didn’t get generated fast enough.”

Ignatieff distanced himself from the Iraq war and the Bush administration after he returned to Canada and was appointed deputy leader of the Liberal Party.

“I’ve learned that acquiring good judgment in politics starts with knowing when to admit your mistakes,” Ignatieff wrote in the New York Times Magazine in August 2007.

“The unfolding catastrophe in Iraq has condemned the political judgment of a president. But it has also condemned the judgment of many others, myself included, who as commentators, supported the invasion. Many of us believed, as an Iraqi exile friend told me the night the war started, that it was the only chance the members of his generation would have to live in freedom in their own country,” Ignatieff wrote.

The Iraq war was denounced by opponents of the Bush administration around the world for its failure to obtain the approval of the UN.

Ignatieff has said that if he forms a Liberal government, Canadian troops would never be used outside of Canada’s borders without the approval of the UN.

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