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Obama’s Libya War: Unconstitutional, Naïve, Hypocritical March 21, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Barack Obama, Libya, War.
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Published on Monday, March 21, 2011 by The Progressive
by Matthew Rothschild

Our founders would be appalled that a President of the United States could launch the country into an armed conflict half a world away without a formal declaration of war by Congress, much less barely any discussion of it by the House or by the Senate.

Article 1, Section 8, of our Constitution is unambiguous: Only Congress has the authority “to declare war.” James Madison warned that allowing the President to take the country into war would be “too much of a temptation for one man.”

At this point in the warping of our system of checks and balances, a President can wage war almost whenever he feels like it — or at least whenever he can cobble together some “broad coalition,” as Obama put it, or a “coalition of the willing,” as his predecessor put it.

Sounding just like George W. Bush when he attacked Iraq exactly eight years ago to the day, Obama said that military action against Libya was not our first resort.

Well, it may not have been the first resort, but it sure is Washington’s favorite resort.

We, as Americans, need to face facts: We have a runaway Executive Branch when it comes to warmaking.

And Obama appears naïve in the extreme on this one.

It is naïve to expect U.S. involvement in this war to be over in “days, not weeks,” as he said.

It is naïve to expect that he can carry this out without using ground troops.

It is naïve to wage war that is not in response to a direct threat to the U.S. national security.

It is naïve to expect millions of Libyans to cheer as their own country is being attacked by Western powers.

It is naïve to expect civilian casualties not to mount as a result of his actions, which he said were designed “to protect Libyan civilians.”

And it is naïve to expect the world to go along with the ruse that this is not a U.S.-led act of aggression.

Finally, Obama’s stated reasons for this war, which he refuses to call by its proper name, are hypocritical and incoherent.

He said “innocent men and women face brutality and death at the hands of their own government.”

That’s true of the people of Yemen, our ally, which just mowed down dozens of peaceful protesters.

That’s true of the people of Bahrain, our ally, which also just mowed down dozens of peaceful protesters.

Then there’s the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, our chief Arab ally and a repressive government in its own right, which just rolled its tanks into Bahrain.

In the Ivory Coast today, another country on good terms with Washington, a dictatorial government is brutalizing its people.

And a brutal junta has ruled the people of Burma for decades now.

There is no consistent humanitarian standard for Obama’s war against Libya. None whatsoever.

Obama has now pushed the United States to a place where we are now engaged in three wars simultaneously.

He’s a man, and we’re a country, that has gone crazy on war.”

© 2011 The Progressive

The Disappointing Kagan Pick May 12, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice.
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(Roger’s note: it may seem redundant to keep on harping about Obama’s selection of Kagan; all indications are that it is a done deal, i.e. she will be confirmed.  I have read many good things about her from progressive blogs and the Obama web site (one commentary that really grated against my sensibility lauded her as a “safe” choice; just what we need, a safe choice to confront the four ultra-conservative ideologues:  Justices Alito, Roberts, Scalia and Thomas).  I am sure there are indeed good things to be said about soon-to-be Justice Kagan.  Too bad that she has a penchant for hiring white males, but much worse, when it comes to presidential powers, she has little respect for such minor considerations as the constitution, the Geneva Conventions, and the concept of habeas corpus.  Well, as my daughters always reminded me, nobody’s perfect.)

Published on Wednesday, May 12, 2010 by The Progressiveby Matthew Rothschild

I’m troubled by Obama’s nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court.

I’m troubled not because she has no prior experience as a judge. Obama’s right that we need more than cloistered judges on the top bench.

But I wish she had more experience outside of the University of Chicago Law School and Harvard Law School, outside of the Clinton White House and the Obama White House.

These aren’t the widest of worldly experiences.

And her time in the White House is especially troubling.

I’d much prefer having a non-judge who was a former member of Congress, for instance, someone who had an intense personal appreciation for the other branch of government.

Unfortunately, Kagan’s government experience is with the Executive Branch and with upholding its powers. That’s what she did as Solicitor General, remember. She went to bat for the Presidency.

And this President, like George W., has embraced a vast expansion of Executive Powers. So Kagan or her deputies have repeatedly gone into court to invoke the undemocratic doctrine of state secrets. And they’ve gone into court to assert the right to hold any person, captured by the military or the CIA or by some foreign power anywhere in the world, for an indefinite period of time at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan-without recourse to any due process rights whatsoever.

In Maqaleh v. Gates, she told a federal court: “When it comes to military facilities, unlike Guantanamo, that are truly abroad-particularly those halfway across the globe in an active war zone-courts in the United States exceed their role by second-guessing the political branches about the reach of habeas jurisdiction.”

It’s no surprise that Kagan disdains due process for detainees. At her confirmation hearings as Solicitor General, Kagan testified that she had no problem with that.

Well, I do. And Justice John Paul Stevens sure did. And the Constitution does. And the Geneva Conventions do.

It’s more than a little too bad that she doesn’t. And that Obama doesn’t.

Stevens, by the way, brought Kennedy along and assigned him the role of writing the decision in the Boumediene case that limited the Executive Branch’s ability to deny due process to detainees.

Wrote Kennedy: “The test for determining the scope of the habeas corpus provision must not be subject to manipulation by those whose power it is designed to restrain.”

So, on this crucial issue of executive power, Kagan is to the right of Kennedy!

I also doubt that Kagan will be better than Stevens in influencing Kennedy, much less the justices on his right. Like Kennedy, Stevens was appointed by a Republican, and Stevens had 12 years on the Court before Kennedy, his junior, came along.

Still, Obama hailed her “skill as a consensus-builder.” But what the court needs now is not a “consensus-builder,” since on many issues there is no basis for consensus. There is a vast ideological gulf. Instead, it needs someone who can advocate as aggressively for a progressive jurisprudence as Roberts, Alito, Scalia, and Thomas advocate for a reactionary one.

The Supreme Court is not Harvard Law School. And Kagan will not be the dean. She’ll be the junior member. To the extent that she is determined to be a consensus builder, the conservatives are more likely to drag her their way than she is likely to drag them in a progressive direction.

More’s the pity.

© 2010 The Progressive

Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine.

Moving Guantanamo to Bagram Could Evade Court Jurisdiction March 25, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Torture.
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Published on Thursday, March 25, 2010 by The Progressiveby Matthew Rothschild

In President Obama’s first week in office, he pledged to close down Guantanamo within a year.

The year’s been up for two months now, and Guantanamo still remains open.

Making matters worse, it looks like the Obama Administration may simply move Guantanamo to Afghanistan.

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that the “White House is considering whether to detain international terrorism suspects at [Bagram Air Base] in Afghanistan, an option that would lead to another prison with the same purpose as Guantanamo Bay.”

And that purpose is to hold suspects indefinitely, without ever granting them any due process rights.

The Supreme Court has ruled that suspects held at Guantanamo have due process rights because Guantanamo is effectively U.S. property. But the Obama Administration, like the Bush Administration before it, says that this court decision does not apply to Bagram Air Base.

Last September, Obama’s Justice Department told a lower court that “when it comes to military facilities, unlike Guantanamo, that are truly abroad-particularly those halfway across the globe in an active war zone-courts in the United States exceed their role by second-guessing the political branches about the reach of habeas jurisdiction.”

Until the Court resolves that question, Obama can ship detainees from Guantanamo – or anywhere else in the world – to Bagram Air Base and hold them there for years at a time.

It’s against international law, but that hasn’t stopped a President before.

So it looks like make Guantanamo may soon be Spanish for Bagram, and both will translate into human rights violations.

© 2010 The Progressive

Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine.

The Spanish’s Judge vs. Bush’s Architects of Torture April 1, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Torture.
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by Matthew Rothschild

Hallelujah, finally someone in authority is going after at least some of the Bushies who were the architects of the torture policies.

Tellingly, it’s not President Barack Obama or Attorney General Eric Holder.

In fact, it’s not anyone in the United States.

No, it’s the Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón, the same man who took down General Augusto Pinochet.

He’s drawn up a 98-page complaint (here’s a crude, computerized translation) against six former Bush Administration officials and has handed the complaint over to Spanish prosecutors.

The officials under investigation are:

Alberto Gonzales, who was White House counsel, and then Attorney General.

David Addington, Cheney’s chief of staff.

John Yoo, the Justice Department lawyer who wrote up some of the most infamous memos on torture.

Jay Bybee, who also drafted Justice Department policy on torture and amazingly is now an appellate court judge.

And William Haynes and Douglas Feith, who were high up in the Defense Department.

I’ve looked at the complaint, in rough translation as well as in its original Spanish, and it lays out, in detail, how these six individuals tried to “justify the unjustifiable” and legalize war crimes.

For instance, it cites a visit by Addington and Haynes to Guantanamo on September 25, 2002, where Addington ordered a lieutenant colonel to “do what needs to be done” in direct reference to obtaining information from a prisoners there.

It says that a memo Haynes drew up, and Rumsfeld approved, a list of “18 forms of torture.”

It says that the six people named were all lawyers and, malevolently used their legal skills “actively and decisively in the development, approval, and launching” of a dubious legal framework.

This framework denied “basic rights to a number of important prisoners,” it protected “people who participate in illegal activities and torture, and it was designed, “above all, to establish the absolute impunity for all officials, soldiers, doctors, and other staff” in Guantanamo.

Congratulations to Judge Garzón for refusing to accept impunity.

My only wish is that Judge Garzón would expand his list of targets to include not only the six mentioned above, but also Rumsfeld, Cheney, and yes, Bush, too.

Because they all were in on it.

Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine.

Cheney War Crimes: Just Look at the Statute March 26, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney.
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by Matthew Rothschild

President Obama needs to tell Attorney General Eric Holder to indict Dick Cheney, right now, for war crimes.

Just look at the statute, Title 18 of the U.S. Criminal Code, Section 2441. It says that someone is guilty of a war crime if he or she commits a “grave breach of common Article 3″ of the Geneva Conventions. And then it defines what a grave breach would be.

One such breach is torture, or the conspiracy to commit torture, which Cheney was clearly in on, as when he repeatedly defended waterboarding and talked about the need to go to the “dark side” Here’s the language from the statute: “The act of a person who commits, or conspires to commit, an act specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering . . . upon another person within his custody or physical control for the purpose of obtaining information or a confession, punishment, intimidation, coercion, or any reason based on discrimination of any kind.”

Another grave breach is “cruel or inhuman treatment,” or the conspiracy to inflict such treatment. Again, Cheney was supervising such treatment in the White House, which would qualify as committing this crime. One time, it got so ghoulish that Attorney General John Ashcroft asked the other principals, “Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly.”

Here’s the language on “cruel or inhuman treatment”: “The act of a person who commits, or conspires or attempts to commit, an act intended to inflict severe or serious physical or mental pain or suffering . . . including serious physical abuse, upon another within his custody or control.”

An additional breach is “mutilation or maiming.” Since some detainees say they no longer have the complete functioning of arms or limbs, Cheney may be on the hook here, too. “The act of a person who intentionally injures, or conspires or attempts to injure, or injures whether intentionally or unintentionally in the course of committing any other offense under this subsection, one or more persons . . . by disfiguring the person or persons by any mutilation thereof or by permanently disabling any member, limb or organ of his body, without any legitimate medical or dental purpose.”

“Intentionally causing serious bodily harm” is yet another grave breach. The statute defines this as: “The act of a person who intentionally causes, or conspires or attempts to cause, serious bodily injury to one or more persons, including lawful combatants, in violation of the law of war.”

For each of these offenses, Cheney could receive life in prison, according to the statute.

That is where he belongs.

And it’s time for Obama to stop pussyfooting around. He should indict, arrest, and prosecute Cheney.

“There is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes,” said Major General Antonio Taguba, USA (Ret.), in the preface to the Physicians for Human Rights report, “Broken Laws, Broken Lives“. “The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.”

That question is now firmly on Obama’s desk.

And if he continues to dodge it, he’ll make a sick joke of the pious claim that we are a nation of laws, not men.

Bush Tarnishes Medal of Freedom by Bestowing It on Uribe January 16, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Colombia, George W. Bush, Latin America.
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uribe-y-bushPresident George W. Bush places the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. (Photo: AFP)

www.truthout.org, January 15, 2009

 Matthew Rothschild, The Progressive

 

  Bush keeps outdoing himself on his way out the door.

    On Tuesday, he gave the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Alvaro Uribe, the head of Colombia.

    Uribe has had close ties with rightwing paramilitary squads. And his government is a notorious human rights abuser.

    “In recent years there has been a substantial rise in the number of extrajudicial killings of civilians attributed to the Colombian Army,” says Human Rights Watch.

    “Army members apparently take civilians from their homes or workplaces, kill them, and then dress them up to claim they were combatants killed in action.”

    Colombia also has the dubious distinction of leading the world in the murders of trade unionists. More than 2,600 labor leaders have been slain down there in the last couple of decades, and more than 400 while Uribe has been president, according to Human Rights Watch.

    Virtually none of the murderers have been brought to justice.

    Bush’s support for Colombia is typical of U.S. foreign policy. Bill Clinton before him lavished aid on the Colombian government, despite knowledge of that government’s bloody hands.

    “The CIA and senior U.S. diplomats were aware as early as 1994 that U.S.-backed Colombian security forces engaged in ‘death squad tactics,’ cooperated with drug-running paramilitary groups, and encouraged a ‘body count syndrome,’ ” said the National Security Archive, which recently posted documents backing up this point.

    “Personally, I have a hard time figuring out who is more audacious, President Bush for giving the human rights award, or President Uribe for receiving it,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.

    This is the same medal that Bill Clinton awarded to Nelson Mandela. (Bush previously gave the medal to former CIA director George Tenet and Paul Bremer, the bungling viceroy of Iraq.)

    When he gave Uribe the award, Bush said, “President Uribe has reawakened the hopes of his countrymen and shown a model of leadership to a watching world. . . . The future will always be bright in a country that produces such men as President Alvaro Uribe.”

    One last Orwellian award, courtesy of our shameless President.

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