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Why I Distrust Obama April 30, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in About Barack Obama, About Justice, Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Torture.
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Roger Hollander, www.rogerhollander.com, April 30, 2009


If it were George Bush using imprecise and ideological laden language I could understand.  But Barack Obama is a constitutional law professor.  One can interpret his comments with near absolute certainty that he realizes exactly what he is saying; more importantly, what he is not saying.


In his 100 day press conference, as reported by the Associated Press (http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090430/ap_on_go_pr_wh/us_obama_50)  where he acknowledges that waterboarding is torture, he explained that he has banned the practice “Not because there might not have been information that was yielded by these various detainees … but because we could have gotten this information in other ways, in ways that were consistent with our values, in ways that were consistent with who we are.”


Consistent with our values?  What about consistent with our LAWS?  The man is a lawyer.  What he is admitting to via his sin of omission is that some in America are above the law, that we are NOT a nation of law.  We are instead, a nation of “values,” a fluid and wishy-washy notion that may be interpreted at any given moment by any given authority – and with absolute immunity from consequences.


Ironically, he is also inadvertently telling us who we are:  a nation of hypocrisy, a nation that will tolerate the barbaric authorization and use of torture by its own citizens, up to and including the president, while at the same time prosecuting those who use it against us.


Where is the change this man told us we could believe in?


Where is the courage to stand up for truth and justice, regardless of the political consequences?


A caveat: it has been suggested that Obama’s motive in releasing the torture memos and photos is to generate the public pressure that will force the political and justice system to investigate and prosecute.  This is risky business.  If this is the case, and if it does in fact succeed, than give President Obama credit for a brilliant Machiavellian manoeuvre.  This does not lead me to retract anything I have said about his lack of honesty and courage; its purpose is to generate that pressure.

Looking Forward to What, Mr. President? April 24, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in About Barack Obama, About Justice, About War, Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Iraq and Afghanistan, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Pakistan, Torture, War.
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Roger Hollander, www.rogerhollander.com, April 24, 2009


O.K.  Let’s for a moment entertain the president’s thesis.  The problems facing the country are enormous.  No one can deny that.  Are they that critical, however, so as to justify ignoring the prosecution of those responsible for war crimes and violations of the United States Constitution of the gravest nature?


Since this is hypothetical I am willing for the moment to grant the president his argument: to wit, the need for the government to attend to critical matters is so vital that at the very least investigations and prosecutions of the Bush era crimes have to be put off.  In other words, as the president has put it, we need to look forward not backwards.


(There are those supporters of the president’s position who allege that those who are screaming for investigation and prosecutions are extreme leftists, partisan, out for revenge, etc.  There arguments are too facile and prima facie ridiculous to merit a response.  All I am granting here for the sake of argument is the hypothesis that it is in the country’s interest to attend to matters other than the Bush era crimes.)


What then, are we “looking forward” to?


In foreign policy the president has made a promise about withdrawal from Iraq that is so full of loopholes and caveats that any serious analysis cannot but conclude that the generals will have there way and the U.S. military presence, supported by an army of mercenaries, dozens of military bases, combat troops operating under a different name, and the largest embassy in the history of the world, will be extended indefinitely.  The president has gone ahead with a major escalation of the futile aggression in Afghanistan along with an escalation of the bombarding border areas of Pakistan with unmanned drone missiles.  His generals have assured him that the value of the “military gains” will outweigh the recruiting boon to al qaeda and the Taliban (who as we speak are marching towards Kabul) that results from the massive killing of civilians (the ghost of light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel-troops-home-for-Christmas General Westmoreland lives on)  .  With respect to the Middle East, so far President Obama has followed the Bush agenda to a tee, with uncritical support of Israeli aggression in the Gaza Strip.  Whether he has the guts to stare down Netanyahu with respect to the latter’s threats to attack Iran remains to be seen.


On the home front looms the largest economic crisis since the Great Depression, the catalyst of which was the sub-prime mortgage scandal and the massive Ponzi schemes that the banks (banksters) and finance industry have run with toxic illegal loans and the unregulated derivatives market.  The president has put in charge of dealing with the crisis the very team (Geithner, Summers, Rubin) that created it and is throwing taxpayers monies down the same Black Hole created by George Bush, known as the Toxic Assets Relief Program (TARP), the premise of which is that bad debts equal money.  The “relief” goes to the Wall Street mafia while the nations’ mortgage defaults and employment goes through the ceiling.


In one of the country’s other most critical issues, that of health care reform, a major plank in the president’s campaign platform, the president apparently has reneged on his previous support for a single-payer national program (similar in theory and practice to Medicare), which he now tells us is “off the table.”  This can be considered as nothing less than sacrificing the national interest by caving in to the bloated blood-sucking private health care industry.


Well, Mr. President, I have gone along with you in agreeing on the seriousness of the problems facing our nation; but if what you have shown us about how you intend to deal with them is your justification for putting aside taking steps to achieve JUSTICE (and restore a semblance of respect for the rule of law) for the most heinous of war crimes and constitutional violations, then you have failed miserably to make your case.


You can count me out, and despite the psychotic-like ranting and ravings of the radical right (to which you have not stood up) and a mainstream media that has its collective head in the sand, I believe that I am part of a rapidly growing soon to be majority.


Someone, Mr. President, perhaps it was you, once quoted FDR telling those who were crying for radical reform to “make me do it.”  Well, Mr. President, do it.

It’s Bush and Cheney, Damn It April 22, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in About George Bush, About Human Rights, About Justice, About Repubicans, Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Torture.
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Roger Hollander, www.rogerhollander.com, April 22, 2009


No one is more outraged than I am about the Bush administrations gross violations of domestic and international law and the Obama administration complicity in what amounts to no less than a cover-up.  The release of the infamous “torture memos” along with Obama and Rahm Emanuel granting immunity to both the lawyers who wrote the phony justifications for torture or the CIA agents who carried out the acts of barbarism, has us debating which level of subalterns should be held legally accountable.


While there is no doubt given the Geneva Conventions and the Nuremberg principles that no one who participated in these crimes against humanity should be let off the hook, there is a long tradition in American jurisprudence of convicting lower level criminals while those who had the power to make the decisions go scot free.  The Abu Ghraib convictions are a case in point.


While it is impossible not to support initiatives such as the possible indictment of the “Bush Six” by Spanish Justice Baltasar Garzón, the movement to impeach Justice Jay Bybee, and various other proposals for Congressional investigation, Commissions of Inquiry, etc.; if the focus is not on Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the others at the highest level of government, then there is virtually no chance that the kind of justice demanded by the events will be fulfilled.


Realistically speaking, given the strength of the neo- Fascist Right in the country along with the high degree of spinelessness if not outright complicity within the Democratic Party, it is hard to picture a scenario where criminal charges are laid and prosecuted against Bush and Cheney.  But I would argue that this is no time for realism, that the war crimes and constitutional violations that were carried out with impunity are too serious to overlook in the name of pragmatism.


As we reel in disbelief and disgust at the perversion of language and morality that are contained in the newly released torture memos, we must not lose sight of the enormity of the overall thrust of the crimes committed by the Bush/Cheney cabal, the warrantless wiretapping, the extraordinary renditons, the politicization of the Justice Department, the signing statements, the intelligence neglect that enabled 9/11, and – above all else – the deceit and lies that were used to justify the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq, the consequence of which in terms of death and human suffering is beyond comprehension.


There is an old Negro spiritual that we sung during the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s: “Keep your eyes on the prize …”  The Prize is no less than the indictment and conviction of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.  From there we move on to lesser but no less guilty culprits.

Spanish Judge, Pinochet Nemesis, to Go After Bush Gang? March 28, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in A: Roger's Original Essays, About Justice, Criminal Justice, Torture.
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gonzales-and-bushPartners in Crime


baltasar-garzpmSpanish Judge Baltasar Garzón


Roger Hollander, www.rogerhollander.wordpress.com

March 29, 2009


Today’s edition of the Spanish daily, Público (www.publico.es) reports that the Spanish judge who nearly sent Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet to the calaboose, may be taking aim at the Bush team that was responsible of the Guantánamo Gulag.


Justice Baltasar Garzón, examining magistrate of the Juzgado Central de Instrucción, no. 5, which investigates the most important criminal cases in Spain, has forwarded to the Fiscalía (Spanish government Attorney General) for investigation a complaint issued on March 17 by four Spanish attorneys who specialize in crimes against humanity.


The complaint does not name Bush himself but rather the legal team that set the stage and provided the justification for the Guantánamo Bay torture machine. Those included are Alberto Gonzales, a Bush advisor at the time of the Guantánamo policy design (and future Attorney General); David Addington, advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney; William J. Haynes, General Counsel to the Department of Defence under Donald Rumsfeld; Douglas Feith, Undersecretary of Defence for Policy; Jay S. Bybee, Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel; and John Yoo, deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel and author of the infamous “torture memo.”


The Spanish legal system gives jurisdiction to the complaint under the notion of “universal jurisdiction,” which applies to serious infractions such as torture and other crimes against humanity.  The complainants, however, are also claiming specific Spanish jurisdiction via a case that the same Justice Garzón had opened against five accused members of a Spanish Al Qaeda cell, who had passed through Guantánamo and were subsequently acquitted because of testimony obtained by torture at Guantánamo.  The present complaint gives Garzón cause to reopen this case and instruct the Attorney General to investigate those responsible for the torture which resulted in the acquittal.


According to the Público account, a similar case in Germany in 2006 that named Bush and Rumsfeld went nowhere; however, Spanish legal authorities are suggesting that the case against the legal team that gave justification to the Guantánamo torture policy is much more concrete and likely to go forward.  It is much more realistic, they say, to go after subordinates rather those in positions of the highest authority.  Furthermore, the principle of universal jurisdiction is absolute in Spanish jurisprudence, which makes it that much more likely that the case will be heard.


Gonzo Gonzales and his fellow torture-mates may very well be restricting their travel plans in the near future.

“Reconciliation” and “Looking Forward Not Backward:” Code for No Justice? February 19, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in About Barack Obama, About Justice, Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush.
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The President of the Tribunal, Lord Chief Justice Lawrence, pronounces the sentences and reads the dissenting Russian opinion

 by Roger Hollander

www.rogerhollander.wordpress.com, February 19, 2009




An essay entitled “Obama’s Justice: Reconciliation Not Retribution” appeared recently in the progressive online journal, Truthout.com (http://www.truthout.org/021809J).  Its author is Cynthia Boaz, assistant professor of political science at Sonoma State University, who is described as a specialist “in political development, quality of democracy and nonviolent struggle.”


Professor Boaz’s approach was most annoying in that she felt the need to set up a straw man (the notion that those who want justice want it for purposes of retribution) and resort to the ad hominem by characterizing those who are pushing for investigations and prosecution of the Bush era crimes as “disgruntled, self-identified progressives” and comparing them to “villagers wielding torches and pitchforks.”


But such annoyances pale in light of the implication of her thesis in support of Obama as a “unifier,” and his mission of “reconciliation, not retribution” in an attempt to justify Obama’s oxymoronic and disingenuous statement that he believes in the rule of law but would rather look forward rather than backward.


(To her credit Professor Boaz acknowledges that the Bush administration may have committed misdeeds “which in some cases, rise to the level of crimes against humanity” and does not argue that they should not be brought to justice.  Her point is that justice should not be politicized, that the president should not seek “retribution” for his predecessor)


In the real world justice in fact usually occurs in a political context – especially when crimes occur at the higher levels of government.  Obama recognizes this and his remarks to George Stephanopoulos were in response to overwhelming public sentiment for him to appoint a special prosecutor as reflected in his transition sounding exercise.  Presidents do appoint Special Prosecutors and the United States Attorney General.  Presidents grant pardons, often controversial and often of a political nature (Ford/Nixon; Reagan/Weinberger, North, Irangate).  The political and the judicial are indeed intertwined.


Talking about “reconciliation” and “looking forward rather than backward” is in itself a blatant political intrusion in the world of justice.  If Obama were not signaling to the heads of the Justice Committees in both houses of Congress (and the American people) that he would prefer for them to back off, then he simply would have affirmed his commitment to the rule of law and left it at that.


The evidence that is already in the public domain with respect to the knowingly false pretense for the invasion of Iraq, the high level authorization of torture, the extraordinary renditions, the wiretapping, the U.S. Attorney firings, etc. is so overwhelming that – in spite of the sacred principle of “innocent until proven guilty” – the American and world public cannot be faulted for demanding that the Nuremberg principles be applied to the neo-fascist Bush clique.  That former Vice President Cheney, who is universally considered to have been the Bush administration Godfather, has been making the rounds boasting about his role in committing in effect what are crimes against humanity, constitutes an open challenge to anyone who takes the rule of law seriously.  Given the literally millions of human beings whose lives have been destroyed or seriously debilitated by the actions of the Bush administration and the gross violations of constitutional and international law, the imperative for speedy justice within the context of due process is overwhelming.


What I fear is some kind of Truth Commission based on the premise of giving immunity for the sake of getting the truth out.  This, I believe, is what Obama was getting at with his “looking forward” remark and what Professor Boaz would like to see.  Such a notion mocks the concept and dignity of Justice.  It gives no closure to those who have suffered at the hands of high level war criminals and it has little or no deterrent effect.  What it is is politically expedient. 


Do I expect to ever see Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, Wolfowitz et. al. in a United States court of law charged with high crimes?  Honestly I do not (but I didn’t ever expect to see the election of an Afro-American president in my lifetime either).  But genuine truth, reconciliation and justice demand that such high crimes be investigated and prosecuted; those who suffered deserve justice; and the future of what is left of constitutional democracy is worth fighting for.

What is more, if President Barak Obama or anyone else acts in any way to impede or frustrate the carrying out of justice, they become to some extent complicit with the principal perpetuators.

UPDATE (May 1, 2009)

There has been a lot of -pardon the pun – wate(boarding) under the bridge since I wrote this piece in mid February.  If you surf around my Blog or the many Blogs I post on it, you will find dozens if not hundreds of articles on the issue of torture and criminal responsibility for it.  Just today, for example, I posted an excellent article by Glenn Greenwald that appeared in salon.com which documented the words of, of all people, Ronald Reagan, who, in introducing the law that made torture a serious crime in the United States, states that torture is a crime, with no exception for extraordinary circumstances (including, presumably, the phony “ticking time bomb” scenario).  Ronald Reagan!


Professor Boaz, who is the target of my criticism in the original article above, had argued that those of us demanding that now President Obama take criminal action against the Torturers were misunderstanding the role of the presidency.  Investigation and criminal prosecution in the bailiwick of the Judicial System, not the presidency she tells us.  I wonder what she is thinking now that President Obama has heard, tried and exonerated the CIA agents who carried out the war crime known as torture.


During the longest eight years in history that we lived through under Bush/Cheney, one felt that what was happening as if it were in the realm of the surreal.  Anti-war election results, and the war escalates (excuse me, surges).  Torture with impunity.  Habeas Corpus out the window.  Warrantless wiretapping.  An ideologically politicized Justice Department.  Signing Statements allowing the President to ignore laws passed by Congress.  Dr. Strangeglove figures such as Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Rice, Gonzales; and Darth Vader himself disguised as Dick Cheney, bunker and all.


May the goddess help me, I am having the same surrealistic dizziness all over again.  The Attorney General declares that waterboarding is torture.  Torture is a crime.  Therefore … do nothing about it.  The President releases evidence in the form of the infamous torture memos that, that along with photographic and other (International Red Cross, for example) evidence, leaves no doubt about the nature and extent of the torture; and then he proceeds to grant amnesty to those who committed the crimes.  They were only following orders, he says, as the Nuremburg amnesia sets in alongside the swine flu.  Pelosi and Reid want investigations … in secret (!).  The mainstream media, as it did under Bush/Cheney, plays along with the Alice in Wonderland fantasies, and the maniacs on the neo-Fascist Right have convinced a signficant percentage of Americans that torture is not a crime under “certain circumstances.”  The torture memos written by John Yoo and Jay Bybee are so patently phony and Kafkesque that Yoo is invited to teach law in Orange County and Bybee is made a Federal Judge.


It has been suggested that President Obama doesn’t feel there is the political will to prosecute the war criminals, which is why he has been so wishy-washy, but that he has released the tortue memos and is soon to release more photos as a way to achieve that will.  I don’t believe this, but that doesn’t matter.  Only by latching on to the the issue like a pit bull and refusing to let go can we who believe in Decency and Justice bring the American War Criminals to justice.