Glenn Greenwald: Is It A Coup? What Is Happening in Brazil is Much Worse Than Donald Trump May 14, 2016Posted by rogerhollander in Brazil, Imperialism, Latin America, Right Wing, Uncategorized.
Tags: amy goodman, andres fishman, Brazil, brazil coup, brazil media, brazil right wing, bric, david miranda, dilma, fatima, glen greenwald, Lula, michel temer, nermeen shaikh, petrobras, roger hollander, rousseff impeachment, wikileaks, workers party
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Roger’s note: here is an alternative view on the Brazil political crisis that you are not likely to see in the mainstream media. What is happening in Brazil is complex, but bottom line: a right wing US supported coup d’etat. After the Glen Greenwald interview on Democracy Now!, which foreshadows last weeks Impeachment against President Dilma Rouseff; an article outlining the not surprising evidence of US complicity unearthed by Wikileaks. Finally, the most recent interviews on Democracy Now!
Democracy Now!MARCH 24, 2016
NERMEEN SHAIKH: We begin in Brazil, which is facing its worst political crisis in over two decades as opponents of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff attempt to impeach her on corruption charges. But Rouseff is refusing calls to resign, saying the impeachment proceedings against her amount to undemocratic attempts by the right-wing opposition to oust her from power. On Wednesday, former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva called the impeachment proceedings against Rousseff an attempted coup d’état. Lula, who was indicted last month on corruption charges, spoke Tuesday at a trade union event in São Paulo.
LUIZ INÁCIO LULA DA SILVA: [translated] The current attempt against Dilma is a coup. There’s no other word for it. It is a coup. And this country cannot accept a coup against Dilma. If there was one last thing I could do in my life, it would be to help Dilma turn this country around, with the decency that the Brazilian public deserves.
AMY GOODMAN: Last week, a judge suspended President Rousseff’s appointment of Lula da Silva to a Cabinet post. Rousseff says Lula will help strengthen her government, but critics see his appointment as a bid to protect him from what Lula says are politically motivated charges of money laundering. The judge who blocked Lula’s appointment had recently posted photos of himself on social media marching in an anti-government protest. Lula and President Rousseff are both members of the left-leaning Workers’ Party. On Tuesday, Brazil’s president, Rousseff, said she would not resign under any circumstances.
PRESIDENT DILMA ROUSSEFF: [translated] Those who call me to resign show the fragility of their conviction of the process of impeachment, because, above all, they are trying to instate a coup d’état against our democracy. I can assure you that I will not cooperate with this. I will not resign for any reason whatsoever. … I have not committed any crime under the constitution and law to justify an interruption to my mandate. To condemn someone for a crime that they did not commit is the greatest violence that can be committed against any person. It is a brutal injustice. It is illegal. I was victim to this injustice once, under the dictatorship, and I fought to never be a victim again, under democracy.
AMY GOODMAN: In recent weeks, mass protests have occurred in Brazil calling for President Rousseff to resign.
PROTESTER: [translated] The people are tired. The people don’t want this president, this Workers’ Party, this gang in power, anymore, this gang which only steals and conceals its illicit actions. The people are tired. Lula deserves to be in jail. That’s what he deserves.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more, we’re joined by Glenn Greenwald, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist based in Brazil. He’s been covering Brazil closely for The Intercept. His recent piece is headlined “Brazil Is Engulfed by Ruling Class Corruption—and a Dangerous Subversion of Democracy.” In it, Glenn Greenwald writes, quote, “this is a campaign to subvert Brazil’s democratic outcomes by monied factions that have long hated the results of democratic elections, deceitfully marching under an anti-corruption banner: quite similar to the 1964 coup.”
In a moment, we’re going to be talking with Glenn Greenwald about the attacks in Brussels, as well as the presidential elections here in the United States and the battle between Apple and the U.S. government over encryption. But right now we’re starting with Brazil.
Glenn, there is very little attention in the United States in the mainstream media about what’s taking place in Brazil. President Obama is right next door in Argentina, but can you talk about what is happening in the country you live in, in Brazil?
GLENN GREENWALD: Definitely. It is a little odd that such extreme levels of political instability have received relatively little attention, given that Brazil is the fifth most populous country in the world, it’s the eighth largest economy, and whatever happens there will have reverberations for all sorts of markets and countries, including the United States. The situation in Brazil is actually fairly complicated, much more so than the small amount of media attention devoted to it in the U.S. has suggested. The media attention in the U.S. has suggested that it’s the people, by the millions, rising up against a corrupt government, and sort of depicting it as the heroic population against a corrupt left-wing, virtually tyrannical regime. And in a lot of ways, that’s an oversimplification; in a lot of ways, it’s simply inaccurate. So let me just make a couple of key points.
First of all, it is the case that the Brazilian political class and its—the highest levels of its economic class are rife with very radical corruption. That has been true for a really long time. And what has happened is that Brazil’s judicial institutions and police agencies have matured. Remember, Brazil is a very young democracy. It only exited military dictatorship in 1985. And so you finally have the maturation of these institutions applying the rule of law. And so, for the first time, political and economic elites are being held accountable for very serious political and economic corruption. The corruption is pervasive in essentially every influential political faction in Brazil, including all of its political parties. That includes the Workers’ Party, the left-wing party of Lula and Dilma, the current president, but also, even to a greater extent, the opposition parties on the center and the right that are trying to replace it. So corruption is very real. There is a very—there’s been a—what has been, until recently, an impressive judicial investigation that has resulted in the arrest and prosecution of some of the country’s richest and most powerful figures—something that you would never see in the United States—billionaires being hauled off to jail for bribery and money laundering and tax evasion and corruption, and sentenced to many years in prison. And virtually every political opponent of President Rousseff is implicated by this corruption, and many of the people in her party are, as well.
The irony of this widespread corruption is that President Rousseff herself is really the only significant politician, or one of the only significant politicians, in Brazil not to be implicated in any sort of corruption scheme for the—with the objective of personal enrichment. Everyone around her, virtually, including those trying to bring her government down and accuse her of corruption and impeach her, is implicated very seriously in schemes of corruption for personal enrichment. She’s essentially one of the only people who isn’t implicated that way.
The problem is that there—at the same time as you have this massive corruption investigation, you also have an extremely severe economic recession, as the result of lowering gas prices and contraction in China and a variety of other factors. And up until very recently, up until 2008, 2010, Brazil’s economy was booming. The people of that country, including its poorest, have been—thought that their prospects were finally improving, that the promise of Brazil, the long-heralded promise of Brazil, to become this developed power in the world was finally coming to fruition. Millions of people were being lifted out of poverty. And what this recession has done has been essentially to reverse all of that and to reimpose huge amounts of suffering, borne primarily by Brazil’s lower and working classes. And so there’s an enormous amount of discontent and anger towards President Rousseff and towards her Workers’ Party over the suffering that the people in Brazil are experiencing. And so, what you have is this corruption scheme and corruption investigation and scandal at the same time as great economic suffering.
And in Brazil, there are really rich and powerful factions, who have long hated Lula and Dilma and the left-wing Workers’ Party, who haven’t been able to defeat them at the ballot box. The Workers’ Party has won four straight national elections, going back to 2002 when Lula was first elected. And so, what they are doing—and they’re using their extremely powerful media institutions, beginning with Globo, which is by far and away the dominant, most powerful media institution in Brazil, run by, like all Brazil’s significant media outlets, extremely concentrated wealthy families—are using this corruption scandal to—or using the anger towards the government to try and rile up people and essentially remove the Workers’ Party and President Dilma Rousseff from power, really because they can’t beat her at the ballot box. But they’re trying to latch on this corruption scandal to the discontent that people feel because of the economic suffering. And so there is a validity to the corruption scandal and to the investigation, even aimed at the Workers’ Party, but at the same time what you’re now seeing is, unfortunately, the judiciary, which has been pretty scrupulous until now about being apolitical, working with the plutocrats of Brazil to try and achieve a result that really is a subversion of democracy, which is exploiting the scandal to remove President Rousseff from power through impeachment, even though there really are no grounds of impeachment that would be legal or valid as a means of removing her from office.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, one of the points that you make, Glenn, in that article is that—and I’m quoting you here—”Brazil’s extraordinary political upheaval shares some similarities with the Trump-led political chaos in the U.S.” Could you explain what you mean by that?
GLENN GREENWALD: Well, what I essentially mean by that is that in the U.S. there is political upheaval, in the sense that the political order has been largely overturned. The people who have been in control of and running the Republican Party, which are largely monied interests, have completely lost control of their political apparatus. They poured huge amounts of money first into Jeb Bush and then into Marco Rubio. And typically, those factions get their way. And in this particular instance, they haven’t. And you have this kind of political outsider who has been rejecting all kinds of political orthodoxies, breaking every political rule, who is looking closer and closer to becoming the nominee of the Republican Party and potentially, after that, the president of the United States, and has done so in a way that has unleashed all kinds of instability and very dangerous and dark sentiments in the United States.
In Brazil, the instability is far greater. I was just writing for an American audience, trying to get them to understand the level of instability by saying that, actually, what’s happening in Brazil is much greater in terms of the disruption than what’s happening as a result of Donald Trump’s successful candidacy, because it pervades almost every economic and political institution. And what you really see is this young democracy in Brazil that is now being threatened as a result of this really opportunistic and exploitative attack on the part of the country’s richest media outlets and richest factions to essentially undo the result of four consecutive democratic elections by trying to remove a democratically elected president—she was just re-elected in 2014—on totally fictitious grounds of pretext. And it’s really quite dangerous once you start, you know, sort of undermining the fundamentals of democracy in the way that’s currently taking place in Brazil.
AMY GOODMAN: You know, this is interesting that today President Obama is in Argentina, and it was Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, who won the Nobel Prize, Peace Prize, who said he welcomed Obama but thought that the American president should not be going to Argentina on March 24th, because that day, in 1976, 40 years ago, the military staged a coup. Human rights groups estimate something like 30,000 people were killed or disappeared in that coup that followed for the next seven or so years. Esquivel said, “I’m a survivor of that era, of the flights of death, of the torture, of the prisons, of the exiles. And,” he said, “when you analyze the situation in depth, the United States was responsible for the coups in Latin America.” What parallels, if any, do you see? And also talk about Petrobras and the role that it’s playing in all of this, the state oil company in Brazil.
GLENN GREENWALD: You can’t really understand Latin American politics, in general, and the ongoing instabilities and difficulties that almost every country in South America is still plagued by without talking about the central role that the United States has continuously played for decades in trying to control that part of the hemisphere.
In Brazil, like in so many countries, they had a democratically elected government in early 1960s, which the United States disliked because it was a left-wing government—not a communist government, but a left-wing government—that was devoted to the distribution of wealth for the social welfare, for opposing United States’ capitalistic interests and attempts to interfere in Brazil. And the Brazilian military, in 1964, staged a coup that overthrew that democratically elected government, and proceeded to impose on Brazil a really brutal military dictatorship that served the interests of the United States, was allied to the United States for the next 21 years. Of course, at the time, the United States government, U.S. officials, before Congress and in the public eye, vehemently denied that they played any role in that coup. And as happened so many times in the past, documents ultimately emerged years later that showed that not only was the U.S. supportive of that coup, but played a direct role in helping to plot it and plan it and stage it and then prop up that dictatorship for 21 years. That dictatorship used very extreme torture techniques on the nation’s dissidents, on the Brazilian citizens who were working to undermine that right-wing military dictatorship, among whom was the current president, Dilma Rousseff, who in the 1970s was a guerrilla, essentially, working against the U.S.-supported military dictatorship. She was detained and imprisoned without trial and then tortured rather severely. And the documents have revealed that it was the U.S. and the U.K. that actually taught the military leaders the best types of torture techniques to use.
And so, what you have now is not really a repeat of the 1964 coup. It’s not really responsible to say it’s identical to what’s taking place, because the impeachment against Dilma is proceeding under the constitution, which actually does provide for impeachment. There’s an independent judiciary that’s involved in the proceedings. But at the same time, if you go back and look at what happened in 1964 with that coup, the leading media outlets in Brazil, that also hated the left-wing government because it was against their oligarchical interests, justified and supported that coup. They depicted it as necessary to uproot corruption in this left-wing government. You had the same media factions—Globo, and the families who own it, and other media outlets that still persist to today—agitating in favor of the coup and then ultimately supporting the military dictatorship. And so you have similarities in terms of the anti-democratic processes at work that prevailed in 1964 and throughout Latin America in so many other years, where the United States was at the center of.
As far as Petrobras is concerned, Petrobras is the Brazilian-owned oil company, and it has become crucial to Brazil’s economic growth, because as oil prices increased and as Brazil found huge amounts of oil reserve, it was anticipated that Petrobras would essentially be the engine of Brazil’s future economic growth. And it started being drowned, essentially, in profits. And the scandal, the corruption scandal, has Petrobras at the center because it largely involves Petrobras paying bribes to various construction companies, that they would essentially hire private construction companies to build various platforms and other infrastructure for Petrobras for oil exploration, and they would essentially pay far more than what the contract really called for, and there would then be kickbacks to the head of the construction company, but also to Petrobras and to the politicians who control Petrobras. And that really is what this corruption scandal was triggered by, was the discovery of huge numbers, huge amounts—you’re talking about millions and millions of dollars in kickbacks and bribes to the politicians, in virtually every significant party in Brazil, that control Petrobras. Virtually nobody is unaffected by it. And the more they’ve investigated, the more people have turned state’s evidence, the more corruption has been discovered, to the point where even if you now do impeach Dilma, it’s almost impossible to envision somebody who could take her place who isn’t far more implicated in that corruption than she is.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Glenn Greenwald, we are going to break, and then, when we come back, we’re going to move from Brazil to Brussels, to the attacks there and the response by the U.S. presidential candidates. We’re talking to the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, co-founder of The Intercept. And we’ll link to hispiece in this segment, “Brazil Is Engulfed by Ruling Class Corruption—and a Dangerous Subversion of Democracy.” We’ll be back with him in a moment.
WikiLeaks Reveal Brazil’s New Coup President Is ‘US Informant’
Whistleblower website WikiLeaks described the Senate-imposed President of Brazil Michel Temer as a “U.S. Embassy informant” in a tweet and provided two links where Temer’s candid thoughts on Brazilian politics serve as the basis for a report by the U.S. embassy in Brazil.
The cable from Jan. 11, 2006, states that Temer met with embassy officials on Jan. 9, 2006 to give his assessment of Brazil’s political landscape ahead of the 2006 general election that saw Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva reelected to the presidency.
Temer became interim president after the Brazilian Senate voted to proceed with an impeachment trial against President Dilma Rousseff, forcing her to step down for a period of 180 days.
Temer has been criticized for making clear his intention of pursuing a pro-business, neoliberal program as president, despite the fact that Rousseff and her Workers’ Party were reelected on the basis of a progressive program of social investment and wealth redistribution.
The leaked cable indicates that Temer has always held a neoliberal outlook.
“Temer criticized Lula’s narrow vision and his excessive focus on social safety net programs that don’t promote growth or economic development,” reads the cable from Jan 11, 2006.
The cable also reveals that in 2006 Temer’s party, the PMDB, was considering an alliance with both the leftist Workers’ Party and the right-wing PSDB.
The PMDB’s tendency to switch sides would later prove to be a critical element in efforts by Brazilian elites to oust Rousseff.
Despite having been elected vice president alongside Rousseff, Temer betrayed his former allies and joined in efforts to oust the president via impeachment.
A June 21, 2006 cable shows Temer held a second meeting with U.S. embassy staff to once again appraise them on the political situation in Brazil.
In that cable Temer laments the lack of power given to PMDB ministers during the Lula government.
“Temer spoke caustically of the Lula administration’s miserly rewards for its allies in the PMDB,” reads the cable.
Temer’s bitterness over being left out of Rousseff’s governance decisions was said to be one of the factors that motivated his eventual support for her impeachment.
With Rousseff Out, Brazil’s Interim President Installs Conservative All-White, All-Male Cabinet
Democracy Now! May 13, 2016
NERMEEN SHAIKH: We begin today’s show with the political turmoil engulfing Brazil. On Thursday, the country’s former vice president, Michel Temer, assumed power as interim president after the Senate voted to suspend President Dilma Rousseff and begin impeachment proceedings. She is accused of tampering with accounts in order to hide a budget shortfall. The 55-to-22 vote followed more than 20 hours of debate. One politician described it as, quote, “the saddest day for Brazil’s young democracy.” Rousseff called it a coup. She gave a defiant speech before leaving the presidential palace, where she was greeted and hugged by former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. She vowed to fight the impeachment.
PRESIDENT DILMA ROUSSEFF: [translated] It isn’t an impeachment; it’s a coup. I did not commit high crimes and misdemeanors. There is no justification for an impeachment charge. I don’t have bank accounts abroad. I never received bribes. I never condoned corruption. The trial against me is fragile, legally inconsistent, unjust, unleashed against an honest and innocent person. The greatest brutality that can be committed against any person is to punish them for a crime they did not commit. No injustice is more devastating than condemning an innocent. What is at stake is respect for the ballot box, the sovereign desires of the Brazilian people and the Constitution. What is at stake are the achievements of the last 13 years.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: President Dilma Rousseff has been suspended for up to 180 days or until her Senate trial is concluded. Attorney General José Eduardo Cardozo called the Senate vote a, quote, “historic injustice.”
JOSÉ EDUARDO CARDOZO: [translated] An honest and innocent woman is, right at this moment, being condemned. A judicial pretense is being used to oust a legitimately elected president over acts which have been practiced by all previous governments. A historic injustice is being committed; an innocent person is being condemned.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: The new interim president is not part of Rousseff’s Workers’ Party, but a member of the opposition PMDB party. Temer has been implicated in Brazil’s massive corruption scandal involving state-owned oil company Petrobras. Several of his top advisers are also under investigation, and just last week he was ordered to pay a fine for violating campaign finance limits. After Thursday’s vote, he vowed to, quote, “restore respect” to Brazil’s government.
INTERIM PRESIDENT MICHEL TEMER: [translated] My first word to the Brazilian people is the word “trust”—trust in the values that form the character of our people, the vitality of our democracy; trust in the recuperation of our country’s economy, our country’s potential and its social and political institutions.
AMY GOODMAN: Michel Temer was sworn in Thursday along with a new Cabinet that is all white and all male, making this the first time since 1979 no women have been in the Cabinet. The New York Times reports Temer attempted to appoint a woman to oversee human rights policies, but faced blowback after it became clear she had voted in favor of legislation to make it difficult for women who are raped to get abortions. Temer also offered the Science Ministry to an evangelical pastor who does not believe in evolution, and, when he faced opposition, made him trade minister instead. On Thursday, dozens of women chained themselves to the gates of Brasília’s Planalto presidential palace to support suspended Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.
FATIMA: [translated] The coup leaders in Brazil are trying to get President Dilma out and are usurping our democracy. They will only get us out of here by force, because we are defending democracy and the elected mandate for more than half of Brazilians.
AMY GOODMAN: All of this comes as Brazil is set to host the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in early August, and parts of the country are facing a Zika outbreak.
For more, we go directly to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where we’re joined by Andrew Fishman, a researcher and reporter for The Intercept, where he’s covered Brazil extensively along with his co-authors Glenn Greenwald and David Miranda.
Andrew Fishman, welcome back to Democracy Now! Talk about what’s happened.
ANDREW FISHMAN: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: The president, or I should say at this point the suspended president, Dilma Rousseff, has called what’s happening in Brazil a coup.
ANDREW FISHMAN: Yes, there’s been a concerted action to remove her from office by the leaders of the opposition in Congress and also by the media. The current interim president, Michel Temer, was, before, her vice president. They ran together twice. And he was, until very recently, her ally. And so, she’s had very strong words against him for being one of the leaders to remove her from power. The Workers’ Party was—has been in power. They’ve won four straight elections. They had—they have great popular support, or they had, at least until recently, once the economy started going sour. And as is the case in basically any country, once the economy goes south, so does the approval rating of the president.
The opposition, seeing a chance to finally take advantage of this moment and get into—get into a position of power, decided that this is the moment, and they started pushing this case for impeachment, which, even though a lot of the coverage that you’ve seen, and especially down here in Brazil, has been based on corruption, corruption, corruption, and the corruption case in Petrobras, the state oil company, this has nothing to do with her corruption—with her impeachment proceedings. She’s being impeached on a technicality of some financial accounting measures, where she used some state-sponsored banks to cover some short-term deficits, which were all paid back in the end. Basically, any jurist says that this is not—does not rise to the level of an impeachable offense, although the opposition has run with it. But in the discussion that they’ve had going forward, they’ve always focused on the impeachment angle—or, the corruption angle, because it’s much more powerful. And the Brazilian people are really fed up with corruption.
One thing that’s really noteworthy is that while the majority of the Brazilian population does support President Rousseff’s—or, former President Rousseff’s removal from office, the majority all support, in similar margin—want President Temer impeached, because they think that he’s also—that he is involved in corruption, unlike Dilma, where there’s no proof that she is. It’s very possible that she is involved and she knew about the schemes, but there’s no evidence to that nature, whereas there is much greater evidence that Temer and his allies are involved actively in corruption and illicit enrichment. Only 8 percent of the population wants Temer as president, which is shocking. In a most—in a recent poll, 2 percent of the population said that they would vote for him. If it weren’t for this impeachment, which they call a coup, it would have been impossible for someone like Michel Temer to become the president of Brazil.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Andrew Fishman, you mentioned that what Dilma Rousseff is charged with is not in fact an impeachable offense, and many jurists agree on that. So how is it that she’s been impeached?
ANDREW FISHMAN: Yeah, and, of course, I mean, there are people—there are jurists aligned with the opposition that say that it certainly is, it certainly does rise to the level. But, you know, international observers far and wide, from international organizations to the press, to diplomats, to a Nobel Peace Prize winner in Argentina who fought against the military dictatorship there, have all agreed that this is not an impeachable offense, and therefore some call it a coup. Others say, at the very least, it is certainly an antidemocratic, undemocratic action to remove her from power.
AMY GOODMAN: On Thursday, Marcelo Ninio, from the Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo, questioned U.S. State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau about the situation in Brazil.
MARCELO NINIO: I wanted to ask about Brazil first. It’s—what the State Department and the U.S. government expect about the relationship with the interim government? And has there been any communication yet with the new government?
ELIZABETH TRUDEAU: Well, I can’t speak to our embassy communication there. You know, as you know, we maintain a strong bilateral relationship between our two countries. As the two largest democracies in the hemisphere, Brazil and the United States are committed partners. You know, we cooperate with Brazil on a number of issues—you know, trade, security, environment. We expect that’ll continue.
AMY GOODMAN: So that’s the U.S. State Department, Andrew Fishman. And Pravda, an article in Pravda, explained that over the last few years the BRICS nations—you know, that’s Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa—have become a significant geopolitical threat to the interests of the United States. And again, this is Pravda, the Russian paper, said it’s quite possible the CIA is involved in the plan to stage riots in Brazil nationwide, that U.S. intelligence agencies are involved with this coup. Is there any evidence of this?
ANDREW FISHMAN: I mean, there has been plenty of speculation about this. Obviously, the CIA operates in secrecy, so it’s difficult to say one way or another. Dilma herself has said that there’s absolutely no proof to that nature. I have not seen anything that convinces me that that’s the case. Again, who knows what the actual situation is?
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Andrew Fishman, even though—
ANDREW FISHMAN: But also, the State Department spokesman also said that she’s not sure if the—if anyone from the United States has reached out to President Temer to congratulate him. They referred to the White House. Josh Earnest, the spokesperson for the White House, then said, “You should speak to the State Department.” So it’s not clear that even any foreign leaders have gone out to congratulate President Temer, although the statement that the State Department spokesman made, saying that they believe that Brazil will continue to function within democratic means and the democratic systems and will be strengthened, it’s a tacit show of support. I mean, they haven’t come out strongly one way or another in public saying that they’re for or against impeachment, because really that’s—the implication of that would be so strong. It would be—if it were in fact that the United States wanted this, wanted the Temer administration above Dilma’s administration—and I believe that is the case, that they much prefer, as the foreign investors much prefer, having Temer—at least that’s what they’ve shown, based on his statements. Just making that statement that—reaffirming the democratic nature of this movement, which is clearly antidemocratic, that says a lot, even though it’s done quite in diplomatic terms.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Dilma Rousseff’s suspension is temporary, but some are saying that it seems all but certain that she’ll be permanently removed from office. Is that correct?
ANDREW FISHMAN: Yeah. It would take some sort of miracle or massive change in the political landscape for her not to be—for the vote to not go through. You need a two-thirds vote in the Senate for her to be impeached after the trial. They already had that number, and then a few more, voting for the—this initial vote the other day. So, I mean, unless something massive were to change, it seems quite clear.
And the—I mean, the only people that could really intervene right now would be the Supreme Court. They’ve shown that they also prefer the Temer presidency. They want this. They think that Temer is the quickest path to resolve the political crisis and to move forward from the chaos that’s currently going on. And they’ve said—they said so quite explicitly in some statements that they’ve given to the press, which, as an American coming from the U.S. context, where at least the Supreme Court in the United States tries to maintain the appearance of impartiality in maintaining pure judicial decisions, in this case they’ve made statements that show that they’re making very political calculations in their decisions, as has the prosecutor general.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you, Andrew, about an article by Greg Grandin about who’s profiting from this coup, as Dilma Rousseff has called it. Grandin wrote in The Nation, a piece that was headlined, “A Slavers’ Coup in Brazil?: Among the many groups pushing for the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, one is seldom discussed: companies that profit from slavery.” In the article, Grandin notes Rousseff’s Workers’ Party creates a—created a “dirty list” of “hundreds of companies and individual employers who were investigated by labor prosecutors and found to be using slaves.” Grandin goes on to write that one of the members of the opposition that’s pushed for Rousseff’s impeachment directly profits from slave labor. According to Grandin, Congressman Beto Mansur is, quote, “charged with keeping 46 workers at his soybean farms in Goiás State in conditions so deplorable that investigators say the laborers were treated like modern-day slaves.” Andrew Fishman, what business interests have aligned themselves against Dilma Rousseff? And what about this congressman?
ANDREW FISHMAN: Yeah, and going one step further even, I mean, Greg’s article was about a week ago, and just yesterday, President Temer installed his Cabinet, his ministers. The agricultural minister is a massive soybean farmer who has huge tracts of land, they’ve—responsible for massive deforestation, and he’s been personally linked to slavery. His time in Congress, he actually introduced a bill to try and limit the definition of what slavery actually is, to try and help himself and his partners and his business interests. Slavery is a massive problem in Brazil. Brazil has plenty of social problems. This, slavery, is obviously one that should not exist in the modern world; however, it clearly does here and around the world. If you go out into the interior of the country, which is massive tracts of wilderness, it’s basically wild, wild West out there. There’s very little law. Journalists, activists, anyone who tries to push back against these massive corporate interests, who have benefited greatly under the PT government time in the last 10, 12 years, they are all—they’re all able to use this sort of slavery, because they have no—there’s basically no rule of law to stop them from doing so.
So, yeah, the massive agribusiness has aligned themselves against Dilma and have actually said that they want—wanted her to be impeached, as has big industrialist groups and as has the media, which is also a huge industry here, obviously. But all these groups benefited greatly under President Rousseff and President Lula da Silva. Just last year, they’ve had hundreds of millions of reais, you know, over the time—hundreds and billions of dollars in subsidies that have gone to these groups and these industries, and they’ve gotten really rich off of it, much more money than has gone to the social distribution programs, which President Temer has now indicated that he probably will be cutting or reducing. So, it’s an interesting moment. I think that they never really were entirely aligned with the PT, but it was a pact of political convenience: They saw a way to get a deal, a way to get their interests met. Now that the economy has gone down slightly and her popularity has gone down dramatically, it seemed like a good opportunity for them to push back with their more conventional allies, which are the PSDB and the PMDB.
AMY GOODMAN: Andrew Fishman, thanks for joining us, researcher, reporter for The Intercept, has covered Brazil extensively, along with Glenn Greenwald and David Miranda, speaking to us from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Tags: gaza, gaza civilians, gaza massacre, gaza strip, gaza tunnels, glen greenwald, israeli terrorism, jon queally, joseph goebbels, netanyahu, nurbemberg principles, palestinian children, palestinian deaths, Palestinians, telegenically dead
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Roger’s note: the Nazi Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, perfected the infamous Big Lie stratagem. Tell it brazenly and often and it becomes accepted fact. In the second article posted here, that of Glen Greenwald, we see an eerie example of this in relation to a recent remark by Israeli warmonger Netanyahu. The Israeli/American/German/etc. narrative on the current Gaza massacre is that it has been provoked by Hamas, who, unprovoked, builds tunnels and sends missiles aimed at Israeli residents; leaving Israel no alternative but to “defend” itself.
THAT IS A BIG LIE.
The reality is that the Netanyahu Israeli government has used whatever pretext it can find to punish Palestinians for the recent unification of the Gaza Hamas and West Bank governments. The Israeli sanctions against Gaza made already nearly unsupportable life even more impossible, thus provoking the missile launch. This, of course, against a background of the Israeli “seige” of Gaza, the ongoing repression, the illegal settlements, etc., turning it into a veritable concentration camp with no escape possible.
More than 500 Palestinians now dead as sealed-off territory becomes open battlefield; Calls for immediate cease fire go out, but violence continues
Intense shelling and aerial assaults that claimed hundreds of lives over the weekend continued in the Gaza Strip on Monday, pushing the number of Palestinians killed by Israel’s ‘Operation Protective Edge’ beyond 500 people, with many thousands wounded, since it began on July 8.
“While official claims that the objective of the ground offensive is to destroy tunnels into Israel, what we see on the ground is that bombing is indiscriminate and that those who die are civilians.” —Nicolas Palarus, Doctors Without Borders
In the Gaza City suburb of Shuja’iyya on Sunday,more than 120 Palestinians—at least 40 of whom where women and children—were killed during intense and reportedly “indiscriminate” bombing by Israeli forces. The Ma’an News Agency reports that overall, 150 Palestinians were killed across the territory on Sunday.
“It was a night of horror,” one 50 year-old Palestinian from the city of Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza toldReuters.
According to the New York Times on Monday, “Israel has lost 18 soldiers so far, as well as two citizens killed by rocket and mortar fire.”
Late on Sunday, the UN Security Council held an emergency meeting over the crisis in Gaza anddemanded all parties agree to an immediate cease fire. The council, however, did not pick up an official resolution offered by Jordan which put forth stronger language condemning the violence against civilians in Gaza and called for a lifting of the siege that prevents people from leaving the enclave that has now become an open battlefield.
In a statement, the France-based medical relief agency Doctors Without Borders/MSF called on Israel to immediately stop bombing the civilian population trapped in the sealed-off Gaza strip and to respect the safety of medical workers and health facilities working there.
“Shelling and air strikes are not only intense but are also unpredictable, which makes it very difficult for MSF and other medical workers to move and provide much needed emergency care,” said Nicolas Palarus, MSF field coordinator in Gaza.
“While official claims that the objective of the ground offensive is to destroy tunnels into Israel,” Palarus continued, “what we see on the ground is that bombing is indiscriminate and that those who die are civilians.”
UN Chief Ban Ki-Moon, speaking in Doha on Sunday, made his strongest comments yet on Israel’s military assault, calling for an end to the campaign that has now killed hundreds of civilians and wounded thousands, including a huge numbers of children.
“I condemn this atrocious action,” Ban said. “Israel must exercise maximum restraint and do far more to protect civilians.”
Both U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barack Obama have also backed the latest calls for a cease fire and expressed “concern” for the increasing numbers of civilian casualties, but continued to stop short of condemning Israeli’s aggressive tactics.
In a call with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday, according to the White House, Obama raised “serious concern” about the growing number of casualties on both sides, including increasing Palestinian civilian deaths in Gaza and the loss of Israeli soldiers, but reaffirmed the U.S. position that Israel has a “right to defend itself.”
Kerry was on his way to Cairo on Monday to engage with regional leaders gathered there to work on the possibility of a negotiated settlement. Kerry made headlines on Sunday for what were described as “unguarded” comments made to a senior aide in which he was shown expressing frustration over the increasing numbers of civilians deaths caused by Israel’s attack. “It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation, it’s a hell of a pinpoint operation,” Kerry said, seeming to challenge the repeated claims made by Israeli officials.
Netanyahu’s “Telegenically Dead” Comment Is Grotesque But Not Original
They want to pile up as many civilian dead as they can. They use telegenically dead Palestinians for their cause. They want the more dead, the better.
The Jews gradually are having to depend more and more on themselves, and have recently found a new trick. They knew the good-natured German Michael in us, always ready to shed sentimental tears for the injustice done to them.One suddenly has the impression that the Berlin Jewish population consists only of little babies whose childish helplessness might move us, or else fragile old ladies. The Jews send out the pitiable. They may confuse some harmless souls for a while, but not us. We know exactly what the situation is.
Rather than lard up the point with numerous defensive caveats about what is and is not being said here (which, in any event, never impede wilful media distorters in their tactics), I’ll simply note three brief points:
(1) To compare aspects of A and B is not to posit that A and B are identical (e.g., to observe that Bermuda and Bosnia are both countries beginning with the letter “B” is not to depict them as the same, just as observing that both the U.S. in 2003 and Germany in 1938 launched aggressive wars in direct violation of what were to become the Nuremberg Principles is not to equate the two countries).
(2) In general, the universality of war rhetoric is a vital fact, necessary to evaluate the merit of contemporary claims used to justify militarism (claims that a war amounts to mere “humanitarian intervention”, for instance, have been invoked over and over to justify even the most blatant aggression). Similarly, the notion that one is barred from ever citing certain historical examples in order to draw lessons for contemporary conflicts is as dangerous as it is anti-intellectual.
(3) Anglo-American law has long recognized that gross recklessness is a form of intent(“Fraudulent intent is shown if a representation is made with reckless indifference to its truth or falsity”). That’s why reckless behavior even if unaccompanied by a desire to kill people – e.g., randomly shooting a gun into a crowd of people – has long been viewed as sufficient to establish criminal intent.
One can say many things about a military operation that results in more than 75% of the dead being civilians, many of them children, aimed at a population trapped in a tiny area with no escape. The claim that there is no intent to kill civilians but rather an intent to protect them is most assuredly not among them. Even stalwart-Israel-supporter Thomas Friedman has previously acknowledged that Israeli assaults on Lebanon, and possibly in Gaza, areintended ”to inflict substantial property damage and collateral casualties” because “the only long-term source of deterrence was to exact enough pain on the civilians” (which, to the extent it exists, is the classic definition of “terrorism”). The most generous claim one can make about what Israel is now doing in Gaza is that it is driven by complete recklessness toward the civilian population it is massacring, a form of intent under centuries of well-settled western law.
* * * * *
American journalism is frequently criticized with great justification, but there are a number of American journalists in Gaza, along with non-western ones, in order to tell the world about what is happening there. That reporting is incredibly brave and difficult, and those who are doing it merit the highest respect. Their work, along with the prevalence of social media and internet technology that allows Gazans themselves to document what is happening, has changed the way Israeli aggression is seen and understood this time around.
Western justice and transparency January 23, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, War on Terror.
Tags: anwar awlaki, Bilal el-Berjawi, cia drone, david baron, dawn johnsen, eric holder, extrajudicial killings, glen greenwald, marty lederman, president obama, presidential assassination, roger hollander, state secrets
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Anwar Awlaki and Barack Obama (Credit: AP)
On Saturday in Somalia, the U.S. fired missiles from a drone and killed the 27-year-old Lebanon-born, ex-British citizen Bilal el-Berjawi. His wife had given birth 24 hours earlier and the speculation is that the U.S. located him when his wife called to give him the news. Roughly one year ago, El-Berjawi was stripped of his British citizenship, obtained when his family moved to that country when he was an infant, through the use of a 2006 British anti-Terrorism law — passed after the London subway bombing — that the current government is using with increasing frequency to strip alleged Terrorists with dual nationality of their British citizenship (while providing no explanation for that act). El-Berjawi’s family vehemently denies that he is involved with Terrorism, but he was never able to appeal the decree against him for this reason:
Berjawi is understood to have sought to appeal against the order, but lawyers representing his family were unable to take instructions from him amid concerns that any telephone contact could precipitate a drone attack.
Obviously, those concerns were valid. So first the U.S. tries to assassinate people, then it causes legal rulings against them to be issued because the individuals, fearing for their life, are unable to defend themselves. Meanwhile, no explanation or evidence is provided for either the adverse government act or the assassination: it is simply secretly decreed and thus shall it be.
Exactly the same thing happened with U.S. citizen Anwar Awlaki. When the ACLU and CCR, representing Awlaki’s father, sued President Obama asking a federal court to enjoin the President from killing his American son without a trial, the Obama DOJ insisted (and the court ultimately accepted) that Awlaki himself must sue on his own behalf. Obviously, that was impossible given that the Obama administration was admittedly trying to kill him and surely would have done so the minute he stuck his head up to contact lawyers (indeed, the U.S. tried to kill him each time they thought they had located him, and then finally succeeded). So again in the Awlaki case: the U.S. targets someone for death, and then their inability to defend themselves is used as a weapon to deny their legal rights.
The refusal to provide transparency is also the same. Ever since Awlaki was assassinated, the Obama administration has steadfastly refused to disclose not only any evidence to justify the accusations of Terrorism against him, but also the legal theories it is using to assert the power to target U.S. citizens for death with no charges. A secret legal memo authorizing the Awlaki assassination, authored by Obama lawyers David Baron and Marty Lederman, remains secret. During the Bush years, Democratic lawyers vehemently decried the Bush DOJ’s refusal to release even OLC legal memoranda as tyrannical “secret law.” One of the lawyers most vocal during the Bush years about the evils of “secret law,” Dawn Johnsen (the never-confirmed Obama appointee to be chief of the OLC) told me back in October: “I absolutely do not support the concealment of OLC’s Awlaki memo . . . .The Obama administration should release either any existing OLC memo explaining why it believes it has the authority for the targeted killings or a comparably detailed legal analysis of its claimed authorities.”
A Daily Beast report today says that the Obama administration “is finally going to break its silence” on the Awlaki killing, but here’s what they will and will not disclose:
In the coming weeks, according to four participants in the debate, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. is planning to make a major address on the administration’s national-security record. Embedded in the speech will be a carefully worded but firm defense of its right to target U.S. citizens. . . .
An early draft of Holder’s speech identified Awlaki by name, but in a concession to concerns from the intelligence community, all references to the al Qaeda leader were removed. As currently written, the speech makes no overt mention of the Awlaki operation, and reveals none of the intelligence the administration relied on in carrying out his killing.
In other words, they’re going to dispatch Eric Holder to assert that the U.S. Government has the power to target U.S. citizens for assassination by-CIA-drone, but will not even describe a single piece of evidence to justify the claim that Awlaki was guilty of anything. In fact, they will not even mention his name. As Marcy Wheeler said today:
This is simply an asinine compromise. We all know the Administration killed Awlaki. We all know the Administration used a drone strike to do so. . . .
The problem–the problem that strikes at the very heart of democratic accountability–is that the Administration plans to keep secret the details that would prove (or not) that Awlaki was what the Administration happily claims he is under the veil of anonymity, all while claiming that precisely that information is a state secret.
The Administration seems to be planning on making a big speech on counterterrorism–hey! it’s another opportunity to brag again about offing Osama bin Laden!–without revealing precisely those details necessary to distinguish this killing, and this country, from that of an unaccountable dictator.
The CIA seems to have dictated to our democratically elected President that he can’t provide the kind of transparency necessary to remain a democracy. We can kill you–they appear to be planning to say–and we’ll never have to prove that doing so was just. You’ll just have to trust us!
That, of course, is the heart and soul of this administration’s mentality when it comes to such matters, and why not? Between Republicans who always cheer on the killing of Muslims with or without any explanation or transparency, and Democrats who do so when their leader is the assassin, there is little political pressure to explain themselves. If anything, this planned “disclosure” makes the problem worse, since we will now have the spectacle of Eric Holder, wallowing in pomp and legal self-righteousness, finally defending the power that Obama already has seized — to assassinate U.S. citizens in secret and with no checks — but concealing what is most needed: evidence that Awlaki was what the U.S. Government claims he is. That simply serves to reinforce the message this Government repeatedly sends: as Marcy puts it, “We can kill you and we’ll never have to prove that doing so was just. You’ll just have to trust us!” The Yemen expert Gregory Johnsen added: “The US legal opinion on Awlaki is one thing, but it rests on assumptions made by the intelligence community, which won’t be revealed.”
This no longer seems radical to many — it has become normalized — because it’s been going on for so long now and, more important, it is now fully bipartisan consensus. But to see how extreme this all really is, to understand what a radical departure it is, just consider what George Bush’s neocon Ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk, told the Israelis in 2001, as flagged by this Guardian Op-Ed by Mary Ellen O’Connell comparing Obama’s assassinations to Bush’s torture program:
The United States government is very clearly on the record as against targeted assassinations. They are extrajudicial killings, and we do not support that.
What George Bush’s Ambassador condemned to the Israelis’ face just a decade ago as something the nation was steadfastly against has now become a staple of government policy: aimed even at its own citizens, and carried out with complete secrecy. And those who spent years mocking the notion that “9/11 Changed Everything” will have no choice but to invoke that propagandistic mantra in order to defend this: what else is there to say?
The “nobody-could-have-known” excuse and Iraq September 1, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, Media, War.
Tags: glen greenwald, howard dean, Iraq, iraq casualties, Iraq occupation, Iraq war, iraw invasion, john burns, journalism, Media, roger hollander, war reporting, wmds
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(updated below – Update II – Update III [Wed.] – Update IV [Wed.] – Update V [Wed.] – Update VI [Wed.])
The predominant attribute of American elites is a refusal to take responsibility for any failures. The favored tactic for accomplishing this evasion is the “nobody-could-have-known” excuse. Each time something awful occurs — the 9/11 attack, the Iraq War, the financial crisis, the breaking of levees in New Orleans, the general ineptitude and lawlessness of the Bush administration — one is subjected to an endless stream of excuse-making from those responsible, insisting that there was no way they “could have known” what was to happen: “I don’t think anybody could have predicted that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile,” Condoleezza Rice infamously said on May 16, 2002, despite multiple FBI and intelligence documents warning of exactly that. One finds identical excuses for each contemporary American disaster. Robert Gibbs just invoked the same false excuse: that “nobody” knew the depth of the financial and unemployment crisis early last year.
Because the political class is treating today as some sort of melodramatic milestone in the Iraq War, there is a tidal wave of those self-defending claims crashing down around us. The New York Times‘ John Burns — who bravely covered that war for years — presents a classic case of this mentality today in a solemn retrospective entitled “The Long-Awaited Day.” I realize we’re all supposed to genuflect to Burns’ skills as a war journalist — I’ve personally found him far more overtly supportive of the war than most others covering it and certainly more than his claimed objectivity would permit, even when his reporting was illuminating — but if he’s right about what he says today, it’s a rather enormous (albeit unintentional) indictment of himself and his colleagues covering the war:
Hindsight is a powerful thing, and there have been plenty of voices amid the tragedy that has unfolded since the invasion to say, in effect, “I told you so.” But among that band of reporters — men and women who thought we knew something about Iraq, and for the most part sympathized with the joy Iraqis felt at what many were unashamed then to call their “liberation” — there were few, if any, who foresaw the extent of the violence that would follow or the political convulsion it would cause in Iraq, America and elsewhere.
We could not know then, though if we had been wiser we might have guessed, the scale of the toll the invasion would unleash: the tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians who would die; the nearly 4,500 American soldiers who would be killed; the nearly 35,000 soldiers who would return home wounded; the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who would flee abroad as refugees; the $750 billion in direct war costs that would burden the United States; the bitterness that would seep into American politics; the anti-Americanism that would become a commonplace around the world.
If Burns wants to claim that he and his American media colleagues in Baghdad were unaware that any of this was likely, I can’t and won’t dispute that. In fact, it’s probably true that they were unaware of it — blissfully so — which is why media coverage in the lead-up to the war was so inexcusably one-sided in its war cheerleading, as even Howard Kurtz documented. But Burns’ claim that they “could not know then” that the invasion could unleash all of the tragedy, violence and anti-Americanism it spawned is absolutely ludicrous, a patent attempt to justify his severe errors in judgment as being unavoidable.
Aside from the obvious, intrinsic risks of invading a country smack in the middle of the Muslim world, with much of the world vehemently opposed, there were countless people warning of exactly these possibilities from invading. If Burns and his friends were unaware of those risks, it was only because they decided to ignore those voices, not because they could not have known. Here, as but one example, is Jim Webb in 2002, arguing against an attack on Iraq in The Washington Post:
Meanwhile, American military leaders have been trying to bring a wider focus to the band of neoconservatives that began beating the war drums on Iraq before the dust had even settled on the World Trade Center. Despite the efforts of the neocons to shut them up or to dismiss them as unqualified to deal in policy issues, these leaders, both active-duty and retired, have been nearly unanimous in their concerns. Is there an absolutely vital national interest that should lead us from containment to unilateral war and a long-term occupation of Iraq? . . . .
With respect to the situation in Iraq, they are conscious of two realities that seem to have been lost in the narrow debate about Saddam Hussein himself. The first reality is that wars often have unintended consequences — ask the Germans, who in World War I were convinced that they would defeat the French in exactly 42 days. . . . .
The issue before us is not simply whether the United States should end the regime of Saddam Hussein, but whether we as a nation are prepared to physically occupy territory in the Middle East for the next 30 to 50 years. Those who are pushing for a unilateral war in Iraq know full well that there is no exit strategy if we invade and stay. . . . .
The Iraqis are a multiethnic people filled with competing factions who in many cases would view a U.S. occupation as infidels invading the cradle of Islam. Indeed, this very bitterness provided Osama bin Laden the grist for his recruitment efforts in Saudi Arabia when the United States kept bases on Saudi soil after the Gulf War.
In Japan, American occupation forces quickly became 50,000 friends. In Iraq, they would quickly become 50,000 terrorist targets. . . . It is true that Saddam Hussein might try to assist international terrorist organizations in their desire to attack America. It is also true that if we invade and occupy Iraq without broad-based international support, others in the Muslim world might be encouraged to intensify the same sort of efforts.
And here’s Howard Dean, in one of the more prescient political speeches of the last decade, speaking at Drake University, roughly one month before the war began:
We have been told over and over again what the risks will be if we do not go to war.
We have been told little about what the risks will be if we do go to war.
If we go to war, I certainly hope the Administration’s assumptions are realized, and the conflict is swift, successful and clean. . . .
It is possible, however, that events could go differently, and that the Iraqi Republican Guard will not sit out in the desert where they can be destroyed easily from the air.
It is possible that Iraq will try to force our troops to fight house to house in the middle of cities — on its turf, not ours — where precision-guided missiles are of little use.
It is possible that women and children will be used as shields and our efforts to minimize civilian casualties will be far less successful than we hope.
There are other risks.
Iraq is a divided country, with Sunni, Shia and Kurdish factions that share both bitter rivalries and access to large quantities of arms.
Iran and Turkey each have interests in Iraq they will be tempted to protect with or without our approval.
If the war lasts more than a few weeks, the danger of humanitarian disaster is high, because many Iraqis depend on their government for food, and during war it would be difficult for us to get all the necessary aid to the Iraqi people.
There is a risk of environmental disaster, caused by damage to Iraq’s oil fields.
And, perhaps most importantly, there is a very real danger that war in Iraq will fuel the fires of international terror.
Anti-American feelings will surely be inflamed among the misguided who choose to see an assault on Iraq as an attack on Islam, or as a means of controlling Iraqi oil.
And last week’s tape by Osama bin Laden tells us that our enemies will seek relentlessly to transform a war into a tool for inspiring and recruiting more terrorists.
We should remember how our military presence in Saudi Arabia has been exploited by radicals to stir resentment and hatred against the United States, leading to the murder of American citizens and soldiers.
We need to consider what the effect will be of a U.S. invasion and occupation of Baghdad, a city that served for centuries as a capital of the Islamic world.
I could literally spend the rest of the day quoting those who were issuing similar or even more strident warnings. Anyone who claims they didn’t realize that an attack on Iraq could spawn mammoth civilian casualties, pervasive displacement, endless occupation and intense anti-American hatred is indicting themselves more powerfully than it’s possible for anyone else to do. And anyone who claims, as Burns did, that they “could not know then” that these things might very well happen is simply not telling the truth. They could have known. And should have known. They chose not to.
UPDATE: Perhaps even worse than the strain of “nobody-could-have-known” excuse-making invoked by Burns is the claim that “nobody could have known” that Iraq did not really have WMDs. Contrary to the pervasive self-justifying myth that “everyone” believed that Saddam possessed these weapons — and thus nobody can be blamed for failing to realize the truth — the evidence to the contrary was both public and overwhelming. Consider the March 17, 2003, Der Spiegel Editorial warning that “for months now, Bush and Blair have been busy blowing up, exaggerating and deliberately over-interpreting intelligence information and rumours to justify war on Iraq,” or a September 30, 2002 McClatchy article — headlined: “War talk fogged by lingering questions; Threat Hussein poses is unclear to experts” — which detailed the reasons for serious skepticism about the pro-war case.
Or simply recall the various pre-war statements by the ex-Marine and U.N. weapons inspector for Iraq, Scott Ritter (“The truth of the matter is that Iraq has not been shown to possess weapons of mass destruction, either in terms of having retained prohibited capability from the past, or by seeking to re-acquire such capability today”), or Howard Dean in his Drake speech (“Secretary Powell’s recent presentation at the UN showed the extent to which we have Iraq under an audio and visual microscope. Given that, I was impressed not by the vastness of evidence presented by the Secretary, but rather by its sketchiness“). All of that, too, was brushed aside by government officials and suppressed and even mocked by most of the American media, all of whom were determined to allow nothing to impede the march to war. Rather than take responsibility for their failings, they instead insist — as Burns did today — that they could not have known.
UPDATE II: Every retrospective from supporters of the attack on Iraq, if they’re to be honest and worthwhile, should read more or less like John Cole’s, from 2008.
UPDATE III: After Obama’s Iraq speech last night, I was on CBC — Canada’s broadcasting network — discussing that speech. It can be seen here. As you can see, Skype video technology is improving rapidly and enabling acceptance of more TV offers.
UPDATE IV: For sheer factual inaccuracy in John Burns’ observations, see here.
UPDATE V: Speaking of accountability for those responsible for the Iraq War, Simon Owens has a very good article on the criticisms provoked by Jeffrey Goldberg’s Iran article in The Atlantic — featuring my criticisms of him — and what that dynamic reflects about the new media landscape.
The 180-Degree Reversal of Obama’s State Secrets Position February 10, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice.
Tags: aclu, arlen specter, bush administration, civil libertarians, civil liberties, Criminal Justice, democratic party, department of justice, doj, glen greenwald, joe biden, judicial review, justice, kevin drum, obama administration, roger hollander, rule of law, russ feingold, senate judiciary, senator kennedy, senator leahy, state secrets, state secrets privilege, state secrets protection act
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From the Obama/Biden campaign website, mybarackobama.com, here was what the Obama campaign was saying — back then — about the State Secrets privilege:
Apparently, the operative word in that highlighted paragraph — unbeknownst to most people at the time — was “the Bush administration,” since the Obama administration is now doing exactly that which, during the campaign, it defined as “The Problem,” the only difference being that it is now Obama, and not Bush, doing it. For journalists who haven’t bothered to learn the first thing about this issue even as they hold themselves out as experts on it, and for Obama followers eager to find an excuse to justify what was done, a brief review of the State Secrets privilege controversy is in order.
Nobody — not the ACLU or anyone else — argues that the State Secrets privilege is inherently invalid. Nobody contests that there is such a thing as a legitimate state secret. Nobody believes that Obama should declassify every last secret and never classify anything else ever again. Nor does anyone even assert that this particular lawsuit clearly involves no specific documents or portions of documents that might be legitimately subject to the privilege. Those are all transparent, moronic strawmen advanced by people who have no idea what they’re talking about.
What was abusive and dangerous about the Bush administration’s version of the States Secret privilege — just as the Obama/Biden campaign pointed out — was that it was used not (as originally intended) to argue that specific pieces of evidence or documents were secret and therefore shouldn’t be allowed in a court case, but instead, to compel dismissal of entire lawsuits in advance based on the claim that any judicial adjudication of even the most illegal secret government programs would harm national security. That is the theory that caused the bulk of the controversy when used by the Bush DOJ — because it shields entire government programs from any judicial scrutiny — and it is that exact version of the privilege that the Obama DOJ yesterday expressly advocated (and, by implication, sought to preserve for all Presidents, including Obama).
By itself, this [the quantitative increase in the post-9/11 use of the privilege] is bad enough. But it’s not the worst part of the Bush administration’s use of the privilege.
Before 2001, the state secrets privilege was mostly used to object to specific pieces of evidence being introduced in court, something that nearly everyone agrees is at least occasionally necessary. But the Bush administration changed all that. In their typical expansive way, they decided to apply the privilege not just to individual pieces of evidence, but to get entire cases thrown out of court. What’s more, they did this not merely when a state secret was incidental to some unrelated complaint, but when the government itself was the target of the suit.
Now Barack Obama is president, and unfortunately he’s decided to continue the Bush administration’s expansive reading of the privilege.
To underscore just what a complete reversal the Obama DOJ’s conduct is, consider what Seante Democrats were saying for the last several years. In early 2008, Sens. Kennedy and Leahy, along with Sen. Arlen Specter, sponsored the State Secrets Protection Act. It had numerous co-sponsors, including Joe Biden. In April, 2008, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill, with all Committee Democrats voting for it, along with Specter. The scheme restrictions imposed on the privilege by that bill was the consensus view of the pre-2009 Democratic Party.
The primary purpose of that bill is to bar the precise use of the State Secrets privilege which the Obama DOJ yesterday defended: namely, as a tool to force courts to dismiss entire lawsuits from the start without any proceedings being held, rather than as a focused instrument for protecting specific pieces of classified information from disclosure.
That bill explicitly provides that “the state secrets privilege shall not constitute grounds for dismissal of a case or claim” (Sec. 4053(b)). Instead, the President could only “invoke the state secrets privilege as a ground for withholding information or evidence in discovery or for preventing the introduction of evidence at trial” (Sec. 4054(a)), and must submit each allegedly privileged piece of evidence to the court for the court to determine whether each item is legitimately subject to the privilege (Sec. 4054(d-e). Where the court rules that a specific piece of evidence is privileged, it must attempt to find an evidentiary substitute (e.g., a summary of the evidence, a partially redacted copy, compelled admissions by the Government of certain allegations), and then — only after all the evidence is gathered in discovery — can the court dismiss the lawsuit only if it finds, in essence, that the plaintiffs cannot prove their case without reliance on the specific privileged information (Sec. 4055).
That has been the argument of Democrats for quite some time — as well as civil libertarians such as Russ Feingold and the ACLU, both of whom endorsed that bill: that what was abusive and dangerous about Bush’s use of the State Secrets privilege was the preemptive, generalized use of this privilege to force dismissal of entire lawsuits in advance, even where the supposed secret to be concealed was the allegedly criminal activity itself. And that is exactly the usage that the Obama administration is now defending.
It doesn’t take much time or energy to understand why that instrument is so pernicious. It enables a Government to break the law — repeatedly and deliberately — and then block courts from subjecting its behavior to any judicial accountability, and prevent the public from learning about the lawbreaking, by claiming that its conduct generally is too secret to allow any judicial review. Put another way, it places Presidents and their aides beyond and above the rule of law, since it empowers them to break the law and then prevent their victims — or anyone else — from holding them accountable in a court of law. As Russ Feingold put it:
When the executive branch invokes the state secrets privilege to shut down lawsuits, hides its programs behind secret OLC opinions, over-classifies information to avoid public disclosure, and interprets the Freedom of Information Act as an information withholding statute, it shuts down all of the means to detect and respond to its abuses of the rule of law – whether those abuses involve torture, domestic spying, or the firing of U.S. Attorneys for partisan gain.
In defending the Obama administration’s position (without beginning to understand it), The Atlantic‘s Marc Ambinder revealingly wrote — on behalf of civil libertarians who he fantasizes have anointed him their spokesman:
It wouldn’t be wise for a new administration to come in, take over a case from a prosecutor, and completely change a legal strategy in mid-course without a more thorough review of the national security implications. And, of course, the invocation itself isn’t necessarily an issue; civil libertarians and others who voted for Obama did so with the belief that his judgment and his attorney general would be better stewards of that privilege than President Bush and his attorney generals (and vice president.)
We don’t actually have a system of government (or at least we’re not supposed to) where we rely on the magnanimity and inherent Goodness of specific leaders to exercise secret powers wisely. That, by definition, is how grateful subjects of benevolent tyrants think (“this power was bad in Bush’s hands because he’s bad, but it’s OK in Obama’s hands because he is good and kind”). Countries that are nations of laws rather than of men don’t rely on blind faith in the good character of leaders to prevent abuse. They rely on what we call “law” and “accountability” and “checks and balances” to provide those safeguards — exactly the type that Democrats, when it came to the States Secret privilege, long insisted upon before January 20, 2009.
Democrats have large majorities in both houses of Congress; they ought to use it to legislatively bar the power that the Obama DOJ is now attempting to vest in the new President by enacting the legislation they spent all of last year insisting they favored. Now that the Obama DOJ is seeking to acquire that power for its new President, the need for that law is more acute than ever.