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Tell Majority Leader Harry Reid – Respect Venezuela’s Sovereignty, Reject Sanctions Bill September 17, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Latin America, Venezuela.
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Roger’s note: please sign the petition.

 

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As an SOA Watch supporter who has previously taken online action defending Venezuela’s sovereignty, it should be no surprise to you that Venezuela is once again under attack by the powerful far-right Cuban-American lobby and its allies. Senators Marco Rubio, Robert Menendez, John McCain, and Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen are desperately attempting to ram through a bill that would impose sanctions on Venezuelan officials based on exaggerated claims of human rights abuses that do not match up with the facts on the ground.

Please click here to urge Sen. Reid to respect Venezuela’s sovereignty, and oppose the right-wing’s factually-challenged and destructive sanctions bill

The sanctions bill is seen by the rest of Latin America as politically-motivated and a continuation of the typical intervention by the U.S. in the internal affairs of a democratic Latin American country. Earlier this month, Sen. Rubio sent Majority Leader Senator Harry Reid a letter calling on him to bypass Sen. Mary Landrieu’s committee and bring the sanctions bill to a vote. This after hypocritically attacking Sen. Landrieu in a Louisiana newspaper for holding up the vote due to concerns about the sanctions bill. Please take a moment to urge Senator Reid to continue supporting diplomacy, resist the far-right fear-mongering, and not bring up the Cold War era sanctions bill for a vote.

We should also take this opportunity to push him to deepen his opposition to the bill, which is currently based on protecting Senator Landrieu’s reelection bid and the Democratic Senate majority in November, to include support for U.S.-Venezuela dialogue, diplomacy, and respect for Latin American sovereignty.

Sen. Reid’s actions as Majority Leader are vital to ensuring respect for democracy in Venezuela and throughout Latin America. Your voice and the voice of your community are essential and can make the difference for setting the tone for U.S.-Latin American relations for decades to come. Urge Sen. Harry Reid (through his Foreign Policy Aide, Jessica Lewis) to do the right thing. It only takes 1 minute, please take action today and share this link widely!

In Solidarity,

Owen, Arturo, and the SOA Watch Legislative Working Group

P.S. In addition to taking online action, a follow-up call to Sen. Reid’s DC office will drive our message home. Call (202) 224-3542 and ask to speak with Jessica Lewis, his Foreign Policy Aide. Tell Ms. Lewis you oppose the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014 because you support diplomacy with Venezuela’s democratically elected government, and want to see the U.S. respect the sovereignty of Latin American nations.

 

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So This Is Despair July 26, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Economic Crisis, Right Wing.
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Roger’s note: it feels both surrealistic and nightmarish to think that in what is not much more than a single political moment, the Congress and the President are about to destroy Social Security and Medicare, two of the most fundamental parts of what is left of the social safety net.  Is this really happening?  Has the neo-fascist Christian Fundamentalist right wing lunacy taken full charge?
Tuesday 26 July 2011
by: William Rivers Pitt, Truthout         | Op-Ed

At its best our age is an age of searchers and discoverers, and at its worst, an age that has domesticated despair and learned to live with it happily.

– Flannery O’Connor

It is difficult to describe this emotion. I’m used to disappointment, fairly comfortable with heartbreak, and am well acquainted with rage. Over the course of my lifetime, my presidents have been Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, and now Obama…and each, in his own way, has been worse than the last.

How can I say that? Easy. The problems of Nixon are still with us, and have grown worse by orders of magnitude through each successive administration. Certain presidents have exacerbated the situation beyond their expected purview, but generally speaking, each one has adopted the worst ideas of his predecessor, and in nearly every instance, has made those problems worse.

But this…this is too much.

The timeline as I understand it: the far-right GOP caucus in the House decided to use the debt limit as a hostage to fortune in their decades-long quest to eliminate Social Security and Medicare. The current Democratic president saw this, and in a pure anti-Lakoffian flail that explains everything you need to know about the man, accepted the deranged premise put before him and went to work on the annihilation of the social safety net…but with the proviso that we find some new tax revenues by closing some loopholes…maybe…please?

Not good enough. House Speaker Boehner walked away from the debt-limit talks, not once but twice, because he can’t control his caucus and because he had this Democratic president right where he wanted him. The president blew up – in as much as “No Drama” Obama ever blows up – and wondered what is needed for the GOP to say “Yes” to anything. Read between the lines of that presser, and you get this: “I tried to give them Social Security. I tried to give them Medicare and Medicaid. I gave those things willingly, despite cries of outrage from my ungrateful, foolish, obnoxious left flank, and asked only for a pittance in tax revenues in exchange. Shame on the GOP for not rampaging these social programs when I offered them the chance to do so.”

Web forums all across the Democratic Party spectrum celebrated the president’s resolve. He showed them, didn’t he?

Well…wait. I saw a president in a state of high piss-off because he tried to give away Social Security and Medicare, but couldn’t convince the far right to take the proffered opportunity. They’ve been trying to do this very thing for three generations, and here is Obama practically sweating bullets in his desire to give them the victory they have pined for since Goldwater was in short pants. Sure, it’s proof that Boehner is at the mercy of the Tea Party freshmen in his caucus, but in which universe is this called victory? This Democratic president was angry because he was being denied the opportunity to preside over an historic roll-back of the New Deal?

Poor baby.

Oh, but we weren’t done yet. The “Grand Bargain” was still in the offing, now splintered into two or three or twelve different iterations, but all ultimately coming down to the same thing: trillions in cuts for the most vulnerable Americans, no new tax revenues from the rich or anyone else, and the bonus prize sought most passionately by the Democrats was the chance to kick this whole fight down the road to 2013, so none of these failures would be forced to address the question before their next all-important election cycle.

Sell out Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid for a chance at an easier ride at the ballot? Where do I sign?

The Bush-era tax cuts for rich people appear nowhere in the discussion, despite the fact that eliminating them would go most of the way towards resolving this “crisis.” We are still fighting three wars, and the “defense” budget remains largely untouchable. I have not heard an American politician talk about jobs in over a year, even though a robust jobs program would add revenue to the budget hand over fist.

At the time of this writing, matters stand thusly:

We don’t yet know what the final deal to raise the debt ceiling will be. But now that Harry Reid is developing a proposal with $2.7 trillion in cuts and nothing in revenues, it’s a safe bet that it won’t include any tax increases. Which means that whether Republicans realize it or not, they’ve won. The question now is whether they can stop.

John Boehner is proposing a deal with about $1 trillion in spending cuts and a short-term increase in the debt ceiling and a bipartisan congressional committee charged with developing a large deficit reduction package that would be immune to amendments and filibusters and would be the price of the next increase in the debt ceiling. Harry Reid is developing a package of spending cuts that Democrats could accept and would reach Boehner’s $2.4 trillion mark.

If you take the Republicans’ goals as avoiding a deal in which they have to vote for tax increases and denying Obama a political victory, it looks like they have succeeded. That success has come with costs – they’ve done themselves political damage, are risking a crisis that could do the economy tremendous harm, and have left the Bush tax cuts unresolved, which means they might end up watching taxes rise much higher than if they’d taken Obama’s offer – but it’s still been a success.

A great many people who should know better continue to look at this situation as if Mr. Obama has some fantastic rabbit he…is…just…waiting to pull out of a hat, thus foiling the GOP and securing our future forever. For a brief moment a couple of weeks ago, I shared that optimism, but the last several days have slapped me soundly out of that fugue state.

I see a president on his knees, hands outstretched, offering the best ideas and policies liberal governance has ever devised up to the voracious carnivore of GOP opportunism. I see the end of the New Deal, and a far crueler America emerging from the aftermath. I see a Democratic president voiding his bladder on all that he is supposed to uphold.

Mr. Obama got on those knees again Monday night, on national television no less, and once again begged the GOP to devour Social Security and Medicare. He gobbled up the flawed, flayed premise of the far-right’s deranged argument, again, and pleaded for the chance to give away the core of what he was elected to defend.

I thought I was done being ashamed of my president.

I was wrong.

William Rivers Pitt is a Truthout editor and columnist.  He is also a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: “War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn’t Want You to Know” and “The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.” His newest book, “House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America’s Ravaged Reputation,” is now available from PoliPointPress.

 TEA PARTY AND THE RIGHT  

Obama Is No Victim of the Right Wing — He’s Pandered to Corporate Interests
for Years

The evidence is clear that Obama is an often-willing servant
of corporate interests — not serving their interests only because the GOP
forced him to.

July 25, 2011  |

//
In a campaign almost as frenzied as the effort to get Barack Obama into the
White House, liberal groups are now mobilizing against the White House and
reported deals that would cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits.
They accuse President Obama of being weak and willing to “cave” to corporate and
conservative forces bent on cutting the social safety net while protecting the
wealthy. Those accusations are wrong.

The accusations imply that Obama is on our side. Or was on our side. And that
the right wing is pushing him around.

But the evidence is clear that Obama is an often-willing servant of corporate
interests — not someone reluctantly doing their bidding, or serving their
interests only because Republicans forced him to.

Since coming to Washington, Obama has allied himself with Wall Street
Democrats who put corporate deregulation and greed ahead of the needs of most
Americans.
In 2006, a relatively new Senator Obama was the only senator to
speak at the inaugural gathering of the Alexander Hamilton
Project
launched by Wall Street Democrats like Robert Rubin and Roger
Altman, Bill Clinton’s treasury secretary and deputy secretary. Obama praised
them as “innovative, thoughtful policymakers.” (It was Rubin’s crusade to
deregulate Wall Street in the late ‘90s that led
directly
to the economic meltdown of 2008 and our current crisis.)

In early 2007, way before he was a presidential frontrunner, candidate Obama
was raising more money from Wall
Street interests
than all other candidates, including New York presidential
candidates Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani.

In June 2008, as soon as Hillary ended her campaign, Obama went on CNBC,
shunned the “populist” label and announced: “Look: I am a pro-growth,
free-market guy. I love the market.” He packed his economic team with Wall
Street friends
— choosing one of Bill Clinton’s Wall Street deregulators,
Larry Summers, as his top economic advisor.

A year into his presidency, in a bizarre but revealing
interview
with Business Week, Obama was asked about huge bonuses just
received by two CEOs of Wall Street firms bailed out by taxpayers. He responded
that he didn’t “begrudge” the $17 million bonus to J.P. Mogan’s CEO or the $9
million to Goldman Sachs’ CEO: “I know both those guys, they are very savvy
businessmen,” said Obama. “I, like most of the American people, don’t begrudge
people success or wealth. That is part of the free-market system.”

After any review of Obama’s corporatist ties and positions, the kneejerk
response is: “Yes, but Obama was a community organizer!”

He WAS a community organizer. . .decades before he became president. Back
when Nelson Mandela was in prison and the U.S. government declared him the
leader of a “terrorist organization” while our government funded and armed Bin
Laden and his allies to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. That’s a long time
ago.

It’s worth remembering that decades before Reagan became president, the great
communicator was a leftwing Democrat and advocate for the working class and big
federal social programs.

The sad truth, as shown by
Glenn Greenwald
,  is that Obama had arrived at the White House looking to
make cuts in benefits to the elderly. Two weeks before his inauguration, Obama
echoed conservative scares about Social Security and Medicare by talking of “red
ink as far as the eye can see.” He opened his doors to Social Security/Medicare
cutters — first trying to get Republican Senator Judd Gregg (“a leading voice
for reining in entitlement spending,” wrote Politico) into his cabinet, and
later appointing entitlement-foe Alan Simpson to co-chair his “Deficit
Commission.” Obama’s top economic advisor, Larry Summers, came to the White
House publicly telling Time magazine of needed Social Security cuts.

At this late date, informed activists and voters who care about economic
justice realize that President Obama is NOT “on our side.”

Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont — widely seen as “America’s
Senator” — is so disgusted by recent White House actions that he called Friday
for a challenge to Obama in Democratic primaries: “I think it would be a good
idea if President Obama faced some primary opposition.”
Although Sanders has
said clearly that he’s running for reelection to the senate in 2012 — not for
president — his comment led instantly to a Draft Sanders for President
website.

Imagine if a credible candidate immediately threatened a primary challenge
unless Obama rejects any deal cutting the safety net while maintaining tax
breaks for the rich. Team Obama knows that a serious primary challenger would
cost the Obama campaign millions of dollars. And it may well be a powerful
movement-building opportunity for activists tired of feeling hopeless with
Obama.

It’s time for progressives to talk seriously about a challenge
to Obama’s corporatism. Polls show most Americans support economic justice
issues, and that goes double for Democratic primary voters.

If not Bernie, who? If not now, when?

 

Will 39 Democrats Stand Up to Stop the War Funding? June 15, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, Torture, War.
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Published on Monday, June 15, 2009 by RebelReports by Jeremy Scahill

The White House and the Democratic Congressional Leadership are playing a very dirty game in their effort to ram through supplemental funding for the escalating US war in Afghanistan and continued occupation of Iraq. In the crosshairs of the big guns at the White House and on Capitol Hill are anti-war freshmen legislators and the movement to hold those responsible for torture accountable.

In funding the wars, the White House has been able to rely on strong GOP support to marginalize the anti-war Democrats who have pledged to vote against continued funding (as 51 Democrats did in May when the supplemental was first voted on). But the White House is running into trouble now because of Republican opposition to some of the provisions added to the bill (and one removed), meaning the pro-war Democrats actually need a fair number of anti-war Democrats to switch sides. In short, the current battle will clearly reveal exactly how many Democrats actually oppose these wars. And, according to reports, the White House and Democratic Leadership have the gloves off in the fight:

Rep. Lynn Woolsey of California, a leader of the antiwar Democrats, said the White House is threatening to withdraw support from freshmen who oppose the bill, saying “you’ll never hear from us again.”She said the House leadership also is targeting the freshmen.

“It’s really hard for the freshmen,” she said. “Nancy’s pretty powerful.”

On June 11, the relevant committees in the House and Senate approved the $105.9 billion spending package. According to an analysis by the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation:

The bill includes $79.9 billion for the Department of Defense, primarily to fund military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, roughly $4.4 billion more than the amount sought by the Administration. This funding is in addition to the $65.9 billion “bridge fund” in war funding for FY’09 that Congress approved last June. To date Congress has approved over $814 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, not including the $80 billion recommended by the Conference Committee, In addition, the Obama Administration is seeking $130 billion in for fiscal year 2010. Both the House and Senate could take up the conference agreement as early as this week.In addition to funding combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the bill provides $10.4 billion for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and $7.7 billion for Pandemic Flu Response.

The current battle over war funding has brought with it a couple of high-stakes actions, which have threatened passage of the bill. Many Democrats were up in arms about an amendment sponsored by Senators Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham that would have blocked the release of photos depicting US abuse of prisoners (which the White House “actively” supported. Facing warnings that the provision could derail the funding package, the White House stepped in, deploying Rahm Emanuel to the Hill to convince legislators to drop the amendment, while at the same time pledging that Obama would use his authority to continue to fight the release of more photos:

White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel ‘rushed’ to Capitol Hill and prevailed upon Senate Democrats to remove the torture photo measure in exchange for an explicit White House promise that it would use all means at its disposal to block the photos’ release. Obama also issued a letter to Congress assuring it he would support separate legislation to suppress the photos, if necessary, and imploring it to speed passage of the war-spending bill. The rider would “unnecessarily complicate the essential objective of supporting the troops,” Obama wrote.

In other words, Obama took a position that amounted to providing political cover to Democrats to support the war funding, while pledging to implement, through other means, the very policy they supposedly found objectionable.

Secondly, the White House and Congressional leadership added a provision to the bill that extends up to $100 billion in credits to the International Monetary Fund. While this sent many Republicans to the microphones to denounce the funding, the Democratic leadership portrayed the IMF funding as a progressive policy:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is trying to paint the IMF provision as a “very important national security initiative.” The IMF, she said, “can be a force for alleviating the fury of despair among people, poor people throughout the world.”

It is a pathetic symbol of just how bankrupt the Congressional Democratic leadership is when it comes to US foreign policy that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are trying to use funding for the IMF to convince other Democrats to support war funding. The IMF has been a destabilizing force in many countries across the globe through its austerity measures and structural adjustment schemes. Remember, it was the policies of the IMF and its cohorts at the World Bank and World Trade Organizations that sparked global uprisings in the 1990s.

To support the IMF funding scam, the Center for American Progress, which has passionately supported Obama’s escalation of the war in Afghanistan, released a position paper today called, “Bailing Out the Bailer-Outer: Five Reasons Congress Should Agree to Fund the IMF.”

Thankfully, some anti-war Democrats seem to understand the atrocious role the IMF has played and have tried to impose rules on the funding that would attempt to confront the IMF’s austerity measures by requiring that “the funds allocated by Congress for global stimulus are used for stimulatory, and not contractionary, purposes.”

By adding the IMF provision to this bill, the White House is making a bold statement about the intimate relationship of the hidden hand of US neoliberal economic policy to the iron fist of US militarism.

At the end of the day, the real issue here is: How many Democrats will actually stand up on principle to the funding of the wars, regardless of the bells and whistles the White House and Democratic Leadership attach or the threats they need to endure from their own party?

In order to block passage, 39 Democrats need to vote against it in the House. As of this writing, 34 reportedly are committed to voting against it. Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake has been doing great coverage of this issue, much of which can be found here. So too has David Swanson at AfterDowningStreet. This does seem to be one issue where phone calls and letters matter-tremendously. See where your representative stands here. As of this writing, these are the legislators who are reportedly leaning toward a “No” vote, but have not yet committed. They are the people most likely to be convinced by hearing from constituents:

  1. Steve Cohen
  2. Keith Ellison
  3. Chakah Fattah
  4. Mike Honda
  5. Doris Matsui
  6. Ed Markey
  7. Jim McDermott
  8. Gwen Moore
  9. Jared Polis
  10. Jan Schakowsky
  11. Jackie Speier
  12. Mike Thompson
  13. John Tierney
  14. Mel Watt
  15. Anthony Weiner

UPDATE: I just spoke to Trevor Kincaid, Jan Schakowsky’s communications director and he told me that Schakowsky will not release a statement on her position on the supplemental “until after the vote.” I asked him if she was concerned about going back on her 2007 pledge never to vote for war funding that did not call for troop withdrawal. He said, “She is currently reviewing the pros and cons of the bill.” He would provide no further comment.

Also, Jane Hamsher reports that it now appears Keith Ellison is voting no.

© 2009 Jeremy Scahill

Jeremy Scahill is the author of the New York Times bestseller Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. He is currently a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at the Nation Institute.

Max Baucus Should Not Be Deciding Health Care for America May 31, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Health.
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Published on Sunday, May 31, 2009 by the Baltimore Chronicle (Maryland)

The “Senator for K Street” is Putting Campaign Donor Profits Ahead of the Basic Needs of the People

by Kevin Zeese

Senator Max Baucus and the Senate Finance Committee are too corrupted by corporate health industry profiteers donations to give America the health care policy it needs.

Health care is 15% of the U.S. gross domestic product. U.S. health care expenditures, which have been rising rapidly for several years, surpassed $2.4 trillion in 2007, more than three times the $714 billion spent in 1990. The cost of health care is projected to reach $4.4 trillion by 2018. There is a lot of room for corporate profiteering in the increasing cost of health care. The millions the health care industry has invested in Baucus and the Senate Finance Committee could therefore turn out to be very profitable.

It is evident that any bill that comes out of the Senate Finance Committee will be a pro-industry bill that will ensure trillions in profits for the health insurance industry, HMOs and the pharmaceutical industry.

Baucus has held two hearings so far and has refused to allow advocates for the most popular reform-a single payer national health policy-to even testify. Single payer “improved Medicare for all” is favored by more than 60% of Americans as well as majorities of doctors, nurses and economists. It is the most cost-effective and efficient way to provide health care to all Americans from cradle to grave.

Why aren’t single payer advocates allowed to testify before Baucus’ committee? Follow the money. Campaign donations explain why, and demonstrate that the Senate Finance Committee should not be in charge of health care. Senator Reid should remove the health care reform bill from Baucus and start all over before the Health Committee in the Senate.

Here’s why Baucus is not doing the people’s business:

According to OpenSecrets.org, over his career he has taken donations from:

* The Insurance Industry: $1,170,313
* Health Professionals: $1,016,276
* Pharmaceuticals/Health Products Industry: $734,605
* Hospitals/Nursing Homes: $541,891
* Health Services/HMOs: $439,700

Baucus has shown his bias and should be removed from leading the health care reform effort by the Democratic Party leadership.

That is a grand total of $3,902,785. Can we trust Baucus to put aside the profits of the industries that have kept him in the Senate? Will he put the people’s necessities ahead of the profits of his contributors?

In 2008 Baucus had virtually no challenger in Montana. A little-known Republican was on the ballot, and Baucus won with 73% of the vote. But, Baucus sought big donations from big business anyway. He used his connections to corporations with business before his committee to raise an immense campaign fund of more than $11 million. In 2008, 91% of his donations come from individuals living outside of Montana, which is why he is more the “Senator for K Street” then the Senator for Montana. Corporate health profiteers who invested in Baucus will now benefit from his stewardship over health care reform. His 2008 donations from health care profiteers included:

* Insurance: $592,185
* Health Professionals: $537,141
* Pharmaceuticals/Health Products: $524,813
* Health Services/HMOs: $364,500
* Hospitals/Nursing Homes: $332,826

That is $1,826,652 Baucus took from these industries, and now he can reward them by deforming health care reform.

The health care profiteers knew that Baucus would determine their fate and ponied up. Now the only thing standing between them and their payback is a single payer national health care plan. Yet single payer, which would end private insurance and control the cost of pharmaceutical drugs, is not being considered-not even allowed to participate in the conversation before Baucus.

It is not just the chairman of the committee who has received massive donations. The full Finance Committee is a gluttonous embarrassment of campaign pay-offs. In 2008 the committee members received a total of $13,263,986 from industries affected by health care reform. Can we trust this committee to put the interests of the people before their donors?

The donations to the Finance Committee in 2008 included:

* Insurance: $5,103,900
* Pharmaceuticals/Health Products: $3,308,831
* Hospitals/Nursing Homes: $2,809,353
* Health Services/HMOs: $2,041,902

These industries expect to be rewarded with billions, even trillions, in profits and hundreds of millions in corporate welfare. Senator Baucus’s behavior shows they have made a good investment-they’ve bought themselves a senator who should be called Chairman Blagojevich. He is doing his best to make sure the single payer message is not heard because he knows it is the fairest, most efficient and cost-effective way to ensure health care access for all Americans-but he can’t let that be implemented because it would put some of his donors out of business and control the profits of others.

It is time to remove Baucus from the leadership of health care reform. It is time to move the critically important priority of reforming America’s health care system from the Finance Committee and put it before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. At least their mission is health care, not money.

Copyright © 2009 The Baltimore News Network.

Kevin Zeese is the executive director of the FreshAirCleanPolitics.net, which is urging a single payer national health care system as part of its ProsperityAgenda.US project. Along with seven others, Zeese was arrested when he testified from the audience of a recent Senate Finance Committee meeting on health care. See the video on YouTube.

What if Instead of the Nuremberg Trials There Was Only a Truth Commission? April 29, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Torture.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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by Jeremy Scahill

Representatives John Conyers and Jerrold Nadler are officially asking Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint an independent Special Prosecutor “to investigate and, where appropriate, prosecute” participants in the Bush-era US torture system. “A Special Counsel is the most appropriate way to handle this matter,” Nadler said. “It would remove from the process any question that the investigation was subject to political pressure, and it would preempt any perceptions of conflict of interest within the Justice Department, which produced the torture memos.” But, as Politico reports, “Holder is likely to reject that request – his boss, the president, has indicated he doesn’t see the need for such a prosecutor.” The Democratic Leadership, particularly Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Diane Feinstein have pushed for secret, closed-door hearings in the Senate Intelligence Committee. Other Democrats, like Patrick Leahy, advocate establishing a Truth Commission, though that is not gaining any momentum. The fact remains that some powerful Democrats knew that the torture was happening and didn’t make a public peep in opposition.

This week, Lawrence Wilkerson, the former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell came out in favor of prosecutions of “the decision-makers and their closest advisors (particularly the ones among the latter who may, on their own, have twisted the dagger a little deeper in Caesar’s prostrate body – Rumsfeld and Feith for instance). Appoint a special prosecutor such as Fitzgerald, armed to the teeth, and give him or her carte blanche. Play the treatment of any intermediaries – that is, between the grunts on the ground and the Oval – as the law allows and the results demand.”

Wilkerson, though, understands Washington. “Is there the political will to carry either of these recommendations to meaningful consequences?” he wrote to the Huffington Post. “No, and there won’t be.”

As of now, Conyers and Nadler aren’t exactly looking for over-flow space for their meetings on how to get criminal prosecutions going.

Officially joining the anti-accountability camp this week was The Washington Post‘s David Broder who wrote this gem in defense of the Bush administration: “The memos on torture represented a deliberate, and internally well-debated, policy decision, made in the proper places – the White House, the intelligence agencies and the Justice Department – by the proper officials.” (For a great response to this, check out Scott Horton). Broder is urging Obama to “stick to his guns” in standing up to pressure “to change his mind about closing the books on the ‘torture’ policies of the past.” Don’t you love how Broder puts torture in quotes? I really wonder how Broder would describe it if he was waterboarded (and survived). Can’t you just imagine him making the little quote motion with his hands? Broder’s Washington Post column was titled “Stop Scapegoating: Obama Should Stand Against Prosecutions:”

[Obama was] right to declare that there should be no prosecution of those who carried out what had been the policy of the United States government. And he was right when he sent out his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, to declare that the same amnesty should apply to the lawyers and bureaucrats who devised and justified the Bush administration practices.But now Obama is being lobbied by politicians and voters who want something more – the humiliation and/or punishment of those responsible for the policies of the past. They are looking for individual scalps – or, at least, careers and reputations.

Their argument is that without identifying and punishing the perpetrators, there can be no accountability – and therefore no deterrent lesson for future administrations. It is a plausible-sounding rationale, but it cloaks an unworthy desire for vengeance.

Obama has opposed even the blandest form of investigation, a so-called truth commission, and has shown himself willing to confront this kind of populist anger.

Thank goodness we have a president who opposes “even the blandest form of investigation”-how uncouth such savagery would prove to be. While the elite Washington press corp works hard to make sure things don’t get too uncomfortable at the wine and cheese cocktail parties, some liberal journalists are also making the case against a special prosecutor (or at least the immediate appointment of one). Last week it was Elizabeth de la Vega, who made an interesting case for waiting to prosecute while evidence is gathered:

We must have a prosecution eventually, but we are not legally required to publicly initiate it now and we should not, as justifiable as it is. I’m not concerned about political fallout. What’s good or bad for either party has no legitimate place in this calculus. My sole consideration is litigation strategy: I want us to succeed.

This week it is Mother Jones Washington editor David Corn, who comes out in favor of a congressional investigation “that placed a premium on public disclosure” or “an independent commission.” Corn describes how he recently warned a Congressmember who supports the appointment of a Special Prosecutor, “That’s not necessarily a good idea.” Corn talks about how a coalition of groups from the Center for Constitutional Rights and the ACLU to Democrats.com and MoveOn.org have all petitioned for a prosecutor:

These liberals all want to see alleged Bush administration wrongdoing exposed. But there’s one problem with a special prosecutor: it’s not his job to expose wrongdoing. A special prosecutor does dig up facts-but only in order to prosecute a possible crime. His mission is not to shine light on misdeeds, unless it is part of a prosecution. In many cases, a prosecutor’s investigation does not produce any prosecutions. Sometimes, it leads only to a limited prosecution.That’s what happened with Patrick Fitzgerald. He could not share with the public all that he had discovered about the involvement of Bush, Cheney, Karl Rove, and other officials in the CIA leak case… A special prosecutor, it turns out, is a rather imperfect vehicle for revealing the full truth.

[…]

Prosecuting government officials for providing legal opinions that greenlighted waterboarding and the like would pose its own legal challenges. Could a government prosecutor indict the government lawyers who composed and signed the torture memos for aiding and abetting torture without indicting the government employees who actually committed the torture? (President Barack Obama has pledged that the interrogators will not be pursued.) And could a prosecutor win cases in which his targets would obviously argue that they were providing what they believed was good-faith legal advice, even if it turned out that their advice was wrong?… Several lawyers I’ve consulted have said that a criminal case against the authors of these memos would be no slam dunk. One possible scenario is that a special prosecutor would investigate, find out that sordid maneuvering occurred at the highest levels of the Bush-Cheney administration, and then conclude that he or she did not have a strong enough legal case to warrant criminal indictments and trials.

The bottom line: Anyone who wants the full truth to come out about the Bush-Cheney administration’s use of these interrogation practices cannot count on a special prosecutor.

Corn’s advice to that unnamed Democratic Congressmember wasn’t exactly well received by lawyers who have been pushing for prosecutions. Perhaps the most passionate advocate for the appointment of an independent Special Prosecutor right now is Michael Ratner, the president of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

“To argue that we should not have prosecutions because it won’t bring out all the facts when taken to its logical conclusion would mean never prosecuting any official no matter the seriousness of the crimes,” Ratner told me. “Right now is not the time to be backing off on prosecutions. Why are prosecutions of torturers ok for other non-western countries but not for the US?  Prosecution is necessary to deter torture in the future and send a message to ourselves and the rest of the world that the  seven or eight year torture program was unlawful and must not happen again. The purpose of prosecutions is to investigate and get convictions so that officials in the future will not again dispense with the prohibition on torture.”

Constitutional Law expert Scott Horton says that the problems with a Special Prosecutor Corn lays out are “correct, but he makes the latent assumption that it’s either/or.  That’s absurd.  Obviously it should be both a commission and one or more prosecutors as crimes are identified.”

Jameel Jaffer, one of the leading ACLU attorneys responsible for getting the torture memos released by the Obama administration, agrees with Horton. “I don’t think we should have to choose between a criminal investigation and a congressional inquiry,” Jaffer told me. “A congressional committee could examine the roots of the torture program and recommend legislative reform to prevent gross human rights abuses by future administrations. At the same time, a Justice Department investigation could investigate issues of criminal responsibility. One shouldn’t foreclose the other.”

Jaffer adds, “It might be a different story if we thought that Congress would need to offer immunity in exchange for testimony.  But many of the key players – including John Yoo, George Tenet, and Dick Cheney – have made clear that they have no qualms about talking publicly about their actions (Yoo and Tenet have both written books, and Cheney is writing one now).”

The bottom line, Ratner argues, is that “prosecutions will bring out facts.” He cites the example of the Nuremberg Tribunals:

What if we had had a truth commission and no prosecutions?  Right now we have many means of getting the facts: FOIA, congressional investigations such as the Senate Armed Services Report, former interrogators, document releases by the Executive. There are plenty of ways to get information even if it does not all come out in prosecutions. Many of the calls to not prosecute are by those, particularly inside the beltway, who cannot imagine Bush, Cheney et al. in the dock or by those who accept the argument that the torture conspirators were trying their best. This is not a time to hold back on the demand that is required by law and fact: appoint a special prosecutor.

David Swanson, who for years has pushed for prosecutions of Bush administration officials, was one of the organizers of the petitions calling for the appointment of a Special Prosecutor. “My top priority is not ‘truth,'” he said. “My top priority is changing the current truth, which is that we don’t have the nerve and decency to enforce our laws against powerful people.”

Jeremy Scahill is the author of the New York Times bestseller Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. He is currently a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at the Nation Institute.

Are leading Democrats Afraid of a Special Prosecutor to Investigate Torture? April 24, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Torture.
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by Jeremy Scahill

There are not exactly throngs of Democratic Congressmembers beating down the doors of the Justice Department demanding that Attorney General Eric Holder appoint a special Independent Prosecutor to investigate torture and other crimes. And now it seems that whatever Congress does in the near term won’t even be open to the public. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said this week that he prefers that the Senate Intelligence Committee hold private hearings. The chair of the committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, has asked the White House not to take any action until this private affair is concluded. She estimates that will take 6-8 months.

“I think it would be very unwise, from my perspective, to start having commissions, boards, tribunals, until we find out what the facts are,” Reid said Wednesday. “I don’t know a better way of getting the facts than through the intelligence committee.” It is hard to imagine other Democrats bucking Reid on this and there is certainly no guarantee that the committee will release an unclassified report when it concludes its private inquiry. While Representative John Conyers says he will hold hearings, that is not the same as the independent criminal investigation this situation warrants.

Then there is the deeply flawed plan coming from the other influential camp in the Democratic leadership. The alternative being offered is not an independent special prosecutor, but rather a more politically palatable counter-proposal for creating a bi-partisan commission. This is a very problematic approach (as I have pointed out) for various reasons, including the possibility of immunity offers and a sidelining of actual prosecutions. Michael Ratner from the Center for Constitutional Rights has also advocated against this, saying this week it will lead to a “whitewash:”

We have reached a critical political moment on this issue. Obama has been forced or pushed to open the door to prosecutions, an opening I thought would take much longer to achieve. If there was ever a time to push that door open wider and demand a special prosecutor it is now. We have documented and open admissions of criminality. We have Cheney and Hayden admitting what they approved these techniques; and Cheney saying he would approve waterboarding again. We have the Senate Armed Services Report detailing how the torture program was authored and approved by our highest officials in the White House and employed in Guantanamo, Iraq and Afghanistan. And we have thousands of pages of proof. There is public outrage about the torture program and the media in the U.S. and the world are covered with the U.S. misdeeds.So at this moment, instead of human rights groups getting together and calling for a special prosecutor what do they do? Call for a commission. What this call does and it must be said strongly is take the pressure off what is the growing public push for prosecutions and deflects it into a commission. Outrage that could actually lead to prosecutions is now focused away and into a commission. Think if this list of human rights groups had demanded prosecutions. We would be closer and not farther from the goal.

There are some powerful Democrats who certainly would not want an independent public investigation, particularly those who served on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees when Bush was in power and torture was being ordered and authorized. That’s because in the aftermath of 9/11, some in Congress were briefed on the torture methods in real time and either were silent or, in some cases, supported these brutal tactics or, as some have suggested, possibly encouraged them to be expanded.

While Republicans are flailing to find ways of defending all of this torture and attempting to discredit or marginalize those who speak out against it, it is interesting to note the Op-ed Thursday in The Wall Street Journal by Reprentative Pete Hoekstra, the ranking Republican on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, called “Congress Knew About the Interrogations.” In the piece where Hoekstra parrots the Dick Cheney blah-blah-blah about torture working, he manages to make an important point:

[M]embers of Congress from both parties have been fully aware of them since the program began in 2002. We believed it was something that had to be done in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks to keep our nation safe. After many long and contentious debates, Congress repeatedly approved and funded this program on a bipartisan basis in both Republican and Democratic Congresses.

Hoekstra cites the internal memo written last week by Obama’s Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, to his staff in which Blair said “[h]igh value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al Qa’ida organization that was attacking this country.” (This was the memo that was originally released to the public with that sentence conveniently ommitted).

Hoekstra writes:

Members of Congress calling for an investigation of the enhanced interrogation program should remember that such an investigation can’t be a selective review of information, or solely focus on the lawyers who wrote the memos, or the low-level employees who carried out this program. I have asked Mr. Blair to provide me with a list of the dates, locations and names of all members of Congress who attended briefings on enhanced interrogation techniques.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) added to this mix by saying that he had seen a partial list of Congressmembers “who were briefed on these interrogation methods and not a word was raised at the time, not one word.”

Among those on the House Intelligence Committee at the time was current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She has said, “we were not, I repeat, we were not told that waterboarding or other enhanced methods were used.”

“What they did tell us is that they had some legislative counsel … but not that they would. And that further, further the point was that if and when they would be used they would brief Congress at that time.”

But contrary to Pelosi’s assertion, The Washington Post reported that Pelosi and other Democrats were “given a virtual tour of the CIA’s overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk:”

Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.

“The briefer was specifically asked if the methods were tough enough,” said a U.S. official who witnessed the exchange.

Contested Terrain: Obama’s Iraq Withdrawal Plan and the Peace Movement March 9, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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(Roger’s note: I beleive this article says in a much more polite and restrained manner essentially what I posted on the Blog on March 1 — https://rogerhollander.wordpress.com/2009/03/01/barack-obama-iraq-and-the-big-lie/?The author is too cultured, where I am just plain angry and cynical, to call Barack Obama a liar.  Yes, I agree it is for the peace movement to put the pressure on; but I do not exonerate Obama for his failure to stand up to the military-industrial complex once and for all and to speak the Plain Truth to the country.  Of course, the proof is in the pudding.  I would love to believe that President Obama is using a pragmatic gradualist approach that in the long run will result in the complete withdrawal from Iraq.  But, as I pointed out in my article, the U.S. has an enormous investment in Iraq; and it is hard to believe that anything less than standing up to the military and corporate interests will change what appears to be a predetermined course that will keep U.S. military presence in Iraq for generations.  From what I have seen and heard of Obama, it is hard to believe that he is up to it).

Talking Points by Phyllis Bennis.

 

The meaning of President Obama’s Iraq withdrawal speech, and its influence on real U.S. policy in Iraq, will not be determined solely by his actual words. The import of the speech — and whether its promises become real — will be determined by a fluid combination of what Obama says, his own definitions of what he says, AND the disparate ways his speech is heard, perceived, described and contested by others — the mainstream media, Congress, the military, other centers of elite power, and crucially, the peace movement.

The words of the speech were quite amazing: “And under the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. We will complete this transition to Iraqi responsibility, and we will bring our troops home.”

After eight years of reckless slaughter proudly justified in the name of a “global war on terror,” it was stunning to hear the president of the United States announce what he called “a new strategy to end the war in Iraq.” That moment was something we should celebrate. It was ours. The statement was a recognition of the powerful antiwar consensus in this country, a consensus that helped define the powerful constituency so key to Obama’s election. Obama may not acknowledge, even to himself, that it was the organized antiwar movement that helped create and build and strengthen that consensus — but still his speech reflected the new political reality that requires him to speak to the demands of that antiwar community.

Ending the War: A Definition

From the vantage point of the peace movement, the speech was and remains insufficient, and shot through with wiggle room and loopholes. We know that President Obama’s definition of “ending the war” is not ours. Our definition has not changed:

  • Withdraw all the troops and bring them home (don’t redeploy them to another illegal and unwinnable war in Afghanistan).
  • Pull out all the U.S.-paid foreign mercenaries and contractors and cancel the remaining contracts.
  • Close all U.S. military bases and turn them over to Iraq.
  • Give up all efforts to control Iraq’s oil.

While he laid out partial versions of some of these issues (withdrawal and oil), others (mercenaries and bases) were left out entirely. And at the end of the day, President Obama did not make a single real commitment to meeting our definition of ending the war. As The New York Times columnist Bob Herbert described Obama’s plan for Iraq and Afghanistan, “we’re committed to these two conflicts for a good while yet, and there is nothing like an etched-in-stone plan for concluding them.”

Understanding all the problems, limitations, and dangers of President Obama’s speech is crucial. (For a fuller analysis of the dangers in Obama’s speech, see my February 26th talking points — http://www.ips-dc.org/articles/1117.)

But understanding those limitations does not tell us how to respond to this new moment, a moment when the president of the United States is telling Americans that he is ending the war, that he intends to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq, telling Iraqis that the U.S. “pursues no claim on your territory or your resources,” and telling the world that the U.S. plans to engage with everybody in the region including Iran and Syria.

We may — we must — understand all the reasons that those words don’t constitute a firm commitment. But the reality is that the vast majority of people hearing those words, who already believe in what those words should mean, will assume President Obama means the same thing they do. That perception provides a huge opportunity for the peace movement. And it is for that reason that the assertions in his speech remain contested terrain.

Who Opposes, Who Supports?

Leading Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Leader Harry Reid, criticized Obama’s plan for leaving 50,000 or more U.S. troops in Iraq after the withdrawal of “combat brigades.” Their critique was powerful, public, and their first substantive break with the president — breaking to his left. Although they will likely back down, indeed they have already gone silent on this issue, their initial response opens the possibility for their greater engagement with more progressive members of Congress whom they had consistently dissed throughout the Bush years, and perhaps ultimately with the peace movement directly. The “speak with one voice” posture of the Democratic Party may be eroding with a Democrat in the White House.

Perhaps not so surprisingly, it was key Republicans — including Senator John McCain — who voiced immediate support for Obama’s withdrawal plan. Clearly they understand the huge loopholes inherent in the “withdrawal” strategy. They recognize the limited character of Obama’s pledges. But what they have officially endorsed, on the record, is a strategy that includes the language of “remove all U.S. troops from Iraq,” “our combat mission will end,” etc. They will never be our allies — but they are stuck with those words. Certainly they can — and surely will — reverse themselves if partial withdrawal moves threaten to turn into a real end of U.S. occupation. But they will pay a high political price when they do — and risk being dubbed flip-floppers on the Iraq War.

Military leaders, including top U.S. generals in Iraq and the region, heads of the joint chiefs of staff, and the Republican secretary of defense, have also expressed support. Of course they are the most familiar with all the wiggle room in the plan. They know the likelihood of renegotiating with a compliant Iraqi government virtually any or all of the terms in the U.S.-Iraq agreement — on which Obama based his intention to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq. But whatever their understanding, the fact that the military brass is standing publicly behind what is being touted as a complete withdrawal plan strips an important weapon away from those who oppose any withdrawal at all.

On its February 28th front page, The New York Times referred to the speech as “the beginning of the end of one of the longest and most divisive wars in American history.” The Times went on to describe how Obama “announced that he would withdraw combat forces from Iraq by August 2010 and all remaining troops by December 2011.” Not that he “intended,” but that he “would” withdraw all troops. The San Francisco Chronicle headline was “Obama Makes it Plain: Troops Out by End of 2011.” The Washington Post headlined “Obama Sets Timetable for Iraq.”

We have to recognize that even reports accurately depicting the too limited withdrawals, the too long timelines, the continuing occupation by U.S. troops, etc., will still be widely understood as consistent with what President Obama called “a new strategy to end the war.” And while it’s vital that as a movement we harbor no illusions, and recognize all the loopholes and wiggle room and pitfalls, our most important job is not to convince the people of this country that there is no way President Obama will end the occupation of Iraq. Our job will be to convince people that the only way President Obama will be able to overcome the powerful pro-war opposition inside and outside his administration and among his congressional allies, the only way he will be willing to even try to accomplish what he has promised, is if we all mobilize to demand it, to hold him accountable to his pledges, his promises, his speeches, and even his intentions.

Our Job: Make Him Do It

It’s the story of FDR who, at the height of popular mobilization by trade unionists, communists, community activists and a host of others, finally told his demanding supporters, “okay, I get it. I know what we have to do. Now get out there in the streets and make me do it!” Our job is to constantly hold President Obama and his administration accountable to what appear to be promises: withdraw all the troops, respect Iraqi sovereignty, give up Iraqi oil…even as we ratchet up our push for a faster, fuller troop withdrawal, closure of bases, and more.

At the same time our movement must take on other challenges as well.

We need to oppose Obama’s call for expanding the military. If he were really worried about the stress on military, the best solution is to bring them home — not ship them from Iraq to another illegal and unwinnable war two borders away. And at this moment of economic devastation across the U.S. and around the world, the issue of the financial costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan/Pakistan must be addressed directly; those hundreds of billions represent perhaps the largest single pot of money to pay for the health care/environment/energy priorities of the new administration. If things continue as they are, Stiglitz’s Three Trillion Dollar War in Iraq will turn into a $4 trillion dollar set of wars, as Afghanistan and Pakistan continue to swallow more troops, more bombs, more lives. We need to demand replacement of the war budget with a people’s budget that cuts the military budget by eliminating the Pentagon’s network of foreign bases that cost billions and destroy lives and environments around the world, getting rid of all our nuclear weapons, and eliminating all the giant weapons systems that have been obsolete for years.

Afghanistan: Not a “Good” War

And, perhaps most urgently, we must mobilize powerfully to oppose and reverse Obama’s escalation of the war in Afghanistan. That war was never a “good war,” and it turns out that most Americans no longer think it is. Military leaders from NATO to the Pentagon have already acknowledged that there is no military solution; escalating the war with 17,000 new U.S. troops, with plans for a strategy discussion after their deployment, is completely backwards. We must reclaim Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s lonely, brave, and prophetic opposition to authorizing force in response to the terror attacks of 9/11. The problem in Afghanistan, then and now, was never insufficient troops. It was the creation of the so-called “global war on terror,” that shaped a militarized framework for responding to every problem in the world (as well as here at home — remember the “war on poverty,” the “war on drugs,” the “war on crime,” etc?).

Obama gave us hope that a new foreign policy, based on negotiations and diplomacy, not military force, was possible. He said he would talk to everyone. Our job now is to mobilize stronger than ever — no post-inauguration vacations! — to demand that this new administration make good on the promises people heard. If the perception of tens of millions of people in this country is that President Obama promised to withdraw all troops, it doesn’t matter that we know his “intention” is not a commitment. That perception is a starting point. If everyone assumes complete U.S. troop withdrawal is already official U.S. policy, it will make renegotiating terms of the U.S.-Iraqi agreement much harder for the Pentagon — because people will believe they’re trying to reverse a promise. It makes our job easier.

After the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001, our movement began immediately to mobilize against the war we knew was coming. Organizations like the Center for Constitutional Rights moved quickly to challenge the “global war on terror” framework as illegal, and to demand that the attacks be dealt with as international crimes, rather than war. The first national demonstration was held October 7, led by the people who would soon form 9/11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, those who had lost loved ones three weeks before, and by those who would soon create United for Peace and Justice. The war began the same day, with the bombing of Kabul launched just as the antiwar rally began in the streets of New York. We have been working ever since. But most of our movement left Afghanistan more or less in the background as we tried to stop the U.S. invasion and then mobilized to end the war and occupation in Iraq.

It’s time to come back. We hear accusations that the war in Iraq was a “distraction” from the “real war,” the “just war,” the “good war” in Afghanistan. Not everyone believes it was a “good war” anymore. But we have a lot of work to do to stop them both.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich – Bank bailouts are an unprecedented fraud February 4, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis.
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www.democraticunderground.com
February 2nd, 2009 | Banker Bailouts
http://www.dailynewscaster.com/2009/02/02/congressman-d… /
By: D. H.
Williams @ 10:34 PM – EST

America continues to be fleeced by big business and politicians from Harry Reid to John McCain and Barack Obama. Both parties are eager to give billions in your money to the financial interests who support them in return.

Banks have received billions and perhaps trillions (No one is really sure of the amount since details are kept secret.) of dollars of U.S. taxpayers money creating a debt that will take generations to pay off and most certainly will cause currency deflation in the near future. And what have the banksters done so far with their windfall? Spent millions on super bowl parties and private jets.

And now even as the majority in both parties negotiate to give the banksters billions more only a few lawmakers willing to speak out. One of those who has opposed these disastrous bailouts is Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH).

“We shouldn’t be approving any more of these TARPS. We should force this economic system to come to terms with their speculative practices. With their misspending. With their bad investments.” Kucinich continues, “This is a fraud that’s being perpetrated on the American taxpayer on a scale that is unprecedented in the history of our country.”

Holy Cow: Top Dems Are Serious About Investigating Bush’s Criminal Acts January 26, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Human Rights, Torture.
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Jason Leopold, Consortium News. Posted January 26, 2009.

To the surprise of progressives and anger of the GOP, leading Dems support investigations.

As President Barack Obama reverses some of ex-President George W. Bush’s most controversial “war on terror” policies, a consensus seems to be building among Democratic congressional leaders that further investigations are needed into Bush’s use of torture and other potential crimes.

On Wednesday – the first working day of the Obama administration – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he would support funding and staff for additional fact-finding by the Senate Armed Services Committee, which last month released a report tracing abuse of detainees at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib to Bush’s Feb. 7, 2002, decision to exclude terror suspects from Geneva Convention protections.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, who issued that report, echoed Reid’s comments, saying “there needs to be an accounting of torture in this country.” Levin, D-Michigan, also said he intends to encourage the Justice Department and incoming Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate torture practices that took place while Bush was in office.

Two other key Democrats joined in this growing chorus of lawmakers saying that serious investigations should be conducted.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, a former federal prosecutor and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a floor speech, “As the President looks forward and charts a new course, must someone not also look back, to take an accounting of where we are, what was done, and what must now be repaired.”

Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland told reporters: “Looking at what has been done is necessary.”

On Jan. 18, two days before Obama’s inauguration, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed support for House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers’s plan to create a blue-ribbon panel of outside experts to probe the “broad range” of policies pursued by the Bush administration “under claims of unreviewable war powers.”

In an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, Pelosi specifically endorsed a probe into the politicization of the Justice Department, but didn’t spell out a position on Conyers’s plan to examine the Bush administration’s torture and rendition policies, which could prove embarrassing to Pelosi and other Democratic leaders who were briefed by the CIA about these tactics.

Still, when Wallace cited Obama’s apparent unwillingness to investigate the Bush administration, Pelosi responded: “I think that we have to learn from the past, and we cannot let the politicizing of the — for example, the Justice Department, to go unreviewed. Past is prologue. We learn from it. And my views on the subject — I don’t think that Mr. Obama and Mr. Conyers are that far apart.”

The emerging consensus among top congressional Democrats for some form of investigation into Bush’s controversial policies has surprised some progressives who had written off the leadership long ago for blocking impeachment hearings and other proposals for holding Bush and his subordinates accountable.

In 2006, for instance, Pelosi famously declared that “impeachment is off the table,” and prior to Election 2008, the Democratic leadership largely acquiesced to Bush’s demands for legislation that supported his “war on terror” policies, including a compromise bill granting legal immunity to telecommunications companies that assisted in Bush’s warrantless wiretaps.

A Changed Tone

Since the election – in which the Democrats increased their congressional majorities and won the White House – key Democrats have begun releasing more information about Bush’s abuses of power.

Besides Levin’s findings on mistreatment of detainees, Conyers published a 487-page report entitled “Reining in the Imperial Presidency: Lessons and Recommendations Relating to the Presidency of George W. Bush” that calls for the creation of a blue-ribbon panel and independent criminal probes into the Bush administration’s conduct in the “war on terror.”

Conyers urged the Attorney General to “appoint a Special Counsel or expand the scope of the present investigation into CIA tape destruction to determine whether there were criminal violations committed pursuant to Bush administration policies that were undertaken under unreviewable war powers, including enhanced interrogation, extraordinary rendition, and warrantless domestic surveillance.”

Last year, Bush’s Attorney General Michael Mukasey appointed U.S. Attorney John Durham as special counsel to investigate whether the destruction of CIA videotapes that depicted interrogators waterboarding alleged terrorist detainees violated any laws. Durham was not given the authority to probe whether the interrogation techniques themselves violated anti-torture laws.

“At present, the Attorney General has agreed only to appoint a special U.S. Attorney to determine whether the destruction of videotapes depicting the waterboarding of a detainee constituted violations of federal law,” Conyers’s report said.

“Despite requests from Congress, that prosecutor has not been asked to investigate whether the underlying conduct being depicted – the waterboarding itself or other harsh interrogation techniques used by the military or the CIA – violated the law. … Appointment of a special counsel would be in the public interest (e.g., it would help dispel a cloud of doubt over our law enforcement system).”

Additional evidence about the Bush administration’s actions is expected to become available in the coming weeks as the Obama administration loosens the secrecy that has surrounded Bush’s “war on terror,” a phrase that Obama and his team have effectively dropped from Washington’s lexicon.

Obama’s aides have indicated that there soon may be a “public airing” of secret Justice Department legal opinions and other documents that provided the underpinning for the Bush administration’s brutal interrogation policies.

Levin also indicated that he expects to release the full Armed Services Committee report – covering an 18-month investigation – in about two or three weeks.  Levin added that he would ask the Senate Intelligence Committee to conduct its own investigation of torture as implemented by the CIA.

Meanwhile, Republicans have grown increasingly worried that Holder, as Attorney General, will launch a criminal investigation into Bush’s interrogation policies. They delayed a vote on his nomination demanding that he respond to questions about whether he intends to investigate and/or prosecute Bush administration officials.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said he wants to ask Holder whether he intends to investigate the Bush administration and intelligence officials for torture

Last week, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Holder was asked about the practice of waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning that the Bush administration has acknowledged using against three terror suspects. Holder answered that “waterboarding was torture.”

Cornyn said Holder’s view means there is a possibility that investigations might be on the horizon.

“Part of my concern, frankly, relates to some of his statements at the hearing in regard to torture and what his intentions are with regard to intelligence personnel who were operating in good faith based upon their understanding of what the law was,” Cornyn said Wednesday.

10 Democrats Who Should Go Away December 6, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Political Commentary, U.S. Election 2008.
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(Roger’s Note: I am not posting Cohen’s earlier article, “10 Republicans Who Should Go Away,” because, as far as I am concerned, they pretty much all would do the country and the world a service by disappearing.  However, if you are interested in reading the article, you can go to the Daily Baner website)

Ben Cohen, The Daily Banter, www.thedailybanter.com

December 2, 2008

On Monday of last week, I published an article ‘10 Republicans Who Should Go Away‘. For some reason, the article went down a storm and received well over 100,000 hits. Reading the comments and emails I received was probably more fun than writing the article (which I enjoyed immensely), but I was a little taken aback at the debate I seemed to have sparked off. A host of conservative bloggers were up in arms, raging about liberal ‘hate’ I was spewing, and the temerity I was showing for insulting their idols. Neal Boortz called me a ‘Moonbat’, and Michelle Malkin fans left comments on my site accusing me of being  a ‘liberal terrorist’ and a ‘communist’. I did however, receive some intelligent emails asking why I was only focusing on Republicans.

The Democrats have in some ways, been worse than the Republicans. As a party, they’ve stood idly by as the Bush Administration has literally ransacked the country, trashing the constitution and driving the national debt into unchartered territory.

So in order to show the Right that progressives are not reflexive liberals, I thought I would pen an article listing the top 10 Democrats who should go away. And by ‘go away’, I don’t mean censor, or prevent from speaking. I’m asking that they do it themselves – shut up for the good of the country. Here they are (in no particular order):

1. Joe Lieberman

Lieberman is not a Democrat in any real sense of the word – he is a foreign policy hawk and a fiscal conservative, remaining liberal on only a few token issues (abortion, gay rights etc). Lieberman was a vociferous supporter of the War in Iraq, threatening Democrats if they didn’t support it and hyping up the non-existent threat from Iran (a country that spends the same amount in a year on its military as the U.S does in a week in Iraq). Lieberman is the quintessential corporate shill, selling his soul to the pharmaceutical companies and defense contractors while painting himself as a ‘moral’ Democrat, mostly because he doesn’t cheat on his wife (see his outrage over Monica Lewinsky) and believes in blowing up Arabs whenever possible. Supporting John McCain was one thing, but breaking a pledge not to go negative on Obama was completely unforgivable. The only reason Joe is still a Democrat is because his party is almost as spineless as him, and won’t throw him out for fear of appearing too liberal.

2. Mark Penn

It’s hard to find a kind word about Mark Penn, CEO of PR company Burson-Marsteller and chief strategist of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Penn is about as greedy as they come in the modern era of political hackery and corporate corruption, and Penn has his fat little fingers in about as many dodgy pies as humanly possible. Burson Marsteller has represented stellar companies like Black Water and Countrywide, and lobbied hard for Free Trade agreements that have wrecked the lives of millions of poor people. While Hillary Clinton went on an anti NAFTA campaigning jaunt throughout the Mid West, Penn was busy promoting a free trade agreement between the U.S and Columbia at the behest of leading human right’s violator and president of Columbia, Alvaro Uribe. So corrupt was Pen, that he had to resign from Clinton’s campaign (never known for its purity), and publicly apologize for the clear conflict of interest. In terms of strategy, Penn exemplifies the slash and burn politics of Karl Rove, using anything and everything to win. He wanted to use Obama’s foreign upbringingduring the primary, focusing on his lack of ‘American values’. He wrote in a strategy paper:

All of these articles about his boyhood in Indonesia and his life in Hawaii are geared towards showing his background is diverse, multicultural and putting that in a new light…..
It also exposes a very strong weakness for him—his roots to basic American values and culture are at best limited. I cannot imagine America electing a president during a time of war who is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values.

We’ve not heard much from Penn in the political arena since, and hopefully it will stay that way. He’ll no doubt continue to destroy the lives of poor people in the corporate world, but his stock as a political consultant was damaged badly after the Clinton debacle. Penn is not obsolete, but with operatives like David Axelrod and David Plouffe taking center stage, his days are seriously numbered.

 

3. Harry Reid

When Reid the Democrats took power in 2006, they were elected by war weary citizens that were fed up with President Bush and the Neo Conservatives.  Despite his position as Senate Majority Leader, Reid failed spectacularly to reduce war funding or establish a firm time timetables for troop removal from Iraq. Reid showed the cojones of a neutered kitten, and has spent the last two years backing down to the Bush Administration instead of doing what he was put in power to do: stand up, and stop the war. When the effort to put timetables for withdrawal in the war funding bill failed to override Bush’ veto, Reid and other members of Congressional leadership caved and gave Bush all the money he asked for in the first place.  Amazingly, Reid didn’t even push for a compromise. Should Obama follow a more centrist agenda than he promised during his campaign, you can bet Reid won’t do anything to hold him accountable.

4. Nancy Pelosi

Nancy Pelosi finds herself on this list for many of the sames reasons as Harry Reid.  Failing to enact a serious time tables for withdrawal from Iraq, as well as repeated caving to the Bush Administration’s war efforts, Pelosi also refused to seriously consider impeaching President Bush.  Pelosi argued her role as Speaker of the House was to “try to bring a much divided country together,” and that “impeachment would be divisive.”.  She believed that Congressional Leaders would not be able to further their Democratic agenda in the midst of an impeachment process, regardless of the overwhelming evidence that serious crimes had been committed. Representative Dennis Kucinich introduced 35 articles of impeachment that asserted directly that impeachable offenses (crimes) had been committed.  These crimes include taking a nation to war based on lies,  the deaths of a million Iraqis (constituting a war crime), illegal wiretapping, rendition, torture, and illegal detention.  If impeachment can’t take place because it’s politically inconvenient,it begs the question as to whether or not the Legislative Branch still serves as a check and balance on the Executive Branch. According to Pelosi it can’t, and as a consequence, her name will go down as one of the most ineffective Speakers in history.

5. Chris Matthews

Chris Matthews seems like a genuinely nice guy. He loves politics, and he loves his job, but for all the wrong reasons. Matthews knee slapping, frat boy journalism has contributed massively to the dumbing down of politics in America. The title of one segment in his show is called ‘The Politics Fix’, which really says it all. For Matthews, political issues are to be consumed like cups coffee, quenching an addiction rather than enlightening our intellect. Discussions often look like public masturbation as ‘experts’ of various sorts are invited to pontificate on inane subjects they’ve specialized in. In a panel discussion, here’s what Matthews had to say about President Bush’s ‘Mission Accomplished’ speech back in 2003:

“We’re proud of our president. Americans love having a guy as president, a guy who has a little swagger, who’s physical, who’s not a complicated guy like Clinton or even like Dukakis or Mondale, all those guys, McGovern. They want a guy who’s president. Women like a guy who’s president.”

Most disturbingly, Matthew’s analysis of the war consisted of how it rated with undersexed housewives:

“Check it out. The women like this war,” he said with a straight face. “I think we like having a hero as our president. It’s simple. We’re not like the Brits. We don’t want an indoor prime minister type, or the Danes or the Dutch or the Italians, or a [Russian Federation President Vladimir] Putin. Can you imagine Putin getting elected here? We want a guy as president.”

Thanks Chris. Don’t worry about the thousands of innocent lives lost in the invasion, the enormous waste of tax payers money and monumentally catastrophic consequences for the region. Matthews is capable of real journalism when he wants to, and is apparently looking to run for the Senate in 2010 as a Democrat. Let’s hope he grows up by then and takes it seriously.

 

6. Rep John Dingell

The long-serving Michigan congressman has been this single biggest road block to better fuel emissions standards, and to all other forms of regulation on the automakers.  Though generally a progressive Democrat, his intransigence in terms of fuel emissions standards is completely intolerable.  Not only are GM, Ford, and Chrysler his three biggest campaign donors, his wife Debbie Dingell is GM’s chief lobbyist.  He has been one of the primary behind-the-scenes players in Detroit’s downfall, shielding the automakers from all of the disastrous failures of the last 20 years and helping them resist true innovation and progress. Thomas Friedman, strangely, had some pretty harsh words for Dingell in a recent NYT op-ed:

The blame for this travesty not only belongs to the auto executives, but must be shared equally with the entire Michigan delegation in the House and Senate, virtually all of whom, year after year, voted however the Detroit automakers and unions instructed them to vote. That shielded General Motors, Ford and Chrysler from environmental concerns, mileage concerns and the full impact of global competition that could have forced Detroit to adapt long ago.

Indeed, if and when they do have to bury Detroit, I hope that all the current and past representatives and senators from Michigan have to serve as pallbearers. And no one has earned the “honor” of chief pallbearer more than the Michigan Representative John Dingell, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee who is more responsible for protecting Detroit to death than any single legislator.

There is some good news on the Dingell front though.  Since he just lost the Chairmanship of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to the Mustache of Justice, (otherwise known as Henry Waxman), we might already be rid of him.  But its still a little early to throw the party.

7. Robert Rubin

No one has done more to create, and less to help alleviate, the current financial crisis than the former Secretary of the Treasury, and current CitiGroup Chairman.  His deregulatory stance, and refusal to regulate derivatives as Secretary of the Treasurary laid the groundwork for the Bush abdication of financial regulation.  An October 9th article from the NY Times points out that in 1997, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, headed by Brooksley Born, invited comments on how to best oversee certain deriviatives:

“Ms. Born was concerned that unfettered, opaque trading could “threaten our regulated markets or, indeed, our economy without any federal agency knowing about it,” she said in Congressional testimony. She called for greater disclosure of trades and reserves to cushion against losses.

Ms. Born’s views incited fierce opposition from Mr. Greenspan and Robert E. Rubin, the Treasury secretary then. Treasury lawyers concluded that merely discussing new rules threatened the derivatives market. Mr. Greenspan warned that too many rules would damage Wall Street, prompting traders to take their business overseas.”

Months later, Ms. Born resigned and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission was stripped of its authority to regulate derivatives.  Recently Mr. Rubin still failed to recognize his own culpability in the matter, saying “All of the forces in the system were arrayed against it…The industry certainly didn’t want any increase in these requirements. There was no potential for mobilizing public opinion.” 

It must have been great to grow up in Bob Rubin’s house, where as long a you wanted to do something and really, really didn’t want rules, it would be okay. Unlimited candy for the kids? No problem! Ruined teeth and attention deficit disorder? Well, they didn’t want to be regulated, so not my fault! How on earth he managed to end up as an adviser to Obama is anyone’s guess, as Rubin is lucky he is not in jail.

8. Steny Hoyer (D-MD)

Majority Leader Hoyer is a perfect example of the old saying “with friends like these, who needs enemies.”  In pursuit of nothing but his own aggrandizement, Mr. Hoyer led the charge to capitulate our Constitutional rights to the whims of the Bush Administration. Hoyer led the negotiations for the Telecom immunity bill, in which he judiciously negotiated away our rights as free citizens.  As the eloquent and thorough Gleen Greenwald pointed out:

“It’s bad enough watching the likes of Steny Hoyer, Rahm Emanuel and a disturbingly disoriented Nancy Pelosi eviscerate the Fourth Amendment, exempt their largest corporate contributors from the rule of law, and endorse the most radical aspects of the Bush lawbreaking regime. But it’s downright pathetic to see them try to depict their behavior as some sort of bipartisan “compromise” whereby they won meaningful concessions…GOP House Whip Roy Blunt derided the telecom amnesty provision as nothing more than a “formality” which would inevitably lead to the immediate and automatic dismissal of all lawsuits against the telecoms, while Sen. Kit Bond taunted the Democrats for giving away even more than they had to in order to get a deal: “I think the White House got a better deal than they even had hoped to get.”

In true Democrat style, Hoyer told us he was negotiating on our behalf, then actually gave Bush more authority than he had even wanted.  He also unrepentantly (and unsurprisingly) voted for the Iraq War authorization. Thanks a bunch, Steny.

9. Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton may have pulled it out at the last minute for Obama, but his behavior during the primary was completely unforgivable. Racist innuendo, temper tantrums and outright lying, Clinton degraded himself to the point where close friends had to intervene through the prime time news. To boot, Clinton presided over huge deregulation of the financial sector, and helped ram through the disastrous NAFTA while in office. He then supported President Bush in the lead up to the War in Iraq (then had the gall to question Obama’s policy judgment). Clinton is great at rallying Democrats, but represents virtually nothing they stand for. His slippery ‘Third Way’ politics consists mostly of extreme right wing economic policy packaged in left wing rhetoric, something we are hopefully moving away from. Sorry Bill, but you have to go.

10. Joe Lieberman

Yes, Joe Leiberman is such a dick head, he’s on the list twice. Joe, please stop pretending you are a Democrat. The party has suffered enough humiliation over the past 8 years without you rubbing their faces in it. The peverse pleasure Lieberman seemed to be taking for trashing his party, smearing Obama and cheerleading the opposition should have been enough for any serious Democrat. Yet Lieberman got away with it and ended up keeping his position in the party – showing that no matter how pissed off the country is, the Democrats will work extremely hard to piss them off even more.

Ari Rutenberg and Peter Bauer contributed to this article
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