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The Forgotten Fight Against Fascism June 15, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in History, Imperialism, Nazi / Fascist, War.
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Roger’s note: When we think of fascism we think of Mussolini, Hitler and Franco.  But fascism, as defined functionally, is when the state is indistinguishable from corporate capital.  Such was the case in both Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan and Fascist Italy.  Under these conditions, individual rights and civil liberties and imperial war mongering inevitably follow, with their accompanying brutality and bloodshed.  When we look at the United States today we see corporate capital more and more every day in control of the three branches of government, and what else to we see?  We see torture, police state violence against peaceful protest, the loss of habeas corpus, uncontrollable government spying, and gross violations of both the constitution and the Geneva Conventions (drone missiles, torture, targeting of civilian populations [US supported Israel vs. the Palestinians], presidential assassination lists, indefinite detention, indiscriminate bombing, undeclared wars, etc.).

I happen to be reading at the moment, William Shirer’s classic “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.”  What we see in the 1930s are the capitalist democracies, principally England and France, not simply appeasing Hitler, but in fact by their cowardice and narrow self interest, actually enabling Hitler.  By the time the Allies got their act together to confront Hitler, he had already armed  Germany and moved into the Rhineland, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland.  The Soviets early on had been pushing England and France to form an alliance to stop Hitler, but they declined and were more afraid of being infected with Bolshevism.

I believe that the struggle today is not narrowly against terrorism or Islamic extremism, but rather the same fight against fascism.  This article gives us some historical perspective on that fight.

 

In late 1944 as a high school senior I rushed off to a U.S. Navy recruiting station ready to take on world fascism. Cooler heads insisted I wait until my graduation in June. After boot camp I served in “The Pacific Theater”—Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Hawaii, Saipan, Japan, and the China Sea.

Anyone who has gone through school in the United States knows that history textbooks devote a lot of attention to the so-called “Good War”: World War II. A typical textbook, Holt McDougal’s The Americans, includes 61 pages covering the buildup to World War II and the war itself. Today’s texts acknowledge “blemishes” like the internment of Japanese Americans, but the texts either ignore or gloss over the fact that for almost a decade, during the earliest fascist invasions of Asia, Africa, and Europe, the Western democracies encouraged rather than fought Hitler and Mussolini, and sometimes gave them material aid.

From Hitler’s rise to power, the governments of England and France, with the United States following their lead, never tried to prevent, slow, or even warn of the fascist danger. They started by greeting Japan’s attack on Manchuria with disapproving noises, and continued to trade with Japan. It was a prelude to Japan’s 1937 invasion of China.

Mussolini, seeking an “Italian Empire” in Africa, threw his army and air force against Ethiopia in October 1935. Fascist planes bombed and dropped poison gas on villages. Emperor Haile Selassie turned to the League of Nations and speaking in his native Amharic described fascist air and chemical attacks on a people “without arms, without resources.” “Collective security,” he insisted, “is the very existence of the League of Nations,” and warned “international morality” is “at stake.” When Selassie said, “God and history will remember your judgment,” governments shrugged.

However, in the midst of a worldwide “Great Depression,” citizens in the distant United States were aroused to help Ethiopia. Black men trained for military action—an estimated 8,000 in Chicago, 5,000 in Detroit, 2,000 in Kansas City. In New York City, where a thousand men drilled, nurse Salaria Kea of Harlem Hospital collected funds that sent a 75-bed hospital and two tons of medical supplies to Ethiopia. W. E. B. Du Bois and Paul Robeson addressed a “Harlem League Against War and Fascism” rally and A. Philip Randolph linked Mussolini’s invasion to “the terrible repression of black people in the United States.” A people’s march for Ethiopia in Harlem drew 25,000 African Americans and anti-fascist Italian Americans.

In Chicago on Aug. 31, 1935, as the fascist noose on Ethiopia tightened, Oliver Law, a black Communist from Texas, organized a protest rally in defiance of a ban by Mayor Edward J. Kelly. Ten thousand people gathered and so did 2,000 police. Law began to speak from a rooftop, and was arrested. Then one speaker after another appeared on different rooftops, to shout their anti-fascist messages, and all six were arrested.

By May 1936 before many volunteers or help could reach Ethiopia, Mussolini triumphed and Haile Selassie fled into exile. The Americans devotes a puny two paragraphs of its 61 pages of war coverage to this pre-Pearl Harbor conflict. And the drama of democracy versus fascism in Spain merits another whispered two paragraphs in The Americans.

In July 1936 pro-fascist Francisco Franco and other Spanish generals in Morocco launched a military coup against Spain’s new Republican “Popular Front” government. By early August, Hitler and Mussolini provided vital assistance. In the world’s first airlift, Nazi Germany dispatched 40 Luftwaffe Junker and transport planes to ferry Franco’s army from Morocco to Seville, Spain. Italy’s fleet in the Mediterranean sank ships carrying aid or volunteers to Republican Spain, and 50,000 to 100,000 Italian fascist troops began to arrive in Spain. Hitler and Mussolini had internationalized a civil war—and revealed fascism’s global intentions.

But one of the first lessons learned from Spain was fascist aggressors had nothing to fear from the Western democracies. The Luftwaffe destroyed cities such as Gernika in the Basque region of Spain, and Nazi gestapo agents interrogated Republican prisoners. But English and French officials, and their wealthy corporations with financial ties to Nazi Germany, greeted the fascist march with a shrug, quiet appreciation, or offers of cooperation. In England, Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin prodded Germany and Italy to march east toward the Soviet Union. The British ambassador to Spain told the U.S. ambassador, “I hope they send in enough Germans to finish the war.”

The Nazi Luftwaffe overhead, Franco’s legions rolled toward Madrid and Franco expected a fast victory. But at the gates of Madrid everything changed. Under the slogan “They shall not pass,” members of unions and political and citizen groups formed military units and headed toward the front carrying lunch and a rifle. Madrid’s women, wearing pants and carrying rifles, took part in early skirmishes. Other women ran the first quartermaster corps.

A scattering of foreign volunteers began to arrive: Jewish and other refugees fleeing Nazi Germany or Mussolini’s Italy, some British machine gunners, and athletes fresh from an anti-Nazi Olympics in Barcelona.

By November the volunteer rush became a torrent: An estimated 40,000 men and women from 53 nations left home to defend the Republic. For the only time in history, a volunteer force of men and women from all over the world came together to fight for an ideal: democracy. The volunteers brought a message that ordinary people could resist fascist militarism.

Though most volunteers had little military experience, they hoped their commitment, courage, and sacrifice would persuade the democratic governments to unite against the fascist march, and head off a new world war.

But the Western governments ignored Spain’s plea for “collective security.” And some countries outlawed travel to Spain. France closed its border to Spain so volunteers faced arrest and had to scale the Pyrenees at night. England formed a Non-Intervention Committee of 26 nations that blocked aid to the Republican government, but not to Franco’s rebels.

U.S. policy followed England and France. The United States stamped passports “Not Valid for Spain.” The State Department tried to prevent medical supplies and doctors from reaching Spain. The Texas Oil Company sent almost 2 million tons of oil, most of Franco’s oil needs. Four-fifths of rebel trucks came from Ford, General Motors, and Studebaker. U.S. media outlets, isolationist and wealthy groups, and the Catholic Church cheered Franco’s fight against “Godless Communism.”

abraham_lincoln_brigade_wcaptionIn the United States some 2,800 young men and women of different races and backgrounds formed the “Abraham Lincoln Brigade.” Seamen and students, farmers and professors, they hoped that their bravery could turn the tide, or at last alert the world to the fascist drive for world domination. Most made their way to Spain illegally as “tourists” visiting France.

In a time of massive unemployment, lynching, segregation, and discrimination, 90 of the volunteers were African American. “Ethiopia and Spain are our fight,” said James Yates, who fled Mississippi. The United States had only five licensed African American pilots, and two came to join the Republic’s tiny air force (one brought down two German and three Italian planes).

Most of the African American volunteers had marched with white radicals to protest lynching, segregation, and racism, and to demand relief and jobs during the Great Depression. These men and women of color—one was nurse Salaria Kea—formed the first integrated U.S. army. Oliver Law became an early commander of the Lincoln Brigade.

The brave young men and women of the Lincoln and other International Brigades slowed but did not stop fascism. In 1938, fascism’s overwhelming land, sea, and air power defeated the Republic. Many volunteers had died, including half of the Americans, and others suffered serious wounds.

What is remembered as World War II began the next year in 1939, when Germany attacked Poland. It would take a massive, multinational effort to defeat Hitler, Mussolini, and Imperial Japan, and cost tens of millions of lives.

In 1945, world fascism was finally defeated. But for a crucial decade the democracies did not oppose and often emboldened the fascist advance into Manchuria and China, Ethiopia and Spain. But students today don’t learn this. Instead, texts present World War II as an inevitability and the Allies as anti-fascists and saviors of democracy. A fuller history of the failure of the United States to fight fascism at its outset—and even its multifaceted support of fascism—would help students rethink this supposed inevitability. Today’s students deserve more than a few textbook paragraphs describing the fight against fascism before 1939 while the governments of the United States, England, and France encouraged its aggressions.

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Nuremberg Revisited: Obama Administration Files To Dismiss Case Against John YooPublished December 11, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Torture.
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(Roger’s Note: a couple of points to mention: that the Bush Administration torture policy and the Obama Administration complicity do not begin to match the scope of the Nazi holocaust does not make them any less guilty of serious crimes against human nature.  And of course, it was not Nazi German justice that brought war criminals to account at Nuremberg but rather that of the victorious Allies.  For the government of the very same nation that committed war crimes to bring its own officials to justice for such crimes would set a new precedent.  In the world of realpolitik we don’t really expect that to happen.  Why then, do we press for justice?  I leave it to the reader to answer that important question for her or himself.)

1, December 9, 2009

http://jonathanturley.org/2009/12/09/obama-administration-files-to-dismiss-case-against-john-yoo/

John Yoo is being defended in court this month by the Administration. Not the Bush Administration. The Obama Administration. As with the lawsuits over electronic surveillance and torture, the Obama administration wants the lawsuit against Yoo dismissed and is defending the right of Justice Department officials to help establish a torture program — an established war crime. I will be discussing the issue on this segment of MSNBC Countdown.

The Obama Administration has filed a brief that brushes over the war crimes aspects of Yoo’s work at the Justice Department. Instead, it insists that attorneys must be free to give advice — even if it is to establish a torture program.

In its filing before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Justice Department insists that there is “the risk of deterring full and frank advice regarding the military’s detention and treatment of those determined to be enemies during an armed conflict.” Instead it argues that the Justice Department has other means to punish lawyers like the Office of Professional Responsibility. Of course, the Bush Administration effectively blocked such investigations and Yoo is no longer with the Justice Department. The OPR has been dismissed as ineffectual, including in an ABA Journal, as the Justice Department’s “roach motel”—“the cases go in, but nothing ever comes out.”

The Justice Department first defended Yoo as counsel and then paid for private counsel to represent him (here). His public-funded private counsel is Miguel Estrada, who was forced to withdraw his nomination by George Bush for the Court of Appeals after strong opposition from the Democrats.

Yoo is being sued by Jose Padilla, who was effectively blocked in contesting his abusive confinement and mistreatment as part of this criminal case and in a habeas action. The Bush Administration brought new charges to moot a case before the Supreme Court could rule. The Court previously sent his case back on a technicality.

It is important to note that the Administration did not have to file this brief since it had withdrawn as counsel and paid for Yoo’s private counsel. It has decided that it wants to establish the law claimed by the Bush Administration protecting Justice officials who support alleged war crimes. They are effectively doubling down by withdrawing as counsel and then reappearing as a non-party amicus.

The Obama Administration has gutted the hard-fought victories in Nuremberg where lawyers and judges were often guilty of war crimes in their legal advice and opinions. The third of the twelve trials for war crimes involved 16 German jurists and lawyers. Nine had been officials of the Reich Ministry of Justice, the others were prosecutors and judges of the Special Courts and People’s Courts of Nazi Germany. It would have been a larger group but two lawyers committed suicide before trial: Adolf Georg Thierack, former minister of justice, and Carl Westphal, a ministerial counsellor.

They included Herbert Klemm, who was sentenced to life imprisonment and served as minister of justice, director of the Ministry’s Legal Education and Training Division, and deputy director of the National Socialist Lawyer’s League.

Oswald Rothaug received life imprisonment for his role as a prosecutor and later a judge.

Wilhelm von Ammon received ten years for his work as a justice official in occupied areas.

Guenther Joel received ten years for being an adviser (like Yoo) to the Ministry of Justice and later a judge.

Curt Rothenberger was also a legal adviser and was given seven years for his writings at the Ministry of Justice and as the deputy president of the Academy of German Law

Wolfgang Mettgenberg received ten years as representative of the Criminal Legislation Administration Division of the Ministry of Justice,

Ernst Lautz (10 years) had been chief public prosecutor of the People’s Court.

Franz Schlegelberger, a former Ministry of Justice official, was convicted and sentenced to life for conspiracy and other war crimes. The court found:

‘…that Schlegelberger supported the pretension of Hitler in his assumption of power to deal with life and death in disregard of even the pretense of judicial process. By his exhortations and directives, Schlegelberger contributed to the destruction of judicial independence. It was his signature on the decree of 7 February 1942 which imposed upon the Ministry of Justice and the courts the burden of the prosecution, trial, and disposal of the victims of Hitler’s Night and Fog. For this he must be charged with primary responsibility.

‘He was guilty of instituting and supporting procedures for the wholesale persecution of Jews and Poles. Concerning Jews, his ideas were less brutal than those of his associates, but they can scarcely be called humane. When the “final solution of the Jewish question” was under discussion, the question arose as to the disposition of half-Jews. The deportation of full Jews to the East was then in full swing throughout Germany. Schlegelberger was unwilling to extend the system to half-Jews.’

It was the “ideas” that these lawyers advanced that made the war crimes possible. Other officials were tried but acquitted. All of these officials used arguments similar to those in the Obama Administration’s brief of why lawyers are not responsible for war crimes that they defend and justify. Bush selected people like Yoo to justify the war crime of torture. If they had written against it, the Administration might have abandoned the effort. The CIA director and others were already concerned about the prospect of prosecution. The Obama Administration’s brief revisits Nuremberg and sweeps away such quaint notions. Indeed, the brief for Yoo could have been used directly to support legal advisers Wolfgang Mettgenberg, Guenther Joel, and Wilhelm von Ammon.

If successful in this case, the Obama Administration will succeed in returning the world to the rules leading to the war crimes at Nuremberg. Quite a legacy for the world’s newest Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Defenders of the Administration insist that the brief does not expressly gut Nuremberg or reference war crimes. Of course, that is the point. The brief does not make any exception for liability for legal advice when it is part of a torture program or war crime. When combined with the Administration’s refusal to appoint a special prosecutor for the torture program (and the President’s promise that no CIA employees would be prosecuted), the brief closes the circle: there will be no criminal or civil liability for the war crimes committed by the Bush Administration.

The only reference to substantive criminal prosecution is in the following abstract statement:

That is not to say that the actions of a Department of Justice attorney providing advice should go unchecked. Department of Justice attorneys, if they abuse their authority, are subject to possible state and federal bar sanctions, see 28 U.S.C. § 530B, investigation by both the Office of Professional Responsibility and the Office of the Inspector General, as well as criminal investigation and prosecution, where appropriate. If Congress believes that additional avenues of recourse are necessary in cases where Department of Justice attorneys provide legal advice regarding matters relating to war powers and national security, it could enact appropriate legislation. Given the sensitivities of such claims, and the risk of deterring full and frank advice regarding matters of national security, however, this is a clear case where “special factors” strongly counsel against the recognition of a Bivens action.

“[W]here appropriate” are the key words. The Administration has already blocked criminal prosecution for torture. More importantly, this case is about Yoo’s involvement in creating that program. However, even in assisting in the establishment of a torture program, the Administration insists that there can not be civil liability (let alone criminal liability). If the Administration wanted to maintain the rule created at Nuremberg, it would have stated clearly that no privilege or law protects a lawyer who is assisting in the establishment of a war crime or torture program. Of course, the Administration has already said the opposite. Obama and Holder have stated that “just following orders” is a complete defense for CIA employees (here).

The effort to ignore the clear position of this Administration shows the dangers of a cult of personality. Just as conservatives ignored Bush’s violation of core conservative values on the budget and big government, some liberals are ignoring Obama’s violation of core liberal values on civil liberties and privacy.

For the DOJ brief, click here.

Do the Secret Bush Memos Amount to Treason? Top Constitutional Scholar Says Yes March 26, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Torture.
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Legal expert Michael Ratner calls the legal arguments made in the infamous Yoo memos, “Fuhrer’s law.”

By Naomi Wolf, AlterNet. Posted March 25, 2009.

In early March, more shocking details emerged about George W. Bush legal counsel John Yoo’s memos outlining the destruction of the republic.

The memos lay the legal groundwork for the president to send the military to wage war against U.S. citizens; take them from their homes to Navy brigs without trial and keep them forever; close down the First Amendment; and invade whatever country he chooses without regard to any treaty or objection by Congress.

It was as if Milton’s Satan had a law degree and was establishing within the borders of the United States the architecture of hell.

I thought this was — and is — certainly one of the biggest stories of our lifetime, making the petty burglary of Watergate — which scandalized the nation — seem like playground antics. It is newsworthy too with the groundswell of support for prosecutions of Bush/Cheney crimes and recent actions such as Canadian attorneys mobilizing to arrest Bush if he visits their country.

The memos are a confession. The memos could not be clearer: This was the legal groundwork of an attempted coup. I expected massive front page headlines from the revelation that these memos exited. Almost nothing. I was shocked.

As a non-lawyer, was I completely off base in my reading of what this meant, I wondered? Was I hallucinating?

Astonished, I sought a reality check — and a formal legal read — from one of the nation’s top constitutional scholars (and most steadfast patriots), Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has been at the forefront of defending the detainees and our own liberties.

Here is our conversation:

Naomi Wolf: Michael, can you explain to a layperson what the Yoo memos actually mean?’

Michael Ratner: What they mean is that your book looks moderate in respect to those issues now. This — what is in the memos — is law by fiat.

I call it “Fuhrer’s law.” What those memos lay out means the end of the system of checks and balances in this country. It means the end of the system in which the courts, legislature and executive each had a function and they could check each other.

What the memos set out is a system in which the president’s word is law, and Yoo is very clear about that: the president’s word is not only law according to these memos, but no law or constitutional right or treaty can restrict the president’s authority.

What Yoo says is that the president’s authority as commander in chief in the so-called war on terror is not bound by any law passed by Congress, any treaty, or the protections of free speech, due process and the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. The First, Fourth and Fifth amendments — gone.

What this actually means is that the president can order the military to operate in the U.S. and to operate without constitutional restrictions. They — the military —  can pick you or me up in the U.S. for any reason and without any legal process. They would not have any restrictions on entering your house to search it, or to seize you. They can put you into a brig without any due process or going to court. (That’s the Fourth and Fifth amendments.)

The military can disregard the Posse Comitatus law, which restricts the military from acting as police in the the United States. And the president can, in the name of wartime restrictions, limit free speech. There it is in black and white: we are looking at one-person rule without any checks and balances — a lawless state. Law by fiat.

Who has suspended the law this way in the past? It is like a Caesar’s law in Rome; a Mussolini’s law in Italy; a Fuhrer’s law in Germany; a Stalin’s law in the Soviet Union. It is right down the line. It is enforcing the will of the dictator through the military.

NW: The mainstream media have virtually ignored these revelations, though it seems to me this is the biggest news since Pearl Harbor.

MR: I think that’s right. We had a glimmering of the blueprint for some of this — when they picked up Jose Padilla, the military went to a prison and snatched an American citizen as if they had a perfect right to do so.

Now we can see that these memos laid the legal groundwork for such actions. We knew the military could do this to an individual. We did not know the plan was to eliminate First Amendment constitutional rights for the entire population.

NW: If Bush only wanted these powers in order to prosecute a war on terror, why does he need to suspend the First Amendment? Isn’t that the smoking gun of a larger intention toward the general population?

MR: Part of this plan was actually implemented: for instance, they tried to keep people like Padilla from getting to a magistrate. They engaged in the wiretapping, because according to these memos there was no Fourth Amendment.

They had to be planning some kind of a takeover of the United States to be saying they could simply abolish the First Amendment if the president believed it was necessary in the name of national security. It lays the groundwork for what could have been a massive military takeover of the United States.

Here they crept right up and actually implemented part of the plan, with Padilla, with the warrantless wiretapping. Yet they are saying in the White House and in Congress that it is looking backward to investigate the authors of these memos and those who instructed Yoo and others to write them.

But investigation and prosecutions are really looking forward — to say we need the deterrence of prosecution so this does not happen again.

NW: What about the deployment of three brigades in the U.S.? How should we read that?’

MR: With terrorism as less of a concern to many, but now with the economy in tatters there is a lot more militant activism in U.S. — the New School and NYU student takeovers, protests around the country and strikes are just the beginning. I think governments are now concerned over people’s activism, and people’s anger at their economic situation. I don’t think those brigades can be detached from the idea that there might well be a huge amount of direct-action protest in the U.S.

There could have also been a closer election that could have been stolen easily and then a huge protest. Those troops would have been used to enforce the will of the cabal stealing the election.

NW: As a layperson, I don’t fully understand what powers the memos actually manifest. Are they theoretical or not just theoretical? What power did the memos actually give Bush?

MR: They were probably, in fact almost for sure, written in cahoots with the administration — [Karl] Rove, [Dick] Cheney — to give them legal backing for what they planned or wanted to carry out.

What I assume happened here is people like Cheney or his aides go to the Office of Legal Counsel and say, “We are going to need legal backing, to give a face of legality to what we are doing and what we are planning.” When the president then signs a piece of paper that says, “OK, military, go get Jose Padilla,” these memos give that order a veneer of legality.

If you are familiar with the history of dictators, coups and fascism (as I know you are), they (the planners) prefer a veneer of legality. Hitler killed 6 million Jews with a veneer of legality — getting his dictatorial powers through the Reichstag and the courts.

These memos gave the Bush administration’s [lawless] practices the veneer of legality.

NW: So are you saying that these memos actually created a police state that we did not know about?

MR: If you look at police state as various strands of lawlessness, we knew about some of this lawlessness even before this latest set of memos.

But the memos revealed how massive the takeover of our democracy was to be — that this wasn’t just going to be a few individuals here or there who suffered the arrows of a police state.

These memos lay the groundwork for a massive military takeover of the United States in cahoots with the president. And if that’s not a coup d’etat then, nothing is.

NW: Can I ask something? I keep thinking about the notion of treason. In America now, people tend to read the definition of treason in the Constitution as if they are thinking of a Tokyo Rose or an American citizen acting as an agent for an enemy state — very much a World War II experience of the traitor to one’s country.

But I’ve been reading a lot of 16th and 17th century history, and it seems to me that the founders were thinking more along the lines of English treason of that era — small groups of Englishmen, usually nobility, who formed cabals and conspired with one another to buy or recruit militias to overthrow the crown or Parliament.

The notion that a group might conspire in secret to overthrow the government is not a wild, marginal concept, it is a substantial part of European, and especially British, Renaissance and Reformation-era history and would have been very much alive in the minds of the Enlightenment-era founders. (I just visited the Tower of London where this was so frequent a charge against groups of English subjects that there is a designated Traitor’s Gate.)

So clearly you don’t have to act on behalf of another state to commit treason. The Constitution defines it as levying war against the United States or giving aid and comfort to its enemies. It says nothing about the enemy having to be another state.

When the Constitution was drafted, the phrase “United States” barely referred to a singular country; it referred to a new federation of many united states. They imagined militias rising up against various states; it was not necessarily nation against nation.

Surely, when we have evidence Bush prepared the way to allow the military to imprison or shoot civilians in the various states and created law to put his own troops over the authority of the governors and the national guard of the various states, and when the military were sent to terrorize protesters in St. Paul, [Minn.], Bush was levying war in this sense against the united states?

Hasn’t Bush actually levied war against Minnesota? And if our leaders and military are sworn to protect and defend the Constitution, and there is clear evidence now that Bush and his cabal intended to do away with it, are they not our enemies and giving aid and comfort to our enemies? Again, “enemy” does not seem to me to be defined in the Constitution as another sovereign state.

MR: You are right. Treason need not involve another state. Aaron Burr was tried for treason. I do think that a plan to control the military, use it in the United States contrary to law and the Constitution and employ it to levy a war or takeover that eliminates the democratic institutions of the country constitutes treason, even if done under the president of the United States.

The authority given by these memos that could be used to raid every congressional office, raid and search every home, detain tens of thousands, would certainly fit a definition of treason.

This would be the president making war against the institutions of the United States.

Naomi Wolf is the author of Give Me Liberty (Simon and Schuster, 2008), the sequel to the New York Times best-seller The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot (Chelsea Green, 2007).

Prosecuting the Bush Team? March 3, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush.
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Robert Pallitto | March 2, 2009

Foreign Policy in Forus, http://www.fpif.org

In the months following September 11, 2001, lawyers in the White House and the Justice Department interpreted U.S. and international law to provide legal support for the administration in its “war on terror.” With regard to interrogation of terror suspects, John Yoo, David Addington, Jay Bybee, and others justified the use of such harsh and dangerous tactics as waterboarding and stress positions. In a 2002 memo, they advised that only actions causing severe pain equivalent to “organ failure” would violate the U.S. torture law. Moreover, the memo stated that only if they acted with the specific intention to cause such pain — rather than acting with the primary goal of obtaining information — would the interrogators violate the law. Finally, the memo argued that these interrogations were rooted in an inherent executive power to protect the nation. As such, other branches of government could not review or limit such policies.

The architects of the Bush administration’s torture policy clearly wanted to facilitate the use of torture tactics and to insulate themselves from future civil and criminal liability. In the words of legal scholar Jeremy Waldron, they were using the U.S. legal definition of torture as “something to game, a determinate envelope to push.”

A new administration is already taking steps to reverse Bush policies on torture and detention. Will it go the next step and pursue criminal prosecutions of Bush legal advisors?

The Nuremberg Precedent

Scott Horton has suggested that the Reich Justice Ministry cases, which were tried at Nuremberg after World War II, furnish precedent for trying Addington, Yoo, and others. The Reich Ministry cases involved prosecution of judicial officials who crafted policies and justifications for detention and killing of Jews, Roma, and other groups targeted by the Nazi regime. Also included in these prosecutions were judges who subverted the legal process by allowing high-ranking executive branch officials to direct the judges to reach certain results. Horton notes that the rulings in these cases established “a particularly perilous standard of liability for government attorneys who adopt a dismissive attitude towards international humanitarian law.”

To be sure, Bush’s legal advisors were, to say the least, “dismissive” toward international humanitarian law. To take one example, White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales called the Geneva Conventions “quaint” and “obsolete.” This attitude wasn’t limited to international law. The Bybee memo cited a federal health care statute to define the term “severe pain” as that term is used in the torture law. Of course, it makes no sense to use a statute concerning payment for medical treatment to authorize inflicting pain on a person. This definitional stretch, which would be laughable in a less serious context, is an indication of the unrestrained determination to find and use anything, no matter how inapposite or farfetched, to take the administration where it wanted to go with its torture policies. Federal court rules allow judges to sanction attorneys for making frivolous arguments. Such a “severe pain” argument should be subject to similar sanction.

The Bush advisors were wrong on the law when they suggested that executive torture policies were unreviewable, and they were wrong in their interpretation of the U.S. criminal law prohibiting torture (they admitted as much when they repudiated the 2002 torture memo two years later). In Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (2006), the U.S. Supreme Court specifically rejected the claim that prisoner treatment need not comply with the Geneva Conventions. On this issue, the Bush team clearly misinterpreted the law and then broke it. But how do we address the damage done to our democratic and constitutional values, to our standing in the world? Should criminal prosecutions be part of that effort, brought either in U.S. federal court or in an international tribunal?

Criminal Prosecutions

U.S. law specifically prohibits torture. It’s a federal crime to commit torture, and the Bush advisors sought to interpret that law in a way that would permit such practices as waterboarding. The advisors’ actions could be considered a conspiracy to violate the torture law. They themselves didn’t engage in prohibited acts of torture, but they made it easier for others to do so.

The problem here is that the actions involved were themselves interpretations of law: State officials were making arguments about what the law meant and suggesting that it should be read narrowly. Horton suggests that lawyers aren’t permitted, in such a case, to “get it wrong” and then be excused for doing so. In the Reich Justice Ministry cases, the judicial officials made decisions and created policies that were later found to be illegal, and many of those officials were convicted of war crimes at Nuremburg. The important difference, however, is that the Reich Justice Ministry officials were complicit in a criminal regime. The structural rules of the government were illegitimate, created by a chief executive (Hitler) to preserve and increase his own power.

In the U.S. case, the structuring rules of government were not illegal. The legislature and the courts continued to function according to the constitution, even though the president tried to shield his actions and those of his administration from review. In several instances — authorizing military action against Iraq, detainee treatment, denial of court review to detainees, immunity for warrantless wiretapping — Congress approved presidential actions, thus making it harder to argue that the government wasn’t operating according to valid law. In fact, Congress even voted to confirm Jay Bybee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit after he left the Bush administration. In short, the government’s actions were illegitimate but the government itself was, unlike that of Nazi Germany, legitimate.

The case for a violation of international law might seem clearer, in a sense. Instead of defining a particular law narrowly as they did with U.S. torture statute, the Bush advisors said that a particular body of international law (the Geneva Conventions) did not apply at all. In other words, with regard to international law, the advisors denied the applicability and constraining force of a law altogether. Moreover, the Supreme Court expressly denied this administration claim in Hamdan. Again, however, the problem here concerns the provision of legal duties or advice as a crime, and specifically with the “fit” of the Nuremburg precedent. The court there held state officials liable for formulating policies and rendering decisions that assisted in a genocidal project and gave obeisance to a plan of government under which, according to the court opinion in the Justice Ministry cases, “Hitler did, in fact, exercise the right assumed by him to act as Supreme Judge, and in that capacity in many instances he controlled the decision of the individual criminal cases.” The court reasoned that this construction of German law left Nazi officials susceptible to prosecution under international law. In the U.S. case, however, the wrongdoing that occurred was done against the background of a political and legal order whose legitimacy wasn’t in doubt. The tripartite federal governmental system specified by the constitution operated throughout the period in question, and this fact distinguishes the two situations. This isn’t to excuse or to diminish what occurred between 2001 and 2008 in the United States. But the Nuremberg case doesn’t furnish an apt precedent for prosecution of the authors of the Bush torture policies.

Political Obstacles

In addition to the legal obstacles to prosecuting the architects of Bush’s torture policies, there are significant political obstacles as well. The United States refused to recognize the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court during the Bush years; Bush revoked the signatory status. Obama has indicated an interest in resigning the ICC agreement, but would he then deliver members of the previous administration to that court for prosecution? The likely partisan political tension and fallout from any prosecution, domestic or international, would create a disincentive for prosecution, especially for a pragmatic, centrist president. To be sure, nothing in Obama’s executive orders thus far suggests that he intends to review past actions of the previous administration for possible criminal sanctions. The executive order relating to torture is written with a prospective focus, declaring that from Inauguration Day forward the torture policies of the Bush administration will no longer be followed, and that the standards the rest of the world adheres to, including the Geneva Conventions, will govern interrogation of terror suspects. While this statement is a welcome return to the rule of law, it leaves the past actions of Bush’s advisors unaddressed.

On February 10, the Obama administration surprised some observers by indicating in court that it would adopt the past administration’s posture in a torture-related case. Jeppesen Dataplan v. Mohamed is a suit against the flight planning company that allegedly facilitated the rendition of a terror suspect to a secret torture location. The Bush administration intervened and convinced the trial court to dismiss the suit, claiming that the case involved state secrets and would threaten national security if it were allowed to proceed. At oral argument in the Ninth Circuit, Attorney General Holder argued that the dismissal should be affirmed, rather than reversing the course set previously by the Bush Justice Department. The state secrets privilege is a court-created doctrine that allows the executive branch to terminate litigation simply by claiming that a particular dispute involves national security matters. Critics of excessive executive power hoped that the new administration would at least modify the scope of the privilege, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Future of Prosecution

Hannah Arendt explored the problem of state crimes in her famous report on the 1961 trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem. Acting according to German law, Eichmann oversaw the transport of Jews and others to concentration camps as part of his administrative position in the German government. Thus, his official responsibility in the time period of the “final solution” was to facilitate genocide. Arendt points out that Eichmann’s trial presented certain novel legal problems: He was a bureaucrat in a criminal regime, following orders to commit monstrous evil. In view of the Nazis’ genocidal project, Eichmann’s conviction and execution was a foregone conclusion, but the problem of prosecuting state-administered torture and killing remains half a century later. Today, with the issue of criminal conduct by members of the Bush administration, Arendt’s question presents itself somewhat differently. Yoo, Addington, Bybee, and others sought to maneuver around legal and political obstacles within a regime outwardly functioning under rule of law. It was they who provided the chief executive with advice and arguments for the policies he wished to implement.

In view of the problems indicated here, it is unlikely that a criminal prosecution of the Bush advisors for their role in propagating torture will occur. This isn’t to say, by any means, that their behavior was lawful. Rather, it’s a recognition of the realities of the situation, both political and legal. Also, the officials themselves worked to shield themselves from liability, helping to create some of the obstacles facing the nation now as we attempt to reckon with the lawlessness of the past administration.

Certainly, the lessons of the past eight years provide a good reason to resign the ICC agreement. Also, the ethics investigations currently pending against individual officials are important, appropriate, and laudable. While they will yield less in the way of punishment, they also face none of the roadblocks indicated above. These roadblocks only underscore the final, painful lesson: Failure to stand up to an overreaching executive branch compounds the damage that branch can inflict on our system of government by making it more difficult ultimately to hold executive officials accountable.

Robert Pallitto is an assistant professor of political science at Seton Hall University, a former trial attorney, and a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus. He is co-author, with William Weaver, of Presidential Secrecy and the Law (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007), and he is currently working on a book about torture in U.S. history.

Jews Agree with Holocaust-Denying Bishop, We Can’t Believe the Holocaust Happened Either January 30, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Humor, Race, Religion.
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www.huffingtonpost.com, Posted January 30, 2009

Elayne Boosler

A decision this past Saturday by Pope Benedict XVI to reinstate four bishops has sparked controversy in the Catholic Church and beyond.

One of the clergymen, Bishop Richard Williamson, is a Holocaust denier. Last week, he spoke to Swedish television.

BISHOP RICHARD WILLIAMSON: I believe that the historical evidence is hugely against 6 million Jews having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler. I believe there were no gas chambers.

 

 

Well Bishop Williamson, no one ever said the Jews were “deliberately” gassed by Hitler. Everyone knows it was a terrible accident. That is why it is important to check your smoke detectors at least twice a year. Dude! We know that six million Jews died (along with millions of others), because the Nazis kept meticulous records (and would never have found humor in Dilbert). Okay, benefit of the doubt, I’ll give you ten thousand heart attacks, a quarter million pneumonia due to the thin pajamas, a half mil for starvation, and maybe a mil being worked to death. That still undeniably leaves almost five million Jews being killed in camps. What’s your theory? Bug zappers?

I think it’s great that a bishop (or pawn) in the Catholic church, reinstated by no less than the Pope (deliberately reinstated), questions historical evidence instead of being a blind follower. Bravo! Despite living witnesses, both victims and liberators, despite actual film footage of the gas chambers, ovens, and corpses, despite a trillion books written by historians, victims, and eye witnesses, despite world trials in Nuremburg, despite admissions by Nazis themselves, despite Shelley Winters winning an Oscar for The Diary of Anne Frank, Bishop Williamson denies this happened. What would it take to convince you? Maybe we could check Germany’s gas bill from 1939-45. There had to have been a spike. I wish you could have seen how few relatives were left to show up at our seders in Brooklyn when I was a child. Hey, maybe I could show you the actual photographs my father took and brought back from his two years in army hell, which culminated in his unit helping liberate Buchenvald. Remember, that was before Photoshop.

Say, why don’t you go visit Auschwitz now? You can see the ovens, and Disney swears they had nothing to do with developing the attraction after the fact.

The bishop finds no “historical evidence” to prove the Holocaust happened, yet despite no film footage, living witnesses, or verifiable first hand accounts, Bishop Williamson has no trouble believing that god had a son on earth by immaculate conception, who could raise the dead, and then returned from the dead as well. So what does this say about the nature of belief? It says that Bishop Williamson hates the Jews. But hey, this Pope spreads a big tent, like the circus, so welcome back.

You know the joke about how we thought Iraq still had weapons of mass destruction because we had the receipt? Well it’s kinda like that. We know the Holocaust happened, because the Pope at the time made the deal with Hitler to let it happen. Hey, here’s a good joke for the Pope to open with the next time he appears at Yankee Stadium: “Forget the Holocaust, I can’t believe the Red Sox winning the World Series happened!!” You’re welcome.

Blundering U.S. Should Spare the World Any More Nation Building December 16, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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www.truthdig.com
Posted on Dec 16, 2008

By William Pfaff

Early in December, the press reported from the Barack Obama transition team that the president-elect has signed onto a foreign policy program continuing the “war against terror” on new, expanded and fundamentally changed terms. The United States will attack the sources of the problem of terrorism. It will start from scratch in “rogue,” “failed” and other distressed Middle Eastern, South Asian and African states, to build them up into modern democracies.

The Washington foreign policy community has been working on this idea. Condoleezza Rice announced last summer that new, multi-agency teams were being formed to move into countries to build democratic institutions and practices there, in addition to providing traditional aid. “Democratic state-building,” she said, was the “new American wisdom.” Robert Gates, who will continue as Defense Secretary in the Obama administration, has already endorsed the substance of this program. Washington will—in Secretary Rice’s words—“change the world in America’s image.”

Let me change the subject for a moment. Recent days have brought information on a 513-page federal report on the American-led reconstruction of American-destroyed Iraq, which has proven to be a $100 billion disaster, incorporating ignorant assumptions, waste, organizational chaos, bureaucratic and personal rivalries, lies and incompetence.

According to the document, during the past five years little more has been accomplished than restoration of the basic services and productive capacity that was destroyed by the American invasion and the looting that followed.

This is after killing or wounding—how many, a half million?—Iraqi civilians in order to liberate them. No wonder the Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at George W. Bush at the president’s farewell Baghdad news conference, and shouted “you dog!”—the worst insults possible in Arabic culture. This happened because no one in responsibility knew what they were doing, beyond the military objectives. The neoconservatives assured the president that America built democracies in Germany and Japan after the war. Surely Iraq would be easier yet. No one in power asked anyone who was there in Germany or Japan, or bothered to consult the records, which are ample.

Japan was “democratized” because the emperor, having been informed that such was the wish of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, ordered his people to become democrats. Japan had a parliament and constitutional monarchy before the war, then became a military dictatorship, and by fiat became a constitutional democracy again after the war.

The British and American occupation authorities in Germany in 1945 began “denazification” but soon found that, as most official positions in the country had required Nazi party membership, if they denazified Germany there would be no one to run it. They settled for prosecuting actual war criminals. As the Cold War then began, they let the Germans get on with installing a democratic system as ordered (Germany had been a parliamentary democracy before Hitler and his party were democratically elected). The first thing the Bush administration did in its crusade to democratize Iraq was to fire all the people who knew how to run it.

Something else has happened recently that bears on the issue of American official competence. This was the confession by one of the most respected men on Wall Street, former chairman of the NASDAQ exchange, that he had for years been running a simple Ponzi pyramid swindle (paying high returns to established customers out of the funds newcomers invest). With this, on his own account, he stole $50 billion from individuals, including sophisticated investors, as well as banks in the United States and abroad.

Bernard Madoff seems to have done this over a 40-year period (he started his investment firm in 1960), despite three Securities and Exchange Commission investigations, formal complaints to the SEC from competitors, conspicuous secrecy about his clients and methods, published accounts going unquestioned despite being prepared by an obscure two-man auditing firm, and persistent Wall Street rumors and suspicions. It may be the biggest financial swindle ever committed.

It comes at an unfortunate moment for American-style capitalism, which it has been the U.S. aim to install worldwide. The capitalist world suffers a liquidity crisis and impending catastrophe that may prove worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s. It has been caused by American financial fraud and incompetence. Following this evidence of American fiasco in running its own affairs, let me return to the subject of a foreign policy devoted to remaking other countries “in the American image.”

The conclusions of the report on American reconstruction of Iraq included the following statement: “Five years after embarking on its largest foreign reconstruction project since the Marshall Plan in Europe after World War II, the U.S. government has in place neither the policies and technical capacity nor the organizational structure that would be needed to undertake such a program.” I would think this should be written in fiery letters over the portal of the future president Barack Obama’s National Security Council.

Visit William Pfaff’s Web site at www.williampfaff.com.

© 2008 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Senate Report Finds Rumsfeld Directly Responsible for US Torture of Prisoners December 12, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in George W. Bush, Human Rights, Iraq and Afghanistan.
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www.democracynow.org

December 12, 2008

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Bertolt Brecht’s Threepenny Opera, “Mack the Knife.” I’m Amy Goodman. We’re broadcasting from Berlin, from East Berlin, that is. In fact, right around the corner is the theater where this is performed, the Bertolt Brecht Theatre.

We’re joined right now by a longtime German attorney to talk about a bipartisan Senate report that was released on Thursday that accused former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other top Bush administration officials of being directly responsible for the abuse and torture of prisoners at Guantanamo and other US prisons.

The report stated, “The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of ‘a few bad apples’ acting on their own. The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees.”

The report was released by Democratic Senator Carl Levin and Republican John McCain of the Senate Armed Forces Committee. It was based on a nearly two year Senate investigation. The report was issued as speculation is running high in Washington over whether President Bush will issue blanket pardons of officials involved in some of the administration’s more controversial counterterrorism programs.

I’m joined here in Berlin by human rights attorney Wolfgang Kaleck. He is the General Secretary of the European Center of Constitutional and Human Rights. He has twice filed war crimes suits against Donald Rumsfeld in Germany.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Wolfgang.

WOLFGANG KALECK: Hi, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. Let’s start off by talking about the significance of this US Senate report. It’s interesting that it’s not only the Democrat Carl Levin but the former Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

WOLFGANG KALECK: Well, the report is fine, as many other reports which have been released during the last four years, but, one has to say, it only confirms the information which was already on the table. We had a lot of revelations by colleagues of yours, by Jane Mayer, by other investigative journalists. We had the book of Philippe Sands. And it’s the last report in a row. So what we are interested in is the consequences of all this. You know, where does it lead to? When does the new administration take the necessary measure to deal with these crimes? And they were crimes.

AMY GOODMAN: Do we see any move in that direction with the Barack Obama—just what is being put out now, his selections for his cabinet? Of course, he’s not in power yet.

WOLFGANG KALECK: Yeah, we follow a vivid discussion right now in the US. Some people demand at least—and this is the minimum—some kind of truth commission with subpoena powers. But this is the absolute minimum. Yeah, and others, like Michael Ratner from the Center for Constitutional Rights, demand strongly prosecution in the US. And we from Europe follow this process very carefully, because if nothing happens in the US or if Bush files preemptive pardon, we know it’s our turn again here in Europe.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about these lawsuits that you have filed against Donald Rumsfeld and also what most surprised you in the, I mean, US Senate report. You’ve been researching this for a long time, but it’s different when a body like the Senate says things like you have been saying.

WOLFGANG KALECK: No, actually, I’m very happy with the report. It’s another confirmation. And also, you know, it’s not only about dealing with these persons who are—some of them already left the administration. I’m not really interested in these persons, as such. I’m interested in a change of the attitude of the US military’s and the US Secret Service’s, and, of course, I’m interested in a restoration of the rule of law, and that requires investigation and prosecution. And we are very reluctant to have any firm opinion yet on that, because we have to wait for the 20th of January. But we will very carefully follow the first steps of the Obama administration.

AMY GOODMAN: And what most—what you think is most significant in the Senate report?

WOLFGANG KALECK: Well, there are strong conclusions, you know, like saying what we always were saying, that the US military and the CIA were using the methods of the old enemies in the Cold War, like waterboarding, which was used by North Korea, by North Vietnam and by China and the Soviet Union. So, this was already on the table. This is like ridiculous. But it’s good that it’s now being said by a congressional report, of course.

AMY GOODMAN: Your lawsuits that you’ve brought against Donald Rumsfeld—

WOLFGANG KALECK: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —together with the Center for Constitutional Rights—

WOLFGANG KALECK: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —explain what they are and where they’ve gone and why you, as a German attorney, are involved with this at all.

WOLFGANG KALECK: The Center approached us in Germany four years ago, when there was nearly total impunity in the US and no attempts at all to be seen that any other than the “rotten apples,” the twelve persons from the night shift in Abu Ghraib, should be sued for what happened in Abu Ghraib. And so, in 2004, we filed the first lawsuit here in Germany. Actually, it was linked with what you have been discussing right now, because many of the mother units of the acting persons in Abu Ghraib were stationed in Germany, so there was even a territorial connection. Four of the twelve persons—other than Rumsfeld, four of the twelve persons were stationed in Germany. So Germany—in our opinion, Germany had the obligation to pursue this. And against Rumsfeld, our complaint was based on the universal jurisdiction laws in Germany. So that was 2004.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain universal jurisdiction.

WOLFGANG KALECK: Universal jurisdiction is when there is, yeah, no territorial link or no person, no citizen from the country, neither as an actor nor as a victim, as someone involved in the crime. So when there is no connection at all to the country, many countries in the world now have so-called universal jurisdiction laws, which allow them to investigate and prosecute if the state where the crime occurred and if the International Criminal Court won’t take the case. So—but this is only one side of the game.

The other side is what we always said. Yeah, we tried to blame Rumsfeld for—and others, of course, especially the lawyers—for what they’ve done in conducting the torture program, but we don’t have to forget that—and this is not about universal jurisdiction. This is about territorial jurisdiction and about personal jurisdiction. We have many, many European countries right now with pending lawsuits because of their involvement in the US torture program. So we have ongoing trials in Italy, in Spain. We have—even now in Bosnia, in Poland, we have brave prosecutors who are investigating against their own officials. We have parliamentary inquiries. We have criminal investigations in Denmark, in Holland, in many other countries.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain a few of these?

WOLFGANG KALECK: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Because I think there’s very little sense in the United States of what goes on outside of the United States.

WOLFGANG KALECK: You know that the CIA rendition program was called by one investigator of the Council of Europe a “spider’s web.” So, this is to demonstrate the power of the CIA, like covering the whole world with their stations and using air bases all over the world to kidnap people, to torture them and to bring them anywhere.

AMY GOODMAN: By rendition. You’re referring to extraordinary rendition.

WOLFGANG KALECK: By rendition, yeah. I’m referring to the CIA extraordinary rendition program. So, on one hand, this really seems like a very powerful demonstration. On the other hand, they leave traces. Everywhere they act, there is jurisdiction on their actions. So they acted in Italy, for example. They kidnapped a Muslim cleric, Abu Omar, and brought him to Egypt, where he was really brutally tortured. And a brave prosecutor in Italy investigated the case and now is standing on trial against not only CIA agents, but also against the heads of the Italian secret service who helped the CIA.

AMY GOODMAN: But the CIA agents, of course, are not there. They’re being tried in absentia.

WOLFGANG KALECK: Yeah, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what does it mean? It means they can never return to Italy?

WOLFGANG KALECK: They can never return. There are arrest warrants, like there are arrest warrants in Germany against twelve CIA agents. So—

AMY GOODMAN: What happened here in Germany?

WOLFGANG KALECK: In Germany, it’s all because of the case of Khalid El-Masri, a German citizen who was kidnapped in Macedonia and then brought to Afghanistan and then returned to Germany. You know what? But what this means is, four years ago, everybody said suing—a lawsuit against US CIA agents, against US militarists, never brings you anywhere. And four years later, we find ourself in a situation where we have to say, this is, of course, not enough, but this is more than nothing. A lot has been happening. So, many, many lawyers, many prosecutors, many judges in several European countries took action, and I think there is more to come up. And it depends very much—there is much hope on the Obama administration, but it will depend very much if there is really something going on in the US. If not, I guess there will be more and more lawsuits here in Europe.

AMY GOODMAN: Wolfgang Kaleck, your first lawsuit against Rumsfeld in 2004, that was thrown out by the German government.

WOLFGANG KALECK: Yeah, that was a nice one, because we filed the lawsuit in late 2004, and they were somehow revising our complaint, because it was a very strong, long complaint. And Rumsfeld announced at a certain point that he wouldn’t come to Germany because of that pending lawsuit. And he wanted to come to the Munich Security Conference on 11th of February in 2005, and so the German prosecutor filed the dismissal on the 10th of February, 2005, one day before, so that Rumsfeld could attend the Munich Security Conference, which he did. So, that was—

AMY GOODMAN: Was the US bringing a lot of pressure to throw this out?

WOLFGANG KALECK: Yeah, it seems so. It seems so, because there were also upcoming visits of Condoleezza Rice and re-elected President George Bush by that time.

This attitude of the Germans, which was obviously politically motivated, gave us a fair chance to file a new lawsuit in 2006, where actually not only the Center for Constitutional Rights and we, the Germans, filed the case, but fifty organizations all over the world backed the case. And so, yeah, you know that the case gained a lot of public attention and also initiated a discussion that international justice has to be more than special justice for fallen dictators from Southern countries or special tribunals for Africa. If international justice wants to be taken serious in the future, it has to go after the powerful perpetrators also of the West and the North.

AMY GOODMAN: Wolfgang Kaleck, we’re sitting here in a studio in Berlin, East Berlin, to be exact. For those who are listening on radio, you can go to our website at democracynow.org. You’ll see the backdrop of this broadcast, significant buildings and monuments in Berlin. Can you talk about your concern—against the backdrop of this history, give us a quick one-minute tour of Berlin and its significant places. Even in the break, we were playing Bertolt Brecht’s Threepenny Opera, “Mack the Knife.” The significance of Bertolt Brecht here, a theater right around the corner.

WOLFGANG KALECK: Yeah. You know, we’re facing the Victory Column, where Barack Obama gave his speech in July. And this was actually a demonstration of war, because Germany was leading many wars in the past.

AMY GOODMAN: And we’re showing that backdrop right now.

WOLFGANG KALECK: Yeah, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: This was where—the significance of that place, where Barack Obama spoke?

WOLFGANG KALECK: Yeah, yeah. Berlin is full of monuments of war. And the Brandenburg Gate was the place, just where we’re sitting here—that was the first demonstration of Adolf Hitler when he was elected as a chancellor. So we have dealt a lot with impunity. And actually, you know, the Nazi—the whole chapter of the Nazi crimes was never, never really challenged by German justice. So, maybe we the Germans are not the best persons to tell others how to tackle impunity, but some of us learned a lot during the last years.

AMY GOODMAN: And the significance of the wall coming down that divides where we are in East Berlin from West Berlin, that many people don’t even refer to east and west anymore, thinking of it as one united city now, the government back here at the Reichstag?

WOLFGANG KALECK: Now, that’s—the interesting thing for us with the fall of the wall is that it showed that history is open, and sometimes things may happen that you haven’t expected in years before. And that’s, you know, what we are also experiencing with our work against impunity in Southern America, because we deal with cases against Chilean and Argentinean military officers, where, thirty years after the crimes during the dictatorships in the ’70s, these people now find themselves on trial. And so, this is our hope, that the continuous work of human rights organizations, of lawyers and organizations all over the world will at some point result in investigation and prosecution against US torturers.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much for being with us today. Wolfgang Kaleck is the General Secretary of the European Center of Constitutional and Human Rights, as we wrap up our trip through Sweden and Germany. We’ll be back in New York on Monday, and we’ll be dealing with the issue of extraordinary rendition there, as well.