And you thought this was over?


We haven’t even heard nor seen the worst of what happened to people imprisoned in AbuGhraib. Eric Fair, the author of the book, Consequence comes out four square against torture or enhanced interrogation saying they are one and the same.  You can find an interview with him here.  What he is saying is what you can find in the pages of Miscellany101 since day one of the war but in today’s political climate where presidential candidates are calling for torture in very explicit terms and not caring to even debate its illegality Fair’s book should be front and center in any public debate on foreign policy where the issue of torture is brought up.

However, there has always been a lingering suspicion that we what we were told only scratched the surface and this latest news piece confirms that.

According to a number of global mainstream media sources, the Pentagon is covering up a disturbing video that was never made public with the rest of the recent torture report.

… the appalling video was recorded at Abu Ghraib, the notorious US torture dungeon in Iraq that made headlines roughly a decade ago, when the inhumane tactics being used at the prison were exposed……While the video has remained under wraps thus far, Hersh says it is only a matter of time before it comes out.

Giving a speech at the ACLU last week after the senate torture report was initially released, Hersh gave some insight into what was on the Pentagon’s secret tape.

In the most revealing portion of his speech he said that:

“Debating about it, ummm … Some of the worst things that happened you don’t know about, okay? Videos, um, there are women there. Some of you may have read that they were passing letters out, communications out to their men. This is at Abu Ghraib … The women were passing messages out saying ‘Please come and kill me, because of what’s happened’ and basically what happened is that those women who were arrested with young boys, children in cases that have been recorded. The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling. And the worst above all of that is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking that your government has. They are in total terror. It’s going to come out.”

Bargaining from a position of moral clarity


ramadanThat’s what Tariq Ramadan says should be the attitude of Muslims in the West and anything less than that is unacceptable.

The leaders of ISNA can boast a proud record of service to American Muslims, for which they must be thanked and congratulated. The annual ISNA convention is an important gathering, featuring a multiplicity of participants and a broad cross-section of activities. In recent years, however, the political positions taken by the organization’s leadership have not always been clear-cut. Though it is essential, I believe, to remain open to dialogue with the authorities, it is likewise essential that positions of principle must be maintained, re-affirmed and defended. Not simply for the good of the Muslims, but in the name of the contribution of American Muslims to their society. Criticism of the domestic policy of the current administration, like those that preceded it, is a moral obligation. Summary arrests, arbitrary prison terms, inhuman psychological torture and solitary confinement, the shadowy role of informers and the deeply troubling and unacceptable methods used by the FBI, which has provoked young people to engage in extremist actions, must be unconditionally condemned. Not in the name of Islam, but in the name of the values proclaimed by the United States. However, the ISNA leadership is too often silent, as if paralyzed by fear. It fares no better with respect to American foreign policy. Its silence over American support for the outlaw and inhuman policies of Israel cannot be justified, even less so after attending an iftar organized by the White House during which President Obama defended Israel while the Israeli ambassador tweeted his delight! We cannot be forever silent: what kind of active and responsible citizenship does the ISNA leadership offer young American Muslims? What kind of example? That of silent, fearful sycophants–or of free, public-spirited citizens who, while defending the values of human dignity and justice, serve their country in the most sincere and critical way? That of the unconditional loyalty of the timorous, or the critical loyalty of free individuals? To attend the ISNA convention would be to endorse their silence.

I call her a terrorist


Some in media want to refer to her in her previous avocation……actress, but that was BEFORE she mailed a deadly poison to the President of the United States.  At her sentencing she admitted sending the poison in an effort to frame her ex-husband, but said she didn’t mean to harm anyone and she respects her President.  Does any of that make sense? She wants someone else to get in trouble with the law for trying to harm, kill, terrorize the President and she doesn’t want to hurt anyone…..?!?!?! Go figure.

Shannon Guess Richrdson

Shannon Guess Richrdson

The history of the Taliban starts here


Whenever you hear talk about negotiating with terrorists and the Obama administration, remember the Taliban was hatched in the White House of the #DemonicGOP’s idol, Ronald Reagan.

Reagan-Taliban

 

The American Right’s short term memory loss


The Cable Show 2010: An Evening With NBC UniversalI’m not a fan of Mika Brzezinski but I’ve gotta admit she nailed this one.  Since day one of Obama’s reign the Right has been looking for scandal and unlike his Democratic predecessor Bill Clinton, Obama hasn’t really given them one so they’ve had to make one up.  From the Affordable Care Act to Benghazi and now this, the release of an American POW from the Afghanistan theater, the #DemonicGOP has pulled scandal after scandal right out of their rear ends and flung them against the walls of our collective conscience.  If it stuck they ran with it, if it didn’t…for example the binladen hit/assassination they dropped it and moved on.  One thing is for sure…..Obama has made America safer from external foes, during his two terms so far and he’s dealt a serious blow to foreign American enemies who’ve dealt in violent rhetoric and threats against America.  Anyone remember Anwar al-Awlaki??

 

What is offensive about this picture?


snorestop-hed-2013Evidently some in America don’t like the imagery of an American soldier hugging a niqaabi clad woman in this snorestop advertisement that’s appearing in California.  Too many of us are still in the business of deciding for others who they can and cannot mate with.  Perhaps that is the discontent many have with Obama; the thought that a white woman would actually have sex with an African man and produce a child that would be as competitive in the western world as any  white child is too fearful a thought for some.

America is too culturally diverse today to have such limitations placed on people and their choices. There are Americans embracing Islam and Muslim women/men are marrying them and many of them are in the US military. Neither act, accepting a religious belief and being American or in the service of your country  is mutually exclusive unless you’re a bigot who believes in really antiquated notions of racial superiority being diluted with co-mingling.

Meet the players behind the picture

Closed for business


shutdownAmerica has been closed for business for quite a long time.  Well before President Obama’s second term began, the #DemonicGop decided the only thing it was going to do was obstruct any initiatives taken by the either party, Democrats or non #DemonicGOP members, in order to make the Obama administration look inept and incompetent even if it was to the detriment to their own party or the American people.  Ultimately the purpose is to show any future aspirants to power that power is reserved for only a few in American society….people of color or faith need not apply, and in case you forget remember what happened to Obama.

The #DemonicGOP is not without help in their agenda.  A #sycophanticMedia has gone a long way to legitimize the fraud coming from the opposition party and leading to the shutdown.  In fact some among the #sycophanticMedia have used terms like “slimdown” to water down the impact of the lunacy coming out of Washington.  But if you really want to know what’s going you’ll have to look beyond the #sycophanticMedia into what’s being said like this

Joan Walsh nods:

On the day the Affordable Care Act takes effect, the U.S. government is shut down, and it may be permanently broken. You’ll read lots of explanations for the dysfunction, but the simple truth is this: It’s the culmination of 50 years of evolving yet consistent Republican strategy to depict government as the enemy, an oppressor that works primarily as the protector of and provider for African-Americans, to the detriment of everyone else. The fact that everything came apart under our first African-American president wasn’t an accident, it was probably inevitable.

BillClintonI’d say it came apart during the impeachment of Bill Clinton, the first sign of madness when the Democrats first truly wielded power after the Southern Strategy bore fruit under Reagan. Remember that Clinton was from the beginning regarded as illegitimate because he didn’t get more than 43 percent of the vote. Let us recall Bob Dole’s wordsafter Clinton’s 1992 clear electoral college victory:

There isn’t any Clinton mandate. Fifty-seven percent didn’t vote for him. I’ll represent the 57 percent.

Or Tommy Thompson with an equally surreal view of the Constitution:

Only 43 percent of the people voted for Bill Clinton — that is not much of a mandate. . . . Republicans won nine legislative houses across the country. . . . Republicans have just as much of a mandate as the Democrats.

When you compare this with the Republican view of the 2000 election when George W Bush lost the popular vote and, undeterred by any sense of restraint, doubled down on massive unfunded tax cuts and pre-emptive wars along with budget-busting new entitlements, you get a better sense of who feels entitled to rule in this country, and who is routinely regarded as “illegitimate.”

Now, of course, this merely suggests that it is simply being Democrats that render the last two Democratic presidents inherently illegitimate – since only one was African-American. But remember how Clinton was regarded as “the first black president” by many, including those on the left? Remember his early days fighting for civil rights in Arkansas? You think a white Southerner overturning the success of the Southern Strategy would be deemed acceptable to the Southern right which increasingly dominated the GOP?

Nonetheless, Charles C. W. Cooke rightly notes:

Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George H. W. Bush, all of whom presided over fractious shutdowns, might find this insinuation rather perplexing. In the last 40 years, only President George W. Bush was spared such a conflict.

The one president whose legitimacy was actually in some actual doubt escaped the revolt entirely. Hmmm. Quod erat demonstrandum.

More to the point, the other shutdowns were not about demanding the repeal of an already-enacted, constitutionally-approved signature achievement of a re-elected president – only a few years after a massive financial crisis and during a global recession. They were bargaining positions in which both sides had something to offer and a compromise to reach. All the GOP has to offer this time is … shutting down the government. This is not negotiation; it’s blackmail. And blackmail after all the proper avenues for stopping, amending, delaying and reforming the health bill have been exhausted. I mean they repealed the bill 41 times already – proof positive that all constitutional means for opposition have been exhausted. That‘s what makes this different. It’s not about playing hard by the rules. It’s losing and throwing the board-game in the air and threatening the destruction of the US and global economy in consequence. It’s unbelievable.

But when I mention race, I should unpack my point. It’s not a simple one, and I do not mean to be glib or too casual in throwing that word around.obamaracism

I’m talking about the difference between opposition to a president’s agenda and a belief that he is somehow an impostor, illegitimate, and a usurper for reasons that seem, in the end, to come down to racial and cultural panic.Do I have to recount the endless accusations against Obama of such?  No president has been subjected to endless litigation of his birth certificate or his religious faith (as if the latter mattered anyway). No president has been heckled in a State of the Union address with the words “You lie!” as Obama was. There was no claim that George W Bush was illegitimate because he muscled through a huge Medicare expansion as he was destroying this country’s fiscal standing having lost the popular vote to Al Gore. The Democrats didn’t threaten to shut the government down to stop anything he did. And no Republican, facing a major economic crisis, has received zero votes from the opposition in his first year. Both Bushes and Reagan won considerable Democratic support for tax cuts and tax hikes in their early years. The opposition accepted the legitimacy of the election. That’s the difference.

But Clinton was nonetheless regarded as illegitimate despite being what in any other era would be called a moderate Republican. Ditto Obama, whose stimulus and healthcare law were well within conservative policy consensus only a decade ago. I supported both presidents as a moderate small-c conservative (until Clinton revealed himself as sadly lacking the character not to self-implode). So I have long been puzzled not by legitimate opposition to various policies but by the frenzy of it. Call it the education of an English conservative in the long tortured history of American pseudo-conservatism.

In the end, I could only explain the foam-flecked frenzy of opposition to Clinton and Obama by the sense that the Civil Rights Revolution of the 1960s was the defining event for a certain generation, that the backlash to it was seen as a restoration of the right people running the country (i.e. no minorities with real clout), and that Clinton’s and even more Obama’s victories meant this narrative was revealed as an illusion. This is compounded by racial and cultural panic – against gays, immigrants, Muslims, Latinos etc – and cemented by a moronic, literalist, utterly politicized version of Christianity. This mindset – what I have called the “fundamentalist psyche” – is what is fueling the rage. It’s what fueled the belief that Romney was on the verge of a landslide. It is inherently irrational. It knows somewhere deep down that it is headed for defeat. But it will take down as much of the country, economy and constitution as it can while doing so.

For this time, as they surely know, Reconstruction will not be on their terms. They have no agenda because the multi-racial, multi-cultural, moderate-right country they live in is a refutation of their core identity. So race and culture fuel this – perhaps not explicitly or even consciously for some, but surely powerfully for many. And we are reaching a perilous moment as their cultural marginalization intensifies and their political defeat nears. After that, the rage could become truly destabilizing, unless some kind of establishment Republican leadership can learn to lead again. America and the world need to batten down the hatches.

 

There’s this shellacking for members of the #sycophanticMedia

U.S. news reports are largely blaming the government shutdown on the inability of both political parties to come to terms. It is supposedly the result of a “bitterly divided” Congress that “failed to reach agreement” (Washington Post) or “a bitter budget standoff” left unresolved by “rapid-fire back and forth legislative maneuvers” (New York Times). This sort of false equivalence is not just a failure of journalism. It is also a failure of democracy.gov't suicide

When the political leadership of this country is incapable of even keeping the government open, a political course correction is in order. But how can democracy self-correct if the public does not understand where the problem lies? And where will the pressure for change come from if journalists do not hold the responsible parties accountable?

The truth of what happened Monday night, as almost all political reporters know full well, is that “Republicans staged a series of last-ditch efforts to use a once-routine budget procedure to force Democrats to abandon their efforts to extend U.S. health insurance.” (Thank you, Guardian.)

And holding the entire government hostage while demanding the de facto repeal of a president’s signature legislation and not even bothering to negotiate is by any reasonable standard an extreme political act. It is an attempt to make an end run around the normal legislative process. There is no historical precedent for it. The last shutdowns, in 1995 and 1996, were not the product of unilateral demands to scrap existing law; they took place during a period of give-and-take budget negotiations. obstructionism

But the political media’s aversion to doing anything that might be seen as taking sides — combined with its obsession with process — led them to actively obscure the truth in their coverage of the votes. If you did not already know what this was all about, reading the news would not help you understand.

What makes all this more than a journalistic failure is that the press plays a crucial role in our democracy. We count on the press to help create an informed electorate. And perhaps even more important, we rely on the press to hold the powerful accountable.

That requires calling out political leaders when they transgress or fail to meet commonly agreed-upon standards: when they are corrupt, when they deceive, when they break the rules and refuse to govern. Such exposure is the first consequence. When the transgressions are sufficiently grave, what follows should be continued scrutiny, marginalization, contempt and ridicule.

In the current political climate, journalistic false equivalence leads to an insufficiently informed electorate, because the public is not getting an accurate picture of what is going on.

But the lack of accountability is arguably even worse because it has the characteristics of a cascade failure. When the media coverage seeks down-the-middle neutrality despite one party’s outlandish conduct, there are no political consequences for their actions. With no consequences for extremism, politicians who have succeeded using such conduct have an incentive to become even more extreme. The more extreme they get, the further the split-the-difference press has to veer from common sense in order to avoid taking sides. And so on.

The political press should be the public’s first line of defense when it comes to assessing who is deviating from historic norms and practices, who is risking serious damage to the nation, whose positions are based in irrational phobias and ignorance rather than data and reason.  corporate-news-poster

Instead journalists have been suckered into embracing “balance” and “neutrality” at all costs, and the consequences of their choice in an era of political extremism will only get worse and worse.

One of the great ironies of the current dynamic is that political scientists Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann, who for decades were conventional voices of plague-on-both-your-houses centrism, have now become among the foremost critics of a press corps that fails to report the obvious. They describe the modern Republican Party, without any hesitation, as “a party beholden to ideological zealots.”

But as Mann explained in an interview last year, “The mainstream press really has such a difficult time trying to cope with asymmetry between the two parties’ agendas and connections to facts and truth.”

Even with a story as straightforward as the government shutdown, splitting the difference remains the method of choice for the political reporters and editors in Washington’s most influential news bureaus. Even when they surely know better. Even when many Republican elected officials have criticized their own leaders for being too beholden to the more radical right wing.

Media critics — and members of the public — have long decried this kind of he-said-she-said reporting. The Atlantic’s James Fallows, one of the most consistent chroniclers and decriers of false equivalence, describes it as the “strong tendency to give equal time and credence to varying ‘sides’ of a story, even if one of the sides is objectively true and the other is just made up.”

New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen argues that truth telling has been surpassed as a newsroom priority by a neither-nor impartiality he calls the “view from nowhere.”

Blaming everyone — Congress, both sides, Washington — is simply the path of least resistance for today’s political reporters. It’s a way of avoiding conflict rather than taking the risk that the public — or their editors — will accuse them of being unprofessionally partisan.

But making a political judgment through triangulation — trying to stake out a safe middle ground between the two political parties — is still making a political judgment. It is often just not a very good one. And in this case, as in many others, it is doing the country a grave disservice.

So, no, the shutdown is not generalized dysfunction or gridlock or stalemate. It is aberrational behavior by a political party that is willing to take extreme and potentially damaging action to get its way. And by not calling it what it is, the political press is enabling it.

We need a more fearless media.

Is there more to say than that?

The skinny on government surveillance of Americans


It’s real, pervasive and intrusive.  Any and everything you produce electronically, digitally or perhaps even analog with crossover to digital equipment is monitored by the government and stored away for future reference.  This can be done without the required governmental judicial oversight and is done, up until now, without your knowledge.  Eugene Robinson weighs in on that here

I don’t believe government officials when they say the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance programs do not invade our privacy. The record suggests that you shouldn’t believe them, either.

It pains me to sound like some Rand Paul acolyte. I promise I’m not wearing a tinfoil hat or scanning the leaden sky for black helicopters. I just wish our government would start treating us like adults — more important, like participants in a democracy — and stop lying. We can handle the truth.

James Clapper

James Clapper (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The starkest lie came in March at a Senate intelligence committee hearing, when Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked Director of National Intelligence James Clapper a simple question: “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”

Clapper replied, “No, sir.”

As we’ve learned from Edward Snowden, a former analyst for an NSA contractor, Clapper’s answer was patently false. The agency collects metadata — essentially, a detailed log — of many and perhaps all of our domestic phone calls.

Lying to Congress is a serious offense; baseball legend Roger Clemens was tried —and acquitted — on criminal charges for allegedly lying about steroid use at a congressional hearing. The chance that Clapper will face similar peril, however, is approximately zero.

Following Snowden’s revelations, Clapper said that an honest answer to Wyden’s question would have required him to divulge highly classified secrets, so he gave the “least untruthful” answer he could come up with. Clapper apparently believes that “least” is a synonym for “most.”

In a recent letter to the Senate intelligence committee, Clapper said he thought Wyden was asking about the content of domestic communications — which the NSA says it does not collect “wittingly,” for what that’s worth — rather than about the metadata. “Thus, my response was clearly erroneous,” Clapper wrote, “for which I apologize.”

He sounded like the cheating husband, caught in flagrante by his wife, who feigns surprise and says, “What mistress? Oh, you mean that mistress.”

Clapper’s defenders say Wyden unfairly asked a question that he knew the director could not answer. But Wyden says he sent the question to Clapper’s office a day in advance — and gave him the chance to amend his answer afterward.

Also untrue is President Obama’s assertion that the NSA surveillance programs are “transparent.” They are, in fact, completely opaque — or were, until Snowden started leaking the agency’s secrets.

Eric Snowden

Edward Snowden

By what authority does the government collect data on our private communications? We don’t know. More accurately, we’re not permitted to know.

A provision of the Patriot Act allows the FBI to seek warrants “requiring the production of any tangible things (including books, records, papers, documents and other items) for an investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities.”

Seizing records that pertain to an investigation is not the same thing as compiling a comprehensive log of billions of domestic phone calls. How has the law been stretched — I mean, interpreted — to accommodate the NSA’s wish to compile a record of our contacts, associations and movements? The government refuses to tell us.

We know that permission for this surveillance was granted by one or more judges of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. But the court’s proceedings and rulings are secret. We don’t know what argument the government made in seeking permission to conduct this kind of vacuum-cleaner surveillance. We don’t know what the court’s legal reasoning was in granting the authority. We don’t know whether the court considers other laws so elastic.

We do know that the court’s secret hearings are not adversarial, meaning that there is no push-back from advocates of civil liberties. And we know that since its inception the court has approved more than 30,000 government requests for surveillance warrants and refused only 11.

I accept that the administration officials, Justice Department lawyers, federal judges, FBI agents and NSA analysts involved in the phone surveillance and other programs are acting in good faith. The same is true of members of the House and Senate intelligence committees, who are supposed to be providing oversight. But honorable intentions are not enough — especially when we know that much of what these honorable officials have told us is false.

The biggest lie of all? That the American people don’t even deserve to be told what their laws mean, much less how those laws are being used.

Congress has abrogated its oversight powers, choosing instead to blame the present Administration which has simply continued the policy of its predecessors.  One of the reasons why the progressive movement was so vigorous in its opposition to the Bush administration’s surveillance measures  ramped up during the fictitious war on terror was because of the common government practice of never relinquishing power of secret enforcement measures once they have been imposed.  We’ve talked about that here and here among other places.  Rather, governments tend to embellish those practices and make it even more difficult to rescind them.  Such is the case now with the Obama administration; he has doubled down on what Bush gave America.  That’s not what you call change, but it’s no different a federal policy than any other president either.  It’s probably accurate to assume that ANY president will take this position of intrusive national spying on American citizens regardless of his/her campaign promises and especially a lame duck president not faced with re-election who can disregard the wishes of the electorate no matter how progressive it may be.  The solution therefore is in oversight and congress members who will take that responsibility seriously.  At the moment there are none like that in Washington.  Fix this America!

Disturbing


A letter from prisoner 329 at Guantanamo Bay

This is my call to the outside world from behind these rusty bars, in this monstrous cell. Does the world know what is happening in this prison?

Despite the long years we the prisoners have spent in this place from 2002 to 2013, the American government does not seem interested in solving the problem. The past few months have been among the harshest lived by the prisoners here. During the Bush years, solutions seemed possible. Under Obama, it seems like there is no will to solve the problem.

I once lived communally with the other prisoners in Camp Six. Now we are all in solitary confinement here, with only two hours of recreation a day. Some prisoners are too weak and sick to ever leave their cells as a result of the hunger strike and the U.S. military’s reaction to it.

The military here has used brute force against the hunger strikers. They have beaten us and used rubber-coated bullets and tear gas against us. They have confiscated everything from our cells, from toothbrushes to blankets and books. They have confined us to cold, windowless cells, beyond the reach of the sun’s rays or a fresh breeze. Sometimes, we don’t even know if it’s day or night out.

It isn’t unusual for prison guards here to search prisoners’ genital parts and their rectum ten times in a single day.

According to Vallely captives were only restra...

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Daily, I am forced into a restraint chair, my arms, legs and chest tied down tight. Big guards grab my head with both hands. I feel like my skull is being crushed. Then, so-called nurses violently push a thick tube down my nostril. Blood rushes out of my nose and mouth. The nurses turn on the feeding solution full throttle. I cannot begin to describe the pain that causes.

Recently, a nurse brutally yanked out the force-feeding tube, threw it on my shoulder, and left the cell, leaving me tied down to the chair. Later, the nurse returned to the cell, took the tube off my shoulder and began to reinsert it into my nose. I asked him to cleanse and purify the tube first but he refused.

When I later tried to complain to another nurse about the incident, the other nurse threatened to force the feeding tube up my rear, not down my nose, if I didn’t suspend my hunger strike.

And when I tried taking the matter to a senior medical officer, he told me that they would strap me to a bed and make me urinate through a catheter forced into my penis if I kept up my peaceful protest.

I used to think I was the only one coping with severe joint pain, a weakened memory, having a hard time concentrating, and feeling constantly distracted as a result of all this. But I’ve since discovered that many hunger strikers struggle with the same symptoms. Without realizing it, some of the hunger strikers even speak to themselves out loud when they’re alone.

But we also know that there are peaceful protests in solidarity with our plight in many countries. Even in America itself, there are protests demanding that the U.S. government close this prison that has hurt America’s reputation. And international criticism mounts daily.

We the hunger strikers continue to demand our rights. President Obama can begin by releasing those of us who have been cleared for release years ago, followed by the prisoners who have not been charged with any crime after eleven years in captivity.

Despite the difficulties, the hard conditions, and the challenges created by the U.S. government, those of us on hunger strike will continue protesting until our demands for justice are met.

 

This letter was written by a man held at Gitmo since 2002, but who has been cleared for release since 2010, yet he still languishes in prison.  

Ali Abunimah’s-Obama’s rush to judgment: Was the Boston bombing really a “terrorist” act?


From The Electronic Intifada

by Ali Abunimah

President Obama has repeatedly claimed that the Boston Marathon bombing was an “act of terror” and that its alleged perpetrators are “terrorists.”

It may seem pointless to quibble with this description: after all what could be more “terroristic” than setting off bombs at a peaceful sporting event killing three persons, one a child, and injuring or horrifically maiming dozens more?

But in fact how the act is described is very important in determining government, media and wider societal responses, including ramping up racism and bigotry against Muslims, Arabs or people of color.

There can be no doubt that the Boston Marathon bombing was a murderous act, but does it –– based on what is known –– fit the US government’s own definitions of “terrorism”?

It is important to recall that other, far more lethal recent events, including the mass shootings in Aurora, Colorado and the school massacre at Sandy Hook, Connecticut have not been termed “terrorism,” nor their perpetrators labeled “terrorist” by the government. Why?

Obama’s changing descriptions

In his first statement shortly after news emerged of the bombing in Boston on 15 April 2013, Obama pointedly did not describe the attack as “terrorism.” The term is totally absent from his statement. He does say, “We still do not know who did this or why. And people shouldn’t jump to conclusions before we have all the facts.”

It was only the next day on Tuesday, 16 April, that Obama first called the bombing an “act of terrorism” after media had pressed the White House on the issue.

Last night, after 19-year-old suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured by police, Obama made a statement declaring: “We will investigate any associations that theseterrorists may have had. And we’ll continue to do whatever we have to do to keep our people safe.”

In his weekly video address today, Obama reaffirmed, “on Monday an act of terrorwounded dozens and killed three people at the Boston Marathon.”

Official definitions of “terrorism”

The US government has no single definition of “terrorism” but the National Institute of Justice at the US Department of Justice points to two influential standards that are in use, one enshrined in law and the other provided by the FBI:

Title 22 of the U.S. Code, Section 2656f(d) defines terrorism as “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.

Both definitions of terrorism share a common theme: the use of force intended to influence or instigate a course of action that furthers a political or social goal. In most cases, NIJ researchers adopt the FBI definition, which stresses methods over motivations and is generally accepted by law enforcement communities.

What was the “political” or “social” goal of the Boston bombing?

Based on these definitions, what distinguishes a “mass shooting” such as Aurora or Sandy Hook on the one hand, from an act of “terrorism” on the other, is that the mass shooters have no political goals. Their act is nihilistic and is not carried out in furtherance of any particular cause.

So far, however, absolutely no evidence has emerged that the Boston bombing suspects acted “in furtherance of political or social objectives” or that their alleged act was “intended to influence or instigate a course of action that furthers a political or social goal.”

Nor is there any evidence that the two suspects are part of a group. Indeed, on Sunday,The Boston Globe cited Boston officials to report that, “all evidence thus far indicates they were acting alone and were not part of a broader conspiracy.”

Neither of the suspects is known to have made any statement of a political or other goal for their alleged action and there has been no claim of responsibility. Obama, in his statement last night, admitted as much:

Obviously, tonight there are still many unanswered questions. Among them, why did young men who grew up and studied here, as part of our communities and our country, resort to such violence? How did they plan and carry out these attacks, and did they receive any help?

So why is Obama calling them “terrorists?

Since Obama has no idea why the alleged suspects may have resorted to violence and no one else has offered an evidence-based explanation, why is Obama already labeling them “terrorists” when he himself warned against a “rush to judgment?”

The only explanation I can think of is the suspects’ identification as ethnic Chechens and Muslims, even though there is no evidence that they acted either in relation to events in their ancestral homeland or were motivated by any Islamist ideology.

True, Obama did switch to calling the Boston attack “terrorism” before any facts were known about the identities or backgrounds of the suspects, but it was also before anynew relevant facts were known. Once those identities became known, Obama’s statements have only fed careless, prejudiced assumption so common on cable television: they’re Muslims, so they must be “terrorists.”

This may be the easy and populist way of looking at it, pandering to prejudice as Obama so often does, but it is irresponsible and violates official US policy that Obama seemed, at least on the first day, willing to observe.

How acts are labeled is highly political: recall the controversy over whether Obama was quick enough to label the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, last September as “terrorism,” and the continuing demands that the government designate the November 2009 mass shooting at Fort Hood, allegedly perpetrated by Major Nidal Hasan, as “terrorism.”

All of these cases reinforce the widely noted observation that acts of violence, especially mass shootings, carried out typically by white males are immediately labeled as the acts of “disturbed individuals” while the acts of a person identified as “Muslim” are to be labeled “terrorism” regardless of the facts.

These are unsafe assumptions and foreclose the possibility of full understanding. Moreover, by reinforcing popular stereotypes, they give new force to the anti-Muslim backlash that seems only to be growing stronger and more poisonous as the 11 September 2001 attacks recede into the past.

It is also important to note the contrast between Obama’s eagerness to label the Boston attack as “terror” and its alleged perpetrators as “terrorists” – without evidence – and his reluctance to label last August’s mass murder at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin as “terrorism” despite the identification of the shooter as having a history of white nationalist and supremacist activism.

Perhaps the first serious consequence of labeling Boston a “terrorist” attack was the Obama administration’s decision to deprive the suspect who was captured of his constitutional right to receive a Miranda warning on arrest, a further thinning of the already threadbare pretense of “rule of law” in post 11 September 2001 America.

Could this be another “Columbine?”

Let’s consider another possibility. Exactly 14 years ago today, 20 April 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold executed a carefully-planned attack on Columbine High School in Colorado, using guns and bombs.

The two seniors murdered 12 fellow students and one teacher before shooting themselves.

Like the Boston Marathon bombing allegedly was, the Columbine attack was carried out by two persons, and it involved some of the same methods: homemade explosives.

But the Columbine attack is remembered as a “school shooting” or a “mass shooting” – perhaps the most iconic of a sad litany of such events – but not a “terrorist” attack.

In his essential 2009 book Columbine, Dave Cullen tells the story of the attack in meticulous detail, debunking many of the popular stereotypes that persist to this day that the attack was meant to avenge bullying by “jocks.”

The evidence that emerged is that Harris was a clinically sadistic sociopath who had no ability to empathize with other human beings. Klebold was a depressive whom Harris was able to manipulate. These facts lay at the heart of what happened.

It is definitely not any more desirable in the wake of such atrocities to have a media frenzy stigmatizing all people with mental illness as potential killers any more than we want them to stigmatize all Muslims as potential terrorists – in fact people with mental illness are no more likely to be violent than anyone else, and are indeed more likely to be victims of violence. And contrary to popular stereotypes fed by the media it is exceptionally rare for Muslims to become “terrorists.”

What we do need is patient, serious and informed analysis: could the relationship between the Boston suspects be similar to those of the Columbine killers? What other factors are at at play? I don’t know, but I cannot rule anything out.

Just like President Obama, I do not know what drove the alleged Boston bombers. What I do know is that when the media and the government, egging each other on, rush to judgment, the possibility of alternative scenarios is ruled out and getting to the truth is harder.

If Boston was “terrorism” based on the little that is known, then we must be able to answer these questions: can only white or Christian males be sociopaths, or suffer from other mental illnesses that under certain conditions lead to violence?

Can only two white Colorado high school students act as a pair without “terrorist” motives? Can “Muslims” or ethnic Chechens, or Arabs never be subject to the same kind of conditions or analysis?

Surely the survivors and families of the Boston bombing deserve no less of an accounting of what happened than the victims of Columbine?

We cannot and should not rule out that evidence will emerge that the alleged Boston bombers had a political motive. But it hasn’t so far.

What we have seen is the usual rush to judgment that has left Muslims and many people of color once again fearing collective blame and the governmental and societal retribution that comes with it.

Update, 21 April: Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz on Boston Marathon bomb and “terrorism” definition

A few hours after I published this post on 20 April, I heard Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz on the 20:05 GMT edition of the BBC World Service Newshour making some of the exact same points I made in this post, a jarring experience since I usually strongly disagree with his advocacy on Israel.

Dershowitz was responding to members of Congress who called for the government to treat surviving Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as an “enemy combatant” and to deprive him of his constitutional rights. Already, the Obama administration has deprived Tsarnaev of his Miranda rights. I have transcribed Dershowitz’s key comments:

Dershowitz: Well if they [the members of Congress] were in my class they would flunk out of law school … It shows a complete and total ignorance of the United States constitution. This is an American citizen being charged with committing a crime on American soil against Americans.

It’s not even clear under the federal terrorism statute that this qualifies as an act of terrorism. In order to prove it’s an act of terrorism they have to prove that they had certain kinds of intentions and motivations. But it’s a perfect trial to try in the civilian courts. There’s no plausible argument that would take this case out of the civilian courts and would put it into any kind of a military tribunal.

BBC: They’ve referred to the US Supreme Court decision Hamdi vs. Rumsfeld which said that there is no bar to the US holding one of its citizens as an enemy combatant. That part they say is certainly established in law.

Dershowitz: Well yeah, an enemy combatant but who’s the enemy here? These are two young men, we have no idea what their motivation was, particularly the young man who was captured alive. As far as we know he has never been in direct contact with anybody from any foreign country. They’re just making it up. And they’re allowing their perception of bias to influence the facts of the case. This case, this will be tried in a civilian court in front of a jury…

Where’s the outrage?!?!


rageI like President Obama.  I thought he was a viable and even American alternative to the excesses of the Bush presidency,which were rooted in lies and secrecy that I thought threatened the existence of America as we know it.  However,  close examination of Obama’s record, vis-a-vis foreign policy shows that at the least there is no difference between the two administrations or worse that Obama has surpassed Bush’s excesses.

Unfortunately President Obama has gone from an America where detention of American citizens was something hinted at or debated in foreign policy circles in the Bush administration to indefinite detention being codified with NDAA, the National Defense Authorization Act.  By widening the ‘war on terror’ or accepting as did Bush that it is an infinite conflict in both time and borders, and with the appropriate laws in place, Obama has made the federal government an usurper of the rights of American citizens to habeas corpus meaning any American anywhere in the world can be captured and held indefinitely for as long as the federal government wants.  This also means, should the government wish it could act  as  executioner of those it wants to target for assassination without giving them a chance to turn themselves in or  have access to the judicial system, so says this  latest bit of news to come out of Washington

…the president can order the killing of a US citizen who is a member of al-Qaida…(without any specificity on)  the “minimum legal requirements” for launching such an operation, (the Administration) insists that the killing would be constitutionally justified as the United States is engaged in an “armed conflict” as defined by international law and authorised by Congress, with al-Qaida and its affiliates.  In a key passage in the document – which is unsigned – (the Administration) argues that for a US citizen who has rights under the due process clause and the fourth amendment, “that individual’s citizenship would not immunise from a lethal operation”.

The Administration also goes on to assert all of this can be done without any over sight from the judiciary…..it is considered too intrusive and burdensome and would get in the way of the President’s ability to act swiftly  against citizens.  Obama also says that such lethal and deadly force can be carried out against Americans even if they are not in the planning stages of an attack or if they are “associated” with terror organizations.  Just what he means by associated with is left up to his discretion alone.  Therefore, it is conceivable that an American citizen can be targeted for assassination by his government because he knows someone who is a member of a terrorist organization even though he may not share the views of his friend or the group to which he belongs.  The prospect is frightening and  horrifying.

If there is any doubt that these measures are designed for Muslims and Muslim Americans, that doubt should be erased just by a casual glimpse of those organizations deemed terrorist by the US government….an overwhelming majority of them are situated in the Middle East and most likely made of those who call themselves Muslim by faith.  That does not mean that the organization is driven by any Islamic ideals or philosophy, however, because of the many different groups the one area of the Middle East which has the most groups designated as a terrorist organization is Palestine with 8 followed by Iraq with five.  Clearly while these groups may be made up of Muslims they  exist to drive out what their members consider invaders or occupiers of their territory, or violators of their sovereignty.  Absent such a foreign influence it may be safe to assume these groups would blend into a normal political structure consistent with governments and politics the world over.

The other indication that Muslims have become targeted by this Administration in ways that exceed what Bush did is with the denial of return to American citizens living and working abroad, forced exile,  or those who may want to travel from America to other countries.  We’ve written extensively here at Miscellany101 about the pesky no-fly list since it was imposed on the American public.  Unfortunately, the Obama administration has chosen to expand upon no fly lists and means of denying travel  in ways that seem to point to it targeting specifically American Muslims.  This from the president who spent most of his first term weathering rumors that he himself was Muslim, now seemingly oppressing Muslims in order to exorcise the label from him. Fix this America!

 

 

 

Congratulations America!


capital

You’ve done your job and done it magnificently! You said no to the haters and doubters among us; those who preferred division to unity and common purpose and interest.  Too many of us wanted to point fingers at evils that didn’t exist or at groups of people who are just like us except in gender or skin color or religious belief or the lack thereof.  We too quickly threw off the mantle of our own innate divinity and instead embraced hatred and rancor.  Somehow, through all that…..we overcame.  Now that we have done what we are supposed to do as a Nation….make Obama do what he’s supposed to do as a President.  Hold him to his promises, make sure you call his attention to mistakes in decisions or errors in policy; push your local elected officials to do the same.  Your ballots are just the first step in this process called democracy.  It doesn’t end with the election of any one official, it is an on going process.  Choose the high ground of civility in the national discourse; don’t give in  to the forces of darkness, hatred and FoxNews. This is only the beginning.  Celebrate it but move on to the real work at hand of re-building America or if you like, improving it. At some point in the very near future…I’d like to think at the end of this week, we’re going to have to roll up our sleeves and get busy.  For now, enjoy the moment.

Obama-Biden-sworn-in-for-second-term

All hail the commander-in-chief


English: Cropped version of File:Official port...

While most of America, those who aren’t members of the fanatic fringe, celebrate Obama’s victory let’s not forget this is still going on under his watch.

Like so many post-9/11 civil liberties abridgments aimed primarily at Muslims, this no-fly-list abuse has worsened considerably during the Obama presidency. In February, Associated Press learned that “the Obama administration has more than doubled, to about 21,000 names, its secret list of suspected terrorists who are banned from flying to or within the United States, including about 500 Americans.”

Worse, the Obama administration “lowered the bar for being added to the list”. As a result, reported AP, “now a person doesn’t have to be considered only a threat to aviation to be placed on the no-fly list” but can be included if they “are considered a broader threat to domestic or international security”, a vague status determined in the sole and unchecked discretion of unseen DHS bureaucrats.

But the worst cases are those like Long’s: when the person is suddenly barred from flying when they are outside of the US, often on the other side of the world. As a practical matter, that government act effectively exiles them from their own country.

 

 

For those who still think President Obama is a Muslim


 

…..don’t worry, he’s still persecuting American Muslims or otherwise making their lives miserable.  Here’s the latest victim of Obama’s Islamization of America.  An American citizen with an unusual name like so many of us here in America, born and raised, Samir Suljovic was denied entry/return to America after visiting family in Montenegro and given no reason why, nor was he given any recourse to due process. Consequently he was stranded in an airport in Germany and received no assistance from the US Embassy in that country, in effect proclaiming him persona non grata and according to some accounts confiscating his personal effects and searching them without his permission.  In essence the Muslim Obama administration has denied this real Muslim American his rights and protections guaranteed him by no less than the Constitution an act that would otherwise make GW Bush and all his neo-con advisors who began this trend of abrogation, proud.  Anyone who is concerned about Obama’s bona fides as an imperialist vis-a-vis American Muslims, need look no further than this Administration’s continuation of the no-fly list.  Suljovic was finally allowed to return home, without any explanation why he was delayed or who was responsible for him being allowed to return after three weeks.

The phony war on terror just got phonier


We are now in the middle of a campaign season where President Obama is seeking a second term and the horror of George Bush’s war on terror is quickly becoming a distant memory.  Unfortunately, the illegal legacy of that war and what it has done to the fabric of America is still being revealed and this latest revelation casts a negative light on how terror suspects were interrogated and the nature of the information gained from their interrogation.

Reports have been circulating for years that US officials, and because of the very nature of these allegations accountability will be difficult if not impossible to pinpoint who they are, have been using drugs during the interrogation of people captured on various military theaters where American forces have been engaged. The very use of drugs during questioning is considered torture according to laws and conventions that we, America, used to subscribe.  Torture under these circumstances is defined as

the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality.

Detainees captured by or sold to US forces and their allies were given drugs against their will, not told what the drugs were or what their effects would be and then questioned and the legal system put in place under these circumstances presumed that any information obtained from such an interrogation was accurate.  It didn’t matter to those in charge that powerful antipsychotic drugs’  side effects included lethargy, tremors, anxiety, mood changes and an inability to remain motionless, the idea that any information gathered as a result of this type of medical intervention was acceptable as a legitimate source of intelligence. This then became another rung on the torture ladder that the government hung their treatment and handling of people during the war on terror.  What happened to our country is it engaged in illegal torture, saying it was necessary to protect America and during the course of that illegal behaviour further exacerbated it by employing drugs meant to alter a captive’s perception of reality, and skew the information passed on to officials, who then trumpeted that before we the people to justify continuing  illegal activity.  The war on terror and the information we supposedly gathered fighting that war, and even the enemy itself was all a sham a ruse, made up to justify invading countries with an expanded, bloated military.    In other words, we cooked the books…we made things up, we frightened ourselves with lies obtained through drugs from people  who were sold to us in most cases or who had nothing to do with the attacks on our country .  This is the legacy Bush’s war on terror has left us.

The prevaricator called Karl Rove


I’m convinced this Karl Rove guy is not a very bright guy.  In a move that could only be labeled ‘the pot calling the kettle black’, Rove made this assertion about Obama

The fact of the matter is if the president continues to make this charge — this outrageous charge — that Mitt Romney is guilty of felonious activity and committed a felony, that’s a big mistake,” Rove opined. “This is gutter politics of the worst Chicago sort.

It doesn’t seem to matter to most people that Rove worked for perhaps the biggest criminal enterprise in modern time, the GWB administration or that he cut his political teeth working for the likes of the Nixon administration during its era of dirty tricks, something that Rove specialized in during his GWB tenure…Rove has always wallowed in the mire of innuendo and prevarication. If you want to know who this Rove guy is…or maybe isn’t…he is such a strange character it’s hard to tell which of the many faces he wears is really his, you can take a gander at some of his work here.

The one that gets me the most is the one with McCain.

After John McCain thumped George W. Bush in the 2000 New Hampshire primary, with 48 percent of the vote to Bush’s 30 percent, a massive smear campaign was launched in South Carolina, a key battleground. TV attack ads from third groups and anonymous fliers circulated, variously suggesting that McCain’s experience as a prisoner of war in Vietnam left him mentally scarred with an uncontrollable temper, that his wife, Cindy, abused drugs and that he had an African-American “love child.  In fact, the McCains adopted their daughter Bridget from a Bangladesh orphanage run by Mother Teresa.

We all know what happened after that….Bush went on to win the SC primary with a double digit margin and eventually steal the election in 2000. However, resorting to the racist nature of America’s subconscious, Rove was able to pull out a victory for Bush in South Carolina.  I love the Palmetto state, but like my own and all of America, it’s got a problem when it comes to race, and Rove knew it and exploited it.  Why Rove is still able to get air time, after his very tawdry record, to spew his venom is beyond me…the man has no credibility at all.  A brief look at his record should be enough to make him a social outcast, the likes of Jesse Jackson, David Duke and many others, yet he continues to get face time  on the air.  We have FoxNews to thank for that, which is just one more of many  reasons to tune them out America.  That network has given Rove a home base from which to launch his false and misleading diatribes.  My reference to Rove, the pot, calling the kettle (the Obama administration and by extension Obama) black is meant to underscore his, mine and America’s obsession with and denial about race and how it keeps pushing us backwards.  Obama, with all his faults, and he has many America, was America moving forward, Rove is America at its worst.
So the next time you hear something attributed to Karl Rove, just remember who he is and where he has come from and what he’s done.  He should be as unpalatable a pundit as any you can name.  I wish Nancy Pelosi did have him arrested…..then the photo above would have real meaning.

Terror from within


At the moment America is too consumed with news about Herman Cain’s sexual predilections to hear or be interested in the the latest terror plot. It seems, sex sells even better than terror, or at least good enough to obscure news about terror. The fact that the defendants are not the types we like to associate with terror, although they are of the demographic that is more likely to be terrorists here in America than any Muslim, makes our fascination with their case even more fleeting if not downright non existent.  Four men in their 60s and 70s have been charged with offenses that could only be considered terrorism given what it was they were accused of doing.

Federal authorities said the men held clandestine militia meetings, beginning in March, in which they discussed using toxic agents and assassinations to undermine federal and state government…

This will never get the play in the media that foreigners or foreign sounding terrorist names would get in the face of such revelations and that is one of the many problems with the politicization of terrorism in today’s America.  The four defendants aren’t just some  cranky old men hatching another isolated incident of terror inspired violence on America, they are a side of America which has always been around and views change as violent and necessarily so.

During the 60s and 70s people of similar mindset were paraded in front of our televisions and on the front pages of our newspapers as threats to our society, and politicians made their political fortune denouncing the likes of the Black Panthers, SDS, SNCC, SCLC and other alphabet soup organizations that we were told posed an imminent threat to our democracy.  These organizations and the people that participated in their activities bore the full brunt of an enraged federal government and its police agencies that trampled on their rights, spied on and at times even killed them because some one said it was necessary and the right thing to do and very few of us flinched nor protested. Rather we cheered on and elected those politicians who said such actions were necessary in order to preserve the social order.  That was the same response we had to the cries from neocons about the clash of civilizations meme.

Somehow we are not quite able to see the threat the same way when it’s presented to us in the form of four senior citizen white males who are members of groups we’ve been told since the beginning of the Obama Administration were equally vicious and threatening to the American fabric. (On a side note, I wonder how vociferous  would our denunciation be if Obama decided to unilaterally send a drone attack over one of the meetings these four defendants had to hatch their plots and  killed them and any of their relatives?)  Our minds still seem to be  focused only on the dark, seedy,murderous, savage fundamentalist Muslims who want to destroy what we stand for because they are unable to reach the greatness that is America.  Such imagery when attached to anything evokes a response of horror and disgust, revulsion and abject rejection even when that thing is notable and essential to the life of our Nation.  How else can we look at our indifference to the various  Occupy movements spreading across the country, and the hostility they face from political leaders and members of the media who conjure up images of opponents of a bygone era or radical associations of a more recent time.

This is the story that will probably not receive the attention it deserves, not because these men wanted to overthrow the country….they couldn’t, or not because they are symptoms of a wider problem, they are but we are a country of over 300 million people and we’ve got a lot of problems.  This story deserves attention because there are too many people who believe that in order to defend this country they have to go out and kill somebody to do it. How did we get to this point that people like 73 year old Frederick Thomas think, ‘when it comes to saving the Constitution, that means some people gotta die.”  Perhaps, his time would have been better spent joining #OccupyWallStreet in Atlanta where he could have affected real change rather than plotting acts of terror that would only lead, as it has, to his own ruin.

 

Slurs, Imperialism and what it all means


I was reading the comments section of Loonwatch.com here and was somewhat taken aback by one poster who objected to what he/she called slurs in response to another poster who criticized the imperial government in the White House.  A third poster to the thread cited this source which I think made an excellent point of underscoring the imperial nature of today’s America  naming 135 countries that are currently home to American troops. More current data suggest that number is even higher.  That comes out to 66% of the countries in the world that  have US forces in them. I’m at a loss to understand what is the significance of having American troops in Cameroon, Australia, Kenya or Latvia, Nepal, Sweden or Suriname to name a few and ask are there troops from any of those countries here in America?  Hardly, but to this observer’s mind this more than anything else shows how  intent America is in leaving its footprint on the world’s stage and anyway you cut it that’s the classical definition of imperialism, something that was pointed out by other posters in Loonwatch‘s comment section. Perhaps the initial commenter objected to the negative connotation the word “imperialism” usually brings to political discussions but then he/she is displaying their bias.  Most likely many in US government don’t think the presence of American troops in 135+ countries is a bad thing as long as they are promoting “freedom” and “liberty” in those countries but such phrases as “freedom” and “liberty” are subjective terms whose implementation  might not be agreeable to the host countries.  Therefore the insistence of the presence of foreign forces in a country is also a condition of  imperialism.

Obama, the enabler


Picture of Rudy Giuliani

Image via Wikipedia

Rudy Giuliani, Tom Ridge, former White House adviser Frances Townsend and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, flew to Paris to speak in support of an Iranian exile group there — one that’s been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. and that very act of appearing before such a group is a felony under US law.  What’s amazing is Mukasey and Ridge, former Bush appointees in high cabinet level posts should have known that yet completely disregarded the illegality of their act.  That it is illegal is clearly established by the US Departments of State and Justice and material support has been even more narrowly defined to include ‘not only cash and other tangible aid, but also speech coordinated with a “foreign terrorist organization” for its benefit’. A former presidential candidate, and secretaries of Homeland Security and Justice Department took a trip to Paris to address an organization on the US Dept of State’s terrorist list, and in doing so committed a felony and you don’t think for a minute they didn’t have the approval of the current administration?  How can one account for the fact that these individuals have not been indicted for clear criminal behavior were they not acting on behalf of the Obama Administration?  Once again, we have the spectre of a US administration walking back on laws it has either signed on or weighed in in a manner reminiscent of the Bush administration with the result that it could have deleterious effects on American interests before the international court of opinion.

Obama’s Hit List


I read this very interesting article that asserts President Obama is going down the same onerous road as his predecessor in dispensing justice to perceived enemies of the state…..at the expense of breaking the law and further endangering the national security as well as the national psyche.  What is the matter with America that she has become afraid of people, not nations mind you, but individual people, that it makes her break her own laws as well as the laws she has agreed with the international community upon for decades?!?

The Obama administration now claims a right to kill American citizens without trial, without notice, and without any chance for the marked men or women to object legally. The Bush administration’s “targeted killing” program has been radically expanded to include Americans far from any war zone. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair testified earlier this year that the targeting-to-kill decision depends only on “whether that American is involved in a group that is trying to attack us.”

The poster boy for the targeted killing program is Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born Muslim cleric who is reportedly in Yemen. The Obama administration touts allegations that al-Awlaki helped spark the slaughter at Ford Hood, Texas, inspired the attempt to destroy a jetliner on Christmas Day 2009, and has done other dastardly things that the government has not yet disclosed (for our own good, of course). Al-Awlaki might well be a four-star bastard, but government press releases and background briefings have not previously been sufficient to justify capital punishment.

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing to compel Uncle Sam “to disclose the legal standard it uses to place U.S. citizens on government kill lists.” The Obama administration has responded by invoking the doctrine of state secrets, effectively claiming that national security demands that these policies be kept hidden. By hiding behind state secrets, the feds don’t even have to explain why the law doesn’t apply to their actions.

In oral arguments in federal court on Nov. 9, Justice Department attorney Douglas Letter asserted that no judge has authority to be “looking over the shoulder” of the Obama administration’s targeted-killing program. Letter declared that the program involves “the very core powers of the president as commander-in-chief.” When Obama campaigned for the presidency in 2008, entitling the president to kill Americans without trial was not one of the reforms he promised.

The Obama administration has decided to pursue a Bush administration policy of extra-judicial punishment for individuals anywhere in the world, even American citizens, and claim no one has the right to oversight.  It is an extraordinary position to take on the heels of an administration whose party was soundly defeated in the presidential elections in part one may argue for just such a disregard for law and the rights of US citizens.  There has been no hue and cry on the part of the people for their president to undertake this action, so why does he feel the need to do so?

The Obama administration’s position “would allow the executive unreviewable authority to target and kill any U.S. citizen it deems a suspect of terrorism anywhere,” according to Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Pardiss Kebriae. And the feds have a horrible batting average when it comes to accurately identifying terrorist suspects. In the six weeks after the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government rounded up 1,200 people as suspected terrorists or terrorist supporters. None of the detainees proved to have links to the attacks. And as the ACLU noted earlier this year, “the government has failed to prove the lawfulness of imprisoning individual Guantanamo detainees in 34 of the 48 cases that have been reviewed by the federal courts thus far, even though the government had years to gather and analyze evidence for those cases and had itself determined that those prisoners were detainable.”

It’s clear to this viewer that the Obama approach to the war on terror, is  just as pernicious as Bush.  In fact it is a continuation of the former President’s policy at at time when the “threat” level is not as imminent as it was after 911 all the inaccurate and misleading press propaganda to the contrary.  What we are witnessing is the way in which government works; it’s march towards diminution of citizen rights is gradual, slow, deceptive and relentless.  New faces have little to do with changing the progress of government’s march toward this goal.  Obama isn’t ‘change we can believe in’, he’s more of the same.

 

The poster boy for the targeted killing program is Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born Muslim cleric who is reportedly in Yemen. The Obama administration touts allegations that al-Awlaki helped spark the slaughter at Ford Hood, Texas, inspired the attempt to destroy a jetliner on Christmas Day 2009, and has done other dastardly things that the government has not yet disclosed (for our own good, of course). Al-Awlaki might well be a four-star bastard, but government press releases and background briefings have not previously been sufficient to justify capital punishment.

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing to compel Uncle Sam “to disclose the legal standard it uses to place U.S. citizens on government kill lists.” The Obama administration has responded by invoking the doctrine of state secrets, effectively claiming that national security demands that these policies be kept hidden. By hiding behind state secrets, the feds don’t even have to explain why the law doesn’t apply to their actions.

In oral arguments in federal court on Nov. 9, Justice Department attorney Douglas Letter asserted that no judge has authority to be “looking over the shoulder” of the Obama administration’s targeted-killing program. Letter declared that the program involves “the very core powers of the president as commander-in-chief.” When Obama campaigned for the presidency in 2008, entitling the president to kill Americans without trial was not one of the reforms he promised.

The main difference between the Bush administration and the Obama administration is that the Obama team publicly claims a right to do what Bush’s lawyers authorized behind closed doors. Steven Bradbury, head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, told the Senate Intelligence Committee in early 2006 that Bush could order killings of suspected terrorists within the United States. When Newsweek contacted the Justice Department to verify this novel legal doctrine, spokeswoman Tasia Scolinos stressed that Bradbury’s comments occurred during an “off-the-record briefing.” Newsweek’s report generated no media stir. Apparently, unless the government disclosed that it had actually begun assassinations within the United States, it was a non-story.

An article by Charlie Savage in the New York Times in mid-September noted that “There is widespread agreement among the administration’s legal team that it is lawful for President Obama to authorize the killing of someone like Mr. Awlaki.”

It is comforting to know that top political appointees concur that some “law” gives them the right to assassinate Americans. But this is the same “legal” standard the Bush team used to justify torture. Since Bush’s lawyers told him that waterboarding wasn’t torture—despite a hundred years of U.S. court decisions to the contrary—the president was blameless, or so he recently claimed to NBC’s Matt Lauer.

There are other ominous parallels with the worst abuses of the Bush administration. When Bush decreed in November 2001 that he had the authority perpetually to detain anyone as an enemy combatant, based solely on his own assertion, administration defenders rushed to assure the media that the new policy did not apply to Americans or inside the United States. Seven months later, after José Padilla was arrested in Chicago and labeled an enemy combatant, the administration acted as if only fools would believe the president would not use his boundless power any way he could.

Similarly, Obama’s power grab has not spurred much opposition, perhaps in part because it is assumed to apply only to killing Americans abroad. (Hopefully farther away than Niagara Falls, Canada.) But the basis of the policy is that the entire world is a battlefield, thus the president has unlimited “commander in chief” powers everywhere.

Once the principle is accepted that the U.S. government can label Americans as enemies of the state and kill them without judicial nicety, the bureaucratic wish list of targets will continually expand. A similar metamorphosis occurred when the FBI decided to use illegal powers to target people who garnered official displeasure. Nixon White House aide Tom Charles Huston explained that the FBI’s COINTELPRO program continually stretched its target list “from the kid with a bomb to the kid with a picket sign, and from the kid with the picket sign to the kid with the bumper sticker of the opposing candidate. And you just keep going down the line.”

Blank checks for killing enemies of the state is the recipe for domestic tranquility that most dictatorships have used throughout history. And apparently this is a standard that many Americans might embrace. Some movement conservatives—such as columnist Jonah Goldberg—are already whooping for the U.S. government to assassinate people such as Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Should the government be entitled to kill anyone who exposes its lies? Or should the standard be broader, permitting governments to kill anyone who is inconvenient?

The Obama administration’s position “would allow the executive unreviewable authority to target and kill any U.S. citizen it deems a suspect of terrorism anywhere,” according to Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Pardiss Kebriae. And the feds have a horrible batting average when it comes to accurately identifying terrorist suspects. In the six weeks after the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government rounded up 1,200 people as suspected terrorists or terrorist supporters. None of the detainees proved to have links to the attacks. And as the ACLU noted earlier this year, “the government has failed to prove the lawfulness of imprisoning individual Guantanamo detainees in 34 of the 48 cases that have been reviewed by the federal courts thus far, even though the government had years to gather and analyze evidence for those cases and had itself determined that those prisoners were detainable.”

In fact, debacles over false charges against Gitmo detainees may have spurred the expansion of the targeted-killing program. Dead men file no appeals. Assassinations could be less embarrassing than trials because most of the American media will roll over and permit the government to blacken its victims however it pleases. As long as officials, speaking anonymously, assure reporters that the deceased were bad people, the story is closed.

The Food and Drug Administration recently proposed far more graphic warning labels for cigarette packages. But while the feds are demanding extraordinary measures to inform people about private risks, nothing is being done to warn people of the health risks of an unleashed Leviathan.

What sort of warning labels would be appropriate for Obama’s killing program? A picture of a sniper’s crosshairs on a mother holding a baby in her cabin door, à la Vicki Weaver? A picture of young demonstrators lying dead on the ground after a National Guard volley, à la Kent State? A picture of children lolling in the streets moments before they are obliterated, courtesy of the helicopter gun-sight video from the Wiki-Leaked “Collateral Murder” recording made by the U.S. military in Iraq?

If Obama gets away with this power-grab, the rhetoric for the 2012 race for the White House should be retuned. Instead of listening to candidates compete based on the number of new benefits they promise to lavish upon voters, prudent citizens will focus on which presidential candidate seems least likely to kill them or members or their family. We might hear campaign slogans like “Vote for Smith: he won’t have you killed unless all of his top advisers agree you deserve to die.” Unfortunately, as with other campaign promises, there will be no way for voters to compel politicians to honor their pledges.

Obama’s doctrine enabling the targeted killing of American citizens is at least as much an assassination of the Constitution as anything George W. Bush perpetrated. Yet most of the media has ignored the issue or treated it like an arcane legal dispute of interest only to people in desert hideaways 6,000 miles away. The more power the government has seized, the more craven the media has become.

Thanks to sovereign immunity and cowardly judges, it is unlikely that any Obama administration official will be held liable, regardless of whom the U.S. government slays. Americans have had plenty of warnings that the federal government is destroying the leashes the Founding Fathers created. Once it is accepted that the executive branch is entitled to kill Americans without a trial, only damn fools should expect Leviathan to limit its ravages here and abroad.

James Bovard is the author of Attention Deficit Democracy.

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15 Responses to “Assassin Nation”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by AmericanConservative, Roy F. Moore. Roy F. Moore said: RT @amconmag: James Bovard | Assassin Nation | http://bit.ly/gz0Wqu […]

  2. hahahahaha….this is your tide American Conservative, Obama’s just riding it. Where were you when Bush & Co. created this mess? Cheerleading. This is not Obama’s policy, it’s Bush’s and years ago when this was first raised as an issue you folks were calling such critics traitors.

    If Obama tried to loosen the efforts against Terrorism(TM) you would be calling him traitor. This article is rich with hypocrisy.

  3. The American Conservative was an early critic of the Bush administration and the war. Don’t confuse these folks with the National Review.

  4. […] today from the January issue of American Conservative […]

  5. river c. should read The Bush Betrayal written by the author of this article.

  6. good to see once again the Kenyan King walking in the very same foot steps of his predecessors, bashing Bush then doing likewise and more

  7. […] of Attention Deficit Democracy, discusses the Obama administration’s claim that they have the right to kill American citizens without a trial, without notice, and without any chance for targets to legally object; the […]

  8. @River C… Why don’t you ask TAC why they came out against invading Iraq while the NYTs was publishing neo-con propaganda day after day? Maybe you should ask why the refused to endorse Bush in 2004 while the NYTs was sitting on the story of Bush spying on US citizens as to not hur his chances of re-election?

    Oh, I know why you don’t ask because you’re an idiot (as your comment demonstrated). In fact, you Obama supporters are exactly the same as Bush supporters. It’s uncanny how similar the Obama apologists are to the Bush apologists. Go worship the state so more.

  9. “No person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law. . .” US Constitiution, 5th amendment.

    What part of that don’t people understand?

    If someone is actually in the act of perpetrating violence against American citizens, then the police or military have an exemption, but that’s all.

    You would think that a guy who has taught constitutional law might have known about this. . .

  10. Hasn’t anyone here seen a ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive’ poster?

    American governments have been paying for the killing of Americans without a trial well before Obama was born (wherever that was)

    Just ask John Dillinger.

  11. Whatever the TAC has been doing all these years, Bovard has been a tireless critic of empire and chronicler of its consequences, through several administrations, and all the more energetically in recent times with Presidents GW Bush and Obama.

    The “where were you when Bush was doing it” whine is getting very tiresome. It identifies clueless partisans, making it all the easier to dismiss their boiler-plate bleating. We should instead ask the kool-aid drinking duckspeakers, “where were you when courageous people like Bovard were speaking out and being called ‘unpatriotic’ and even ‘treasonous’?” The river c’s of the world come very late to the party, then criticize the host for the crowding.

  12. Stefan, don’t be fooled. No person allowed to run for office gives a damn about the Constitution anymore. We don’t have a Constitutional Republic anymore; we have a dictatorship masquerading as a democracy. No candidate who believes that they should be governed by the Constitution will be allowed to run. They will be weeded out long before we even hear of them. Both parties are in on this. We will not see a patriot run for high office in this country again.

  13. OK, Stefan Stackhouse knows her constitution, ‘..“No person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law. . .” US Constitiution, 5th amendment.

    If they can authorize the killing of each of us then they can authorize the killing of our family members as other dictators have done.

    Need to read this new book just out about Americans who actually take a stand against tyranny (based in part on real people & events). It’s a thriller so I recommend it.

    http://www.booksbyoliver.com

    This is tyranny & way beyond what the TSA is doing at airports. No one would have ever thought this could happen in America. Great article, James

  14. Frank,

    Although your other points are well taken, you are guilty of the same type of thoughtless jumping to conclusions as river c. who is obviously ignorant of what TAC is. What part of his comment led you to conclude that he is an “Obama supporter”? He may or may not be. Why is it necessary to hurl insults? River c.’s ignorance will be obvious to the vast majority who read this. Correction and guidance without insult as per Anonymous and Tom Blanton is much more helpful.

  15. This is only possible thanks to George W Bush who rescinded habeus corpus. My pointing this out is in no way an endorsement of Obama. I am merely pointing out the historical facts. Without the Bush Junta’s idiotic reign, the excesses of the Obama plague would not have been possible, or even really imaginable.

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