Saturday, March 18, 2006

U.S. Torture Policies Inspire Renewed International Outrage

by Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy

As the New York Times reveals that Abu Ghraib torture continued after the initial revelations, a Russian federation has demanded that the United Nations order the closure of the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo.

In a paper called "In Defense of Humanity", the 46 deputies representing of the Russian Federation Communist Party have denounced what they've termed "Guantanomo's shame" and have demanded that the U.S. detention center in Cuba be closed. 400 intellectuals from 30 countries signed a formal document calling for the closure.

The signatories include Guennadi Ziuganov, president of the Russian Federation Communist Party, Nobel Prizewinner Zhores Alfiorov, Deputy President of the Law Camera Valentin Kupsov, President of the parliamentary group of friendship with Cuba Vitali Sebastianov, Cosmonaut Svietlana Savitskaya and General Director of the Russian paper "Sovietskaya" Rossia Valentin Chiquin. They have unanimously accused the Bush administration and U.S. Euroopean allies of working to prevent the Human Rights Commission in Geneva from formally condemning violations of human rights by the United States at Guantanamo.

The paper has charged the governments of the European Union with refusing to admit evidence of torture and other human rights violations by the United States.

According to the Latin American news agency, Presna Latina, the 62nd Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights is set to convene in Geneva on March 20th. By that time, it is expected that world media will have broadcast new video footage of the U.S. military torturing Iraqi prisoners.

Following closely on the heels of the Russian action, the New York Times reports that torture continued both before and after the closure of Abu Ghraib.

In the windowless, jet-black garage-size room, some soldiers beat prisoners with rifle butts, yelled and spit in their faces and, in a nearby area, used detainees for target practice in a game of jailer paintball. Their intention was to extract information to help hunt down Iraq's most-wanted terrorist, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, according to Defense Department personnel who served with the unit or were briefed on its operations.
Signatories to "In Defense of Humanity" have meanwhile called on "world intellectuals, social organizations and anyone of good will" to demand that the United Nations order the closure of the U.S. base in Cuba.
Original 'Toon by Dante Lee. Use with permission only

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

As Bush Descends Into Hell, Will the Democratic Party Find its Soul?

by Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy

Bush's reign of terror is falling apart as fast as Iraq slides into utter chaos and civil war. And still —the Democrats can't make the quantum leap from Bush's utter failure in Iraq to the emerging, undeniable fact that there is no "war on terror." The "one" terrorist suspect that Bushco has been able to link in any way with Al Qaeda may walk because, according to Judge Leonie Brinkema, Bushco's case is "irredeemably contaminated". [See: Washington Post, Federal Witnesses Banned in 9/11 Trial]

In all other instances, Bushco has merely defined all opposition as "terrorist". That's neat but fallacious! Worse —it's utterly useless if a real war is to be fought. It never was. In fact, opposition by an indigenous population to an aggressive invader is recognized as "legal" by any standard of international law. People have a right under international law to defend their homeland. Given those facts, one is hard pressed to find a single real terrorist in Iraq.

Is there no Democrat who will state the truth about Iraq? When will the Democrats begin with the most obvious truth: the war was begun upon a pack of lies? When will the Democratic party find the courage to state the fact that the war against Iraq was and remains illegal by every international standard insisted upon by the United States itself. When will the Democrats at last discover that the attack and invasion of Iraq had nothing whatsoever to do with "terrorism" or with 911? Everything said by Bush about Iraq has been a lie. And the lies continue. Let's make this simple for the party of the "loyal opposition": the war was and remains a crime; it's morally wrong; it's a blunder from which the U.S. may never recover.

Let's be blunt: the Democrats have failed to gain a single point from Bush's numerous and assorted calamities because they've offered no real alternative. Americans are ahead of all politicians on this point.

Meanwhile, Sen. Joseph Biden's message is of the form "...but we could have fought the war better!" What war? The war on terror or the war against the people of Iraq? What Biden doesn't understand is that the one war was never fought —and the other should never have been fought! I am still awaiting the Democrat who will state flat out that the war was a crime!

The sins of omission, in the one case, and the sins of commission in the other, will forever link the word "evil" with the Bush administration. Certain themes recur whenever "evil" is talked about. The Nuremberg psychologist, Dr. Gustav Gilbert, thought "evil" to be an "...utter lack of empathy" and Hanah Arendt wrote of the Banality of Evil. Both concepts are consistent with a practice of the American right wing: blaming their victims. Many of the most infamous Nazis (Adolph Eichmann, for example) were just numbed bureaucrats doing a job. Others were "just following orders". The commandant of Auschwitz asked: "Is it wrong for a rat catcher to catch rats?"

Evil is often associated with the "Faustian Bargain". In literature, one literally sells one's soul to Ol' Scratch. But in real life, the Faustian Bargain is not so easy to spot. One sells one's soul in many ways. One sells one's soul by trading one's free will and conscience for material or other "gain" —bribes, high paying jobs, a home in suburbia, graft, campaign contributions.

Most corporate employees are bought and paid for. They have little choice but to support the evil corporation, the cancer merchants of big tobacco, the despoilers of the only environment we will ever have. Mere employment has no moral dimensions if the employer is in all cases benign —but what is to be said of the legion of company types who toil daily for Halliburton and, by proxy, Dick Cheney, Darth Vadar to Bush's evil Emperor?

In yet another example, I give you the Democratic Party. By refusing to oppose Bush with any effectiveness and, in fact, enabling some of his most repugnant and tyrannical measures, the Democrats have literally sold the soul of the party and worse —they done so at a discount. As Rick told Ugarte in Casablanca: "I don't mind a parasite. I object to a cut-rate one."

I would think normal people would find the idea that laws can be broken in order to carry out state sponsored atrocities, such as torture and wars of aggression, to be unthinkable. And, in normal times, I suppose, they are and most certainly should be. But the idea of "normal times" is seductive. There is every reason to believe that those lower echelon bureaucrats who carried out Hitler's crimes of aggression and genocide thought the times to be normal. It is sign of abnormal times that lawyers and bureaucrats worked assiduously to make Nazi atrocities legal ex post facto. In the Bush administration, that job has fallen to Alberto Gonzales.

Since the crashing of the Twin Towers, America has appeared to be in a state of mass hypnosis from which it is lately awakening. Americans have now learned that while they slept, Bush has imposed a police state upon the nation, complete with a secret police force, unbridled and unchecked widespread domestic surveillance of citizens, and a lost war waged perpetually nevertheless. One writer referred to it as an "... an ideological state of siege"

We are under seige by a radical right wing —a cancer on the body politic. It has grown since the Nixon resgination about which it is conveniently forgotten that it was Nixon's own party that did him in.
Under the aegis righteous retribution, the anger and frustration the neo-conservatives cultivated during the Vietnam War, and the degenerate Clinton Administration, was unleashed in a torrent of unabashed war mongering.

When The Phoenix Comes Home To Roost, Douglas Valentine

But about the war —"we" are and were right; the rabid right and the GOP was dead wrong! Worse —the GOP was wrong and knew it but supported Bush anyway. Bush was lying and KNEW IT ...but went ahead anyway. It doesn't get any more evil than that.

It's time to listen to the anti-war movement


In the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq, an unprecedented movement developed to stop the rush to war, a movement so large and diverse that the New York Times wrote of "two superpowers on the planet: the United States and world public opinion."

Tragically, the Bush administration ignored the majority of humankind and launched the invasion of Iraq on March 19, 2003. The third anniversary of the Iraq War will be marked with demonstrations in hundreds of cities across America, including a rally in Lafayette Square at 4 p.m. Saturday.

An anniversary is an appropriate time for reflection, and looking back on the last three years, two points stand out.

First, the anti-war movement has been proven correct in its prewar assessment and warnings. Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. Invading Iraq destabilized the Middle East, damaged U.S.-Arab relations and created a new breeding ground for terrorists and violent Islamic fundamentalists. ...

PEW: Bush Approval Falls to 33%

In the aftermath of the Dubai ports deal, President Bush's approval rating has hit a new low and his image for honesty and effectiveness has been damaged. Yet the public uncharacteristically has good things to say about the role that Congress played in this high-profile Washington controversy.

Most Americans (58%) believe Congress acted appropriately in strenuously opposing the deal, while just 24% say lawmakers made too much of the situation.

While there is broad support for the way Congress handled the dispute, more Americans think Democratic leaders showed good judgment on the ports issue than say the same about GOP leaders (by 30%-20%).
From our man on the prairie: Garrison Keillor:

Day of reckoning for the Current Occupant

Garrison Keillor, Tribune Media Services

Published March 15, 2006

Spring arrived in New York last week for previews, a sunny day with chill in the air, but you could smell mud, and with a little imagination you could sort of smell grass. I put on a gray jacket, instead of black, and went to the opera and saw Verdi's "Luisa Miller," a Republican opera in which love is crushed by the perfidiousness of government. A helpful lesson for these times. I am referring to the Current Occupant.

The Republican Revolution has gone the way of all flesh. It took over Congress and the White House, horns blew, church bells rang, sailors kissed each other, and what happened? The Republicans led us into a reckless foreign war and steered the economy toward receivership and wielded power as if there were no rules. Democrats are accused of having no new ideas, but Republicans are making some of the old ideas look awfully good, such as constitutional checks and balances, fiscal responsibility, and the notion of realism in foreign affairs and taking actions that serve the national interest. What one might call "conservatism." ...
Jessica Simpson has just risen a notch in my estimation:

Jessica Simpson snubs Bush

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Concerned about politicizing her favorite charity, singer-actress Jessica Simpson on Wednesday turned down a invitation to meet with U.S. President George W. Bush, a snub that left Republicans dismayed.

The apparent final word that Simpson would be a no-show at a major Republican fund-raiser with Bush and congressional leaders on Thursday night came after a day of conflicting reports from her camp and organizers of the event. ...

Original 'Toon by Dante Lee. Use with permission only

Monday, March 13, 2006

U.S. court rules our government can break international laws to carry out torture

by Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy

An ominous new decision from Federal judge David Trager has said the United States can violate international laws, presumably international conventions to which the U.S. is bound by treaty. The case involves a lawsuit filed by Canadian citizen, Maher Arar. He had been kidnapped by CIA agents during a stopover at Kennedy Airport. In his decision, Federal District Judge David Trager dismissed a lawsuit brought by Arar challenging his arrest, detention, and torture.
According to Nat Hentoff's column, Liberty Beat, Arar was flown to Syria where he was held in solitary confinement and tortured:
... in a three-by-six-foot cell ("like a grave," he said). He became, internationally, one of the best-known victims of the CIA's extraordinary renditions—the sending of suspected terrorists to countries known for torturing their prisoners.

The Torture Judge

Arar, subsequently released, has not been charged with a crime —by Syria or the United States, which refuses to cooperate with any investigation. The Canadian Parliament, however, has begun an investigation to include a public inquiry.

The implications of this case are enormous. If Judge Trager's ruling is allowed to stand, American officials will have a " light to do to others what they did to Arar." Any crime could then be committed in the name of national security.

Judge Trager's decision is a transparent circular argument, most often found in the decisions of Antonin Scalia. Trager maintains that any other ruling would have the "...the most serious consequences to our foreign relations or national security or both." In other words, Trager has not ruled upon law, but upon expediency. His primary consideration is not what is legal or what is not but rather, what is "convenient" to those agencies otherwise bound to operate within the U.S. Constitution. He has said, in effect, that even a judge must acquiesce in the commission of state crimes —for convenience! They must acquiesce not by or for law —but for convenience!

The concept of "Separation of Powers" is given a NeoCon treatment by an activist conservative judge:
...the coordinate branches of our government [executive and legislative] are those in whom the Constitution imposes responsibility for our foreign affairs and national security. Those branches have the responsibility to determine whether judicial oversight is appropriate.
Hentoff appropriately asks whether or not it is the duty of the judiciary itself to determine whether judicial oversight is or is not appropriate. Here's my opinion for what it's worth: the Federal Judiciary since Marbury v Madison has always determined when judicial oversight is appropriate.
Original 'Toon by Dante Lee. Use with permission only