Saturday, July 08, 2006

What would you do if you were tortured?

A war is lost when atrocities begin.
Fascism is not defined by the number of its victims, but by the way it kills them.

—Jean-Paul Sartre

Even if whatever had been said about Saddam had been true, it is now equally true of Bush; but, of course, what was said of Saddam was not true. What is said of Bush now is! As Bush conned the American people into complicity, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz painted a rosy picture of "the first Arab democracy". It would be a secular society, he said, ignoring the fact that it already was. The new Iraq would be oil rich and middle class. Aside from the fact that Wolfowitz might have been describing the GOP, Iraq had already been all of those things. The other more well known reasons for war —WMD, for example —have likewise proven to be either bald-faced lies or irrelevant nonsense. There were numerous ex post facto justifications. They, too, have been overtaken by events.

It was hoped that the US army in Iraq would moderate Iran, isolate Mullahs, weaken Hezbollah and other so-called "radical" groups. In every case, the opposite has occurred. Shiites in Iraq are the "government" and have formed an alliance with Iran. If Bush attacks Iran, "his" new Iraqi government will ask the US to leave. Radical groups —flagging prior to the US attack and invasion of Iraq —gain new converts daily. Just as Bush used radical Islam to rally the Christian right, "radical Islam" need only raise the spectre of Christian crusaders or Abu Ghraib to draw a sympathetic crowd.

Marc Lynch, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Williams College, has concluded that so dramatic are Bush's reversals that the administration is no longer promoting democracy in the middle east:

On al-Arabiya last week, Hisham Milhem led a discussion on "Bush and democracy in the Arab world."....I was most struck by a remark by Amr Hamzawy. He pointed that the fact that most of the Arab media and political class were now discussing the "retreat" of American commitment to democracy demonstrates that at least at one point they were prepared to entertain the thought that there had been some credibility to that campaign. No longer, Hamzawy argued — America's turn away from democracy and reform had badly hurt its image and its credibility with this Arab political class....This seemed to be a well-received notion.

Abu Aardvark

Even moderate regimes now feel threatened. The US may have only one friend in the Middle East —Israel. And, lately, that friendship is problematic.

Professor Marjorie Cohn states unequivocally: “Israel’s brutal retaliation against Palestinian civilians constitutes collective punishment. Attacks on a civilian population as a form of collective punishment violate article 50 of the Hague Regulations”, “The Fourth Geneva Convention also prohibits collective punishment. Article 33 …” and “Collective punishment is likewise forbidden by Article 75 of Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions. As four US Supreme Court justices agreed in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld last week, Article 75 is “indisputably part of the customary international law.””[see:Marjorie Cohn Israel Creates Humanitarian Crisis].

Complicating the US position is the sheer hypocrisy of it all. The rising tide of atrocities has turned the middle east irrevocably against the US even as secular nations now associate US troops with Abu Ghraib, Haditha and the CIA with an eastern European gulag. We have yet to reap the full effect of the gathering storm.

Most startling of all is Sartre's advocacy of violence as a legitimate response to repression, motivated by his belief that freedom was the central characteristic of being human.

—From a review of Colonialism and Neocoloniam by Jean-Paul Sartre

GOP propaganda —while working for awhile —is transparently hypocritical:
If certain acts in violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal, conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us.

—Justice Robert Jackson, Chief Prosecutor for the United States, Nuremberg Tribunals

When the rich wage war, it's the poor who die.

—Jean-Paul Sartre

Citizens of a sovereign nation may resist an occupying force in any way they can including armed resistance. It's a principle of international law. Resistance to the US occupying force in Iraq is, therefore, not an "insurgency". The word 'insurgent' implies illegitimacy.

The recent Supreme Court decision is a step in the right direction. As more cases reach the high court, it will become clear that the US presence violates Nuremberg, Geneva, and the UN Resolution that was often incorrectly cited by Bushco.

"Freedom fighters" are never called "insurgents" —even if they are. One can only conclude that like "supply side economics", the word "insurgent" was chosen at the end of a GOP focus group session for its propaganda value, its ability to frame the issue. In the meantime, I will support in any way I can an international movement to bring the entire Bush gang of war criminals and mass murderers to justice at the Hague!

I have vague recollections of the struggle for Algerian independence and upon a quick refresher, I was impressed yet again by the strenuous opposition to the French position from Jean-Paul Sartre.

I know that we are accused of treason. But I ask, who and what do we betray? Judicially we are plunged in a civil war, since the Algerians are considered full French citizens; we thus don’t betray France. In fact, the national community no longer exists; where are its great axes, where are its lines of force, where are the fixed points of its structure?


And now, what? There is no longer one family in Algeria that hasn’t had a member of its family join the maquis or been tortured or killed by the French. Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children of that country eat the grass on the Tunisian and Moroccan borders. 15%-20% of the Algerian population, nearly two million inhabitants of this “French province” are concentrated in camps where an average of one child a day among a “regroupement” of 1000 people dies every day, which comes to about 1500 children a day in total. Must we console ourselves by noting that in these camps there are neither gas chambers nor crematory ovens? And should we feel any scruples about rising up alongside the Algerians against those who inflict this on them, or who content themselves with deploring the fact that others inflict it on them? When things have reached such a point there is no longer room for a third camp; one is either with one side, or with the other.

Letter from Francis Jeanson to Jean-Paul Sartre

At the time this letter was written, Sartre had taken a strong stand against torture. In his Critique of Dialectical Reason, Sartre said of torture that it was intended " reduce men to vermin". Like the US in Iraq, the French used torture to suppress the Algerian resistance. And like the Bush administration which denies that it tortures even as it defends the practice, the French were equally contradictory; they denied it had ever taken place while declaring its effectiveness against the Algerian Liberation Front. True to his existentialism, however, Sarte had the courage to denounce the practice even as he urged others to ask of themselves as he asked of himself: what would I do if I were tortured!

In his unfinished and never produced play about Sir Thomas More, William Shakespeare urged his audience to "...take the stranger's case"! If we, as Americans, are to retain what's left of our humanity, we simply must take the case of the Iraqi people. We must demand that the atrocities end now! We must rise up and demand that the United States withdraw immediately from Iraq! We must demand full and transparent investigations into every outrage perpetrated by the US military in Iraq. We must ask of ourselves as Sartre asked of himself: What would you do if you were tortured?

A final observation about Sartre who adamently defended the leftist La Cause du Peuple . He might have been in serious trouble had he not been seen as the new Voltaire. In my opinion, there is no greater patriot than one who would —in good faith —criticize his own country when that country is morally, even mortally wrong!

Sartre did not confine his remarks to France. A link supplied to this site by Station Agent, takes you to a speech by Sartre in which he excoriates imperialism, neo-colonialism, and the attempted American genocide in Viet Nam:

The American government is not guilty of having invented modern genocide, nor even of having chosen it from other possible answers to the guerrilla. It is not guilty - for example - of having preferred it on the grounds of strategy or economy. In effect, genocide presents itself as the only possible reaction to the insurrection of a whole people against its oppressors. The American government is guilty of having preferred a policy of war and aggression aimed at total genocide to a policy of peace, the only other alternative, because it would have implied a necessary reconsideration of the principal objectives imposed by the big imperialist companies by means of pressure groups. America is guilty of following through and intensifying the war, although each of its leaders daily understands even better, from the reports of the military chiefs, that the only way to win is to rid Vietnam of all the Vietnamese.

It is guilty of being deceitful, evasive, of lying, and lying to itself, embroiling itself every minute a little more, despite the lessons that this unique and unbearable experience has taught, on a path along which there can be no return. It is guilty, by its own admission, of knowingly conducting this war of ‘example’ to make genocide a challenge and a threat to all peoples. When a peasant dies in his rice field, cut down by a machine-gun, we are all hit.

Therefore, the Vietnamese are fighting for all men and the American forces are fighting all of us. Not just in theory or in the abstract. And not only because genocide is a crime universally condemned by the rights of man. But because, little by little, this genocidal blackmail is spreading to all humanity, adding to the blackmail of atomic war. This crime is perpetrated {364} under our eyes every day, making accomplices out of those who do not denounce it.

In this context, the imperialist genocide can become more serious. For the group that the Americans are trying to destroy by means of the Vietnamese nation is the whole of humanity.

—Jean-Paul Sarte, On Genocide, International War Crimes Tribunal - 1967

Faced with a guerrilla war, misleadingly called an "insurgency" by Bush propagandists, the illegitimate regime of George W. Bush has already involved this nation in numerous criminal acts. Our presence in Iraq is a quaqmire increasingly characterized by mass murder, rape and other atrocities. There is no victory to be achieved. Out of Iraq now! War crimes trials for Bush and his co-conspirators!

And a thanks to Mike's Round up at Crooks and Liars. Mike has linked back to the "Cowboy", adding a couple of enhancing links:
The Existentialist Cowboy: "If certain acts in violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us." —Justice Robert Jackson, Chief Prosecutor for the United States, Nuremberg Tribunals

We’re gonna need a guide to understanding fascism.

Related to the issue of the lawlessness of the Bush regime, this update:

Supreme Court’s Ruling in Hamdan Means Warrantless Eavesdropping is Clearly Illegal

Ever since the Supreme Court in the Hamdan case ruled that the Bush administration’s Guantanamo Bay military commissions violate both federal law and the Geneva Conventions, the President has been paying lip service to his "willingness" to comply with that ruling. But the Court’s ruling goes far beyond the limited question of whether military commissions are legal. To arrive at its decision, the Court emphatically rejected the administration’s radical theories of executive power, and in doing so, rendered entirely discredited the administration’s only defenses for eavesdropping on Americans without the warrants required by law.

Actual compliance with the Court’s ruling, then, compels the administration to immediately cease eavesdropping on Americans in violation of FISA. If the administration continues these programs now, then they are openly defying the Court and the law with a brazenness and contempt for the rule of law that would be unprecedented even for them ...

The Existentialist Cowboy

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Rise and Fall of The Enron Empire

by Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy

The recent death of Ken Lay revived memories of a corporate scandal that seemingly triggered the fall of lined up dominoes. I had hopes that the truth about corporate America would trigger some real reforms, a sea change in American attitudes about how business is conducted, and, at least, some introspection about the shallowness of American culture.

I was dissappointed. Greed still motivates corporate robbers barons. Corporations are still considered to be "persons" in the eyes of the law. At the time, I asked: what happened to Enron? Occupying its own gleaming glass and steel skyscraper in downtown Houston, Enron seemed invincible, epitomizing what it meant to be an American corporation. That turned out to have been its downfall.

As much of the world suspected at the time, the American corporation was revealed to be a shell. Enron, for example, produced nothing. It bought and sold natural gas and manipulated spot market prices. It's huge purchasing power literally put the screws to California; the result was a long hot summer of rolling black outs and power shortages. Enron executives and traders were tape recorded cackling and hooting over California's problems --problems that bore the Enron trademark.

What then was the source of Enron wealth? Aside from the profits made manipulating markets, Enron was the recipient of some $10 billion from Saudi royals who still have questionable ties to both Bush and world wide terrorist organizations. That the money was morally tainted didn't stop Kenneth Lay and the robber barons of Enron. Enron was, in fact, in business with "bankers to the terrorists". Only the incurable incurious would not want to know more about the Enron connection to known 'terrorist' organizations --especially those having ties to George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and the 'American' oil industry.

Since the Reagan "revolution" and the rise of dubious economic theories like "supply-side" economics, the actual manufacture of anything of value seems to have fallen to Chinese corporations. The effect has been a cancer on the American economy, beginning with Reagan and having resumed with George W. Bush.

American companies are encouraged by all too friendly, conservative regimes to engage in questionable business practices. The political climate in which these huge businesses operate is much more than merely pro-business, it seems to be anti-everything else. There are large margins for error when tax breaks favor you, and your company can write-off a panoply of follies, inefficiencies, and borderline behaviors. Enron literally created new subsidiaries out of thin air and put a "book" value on them that had more to do with delusion, megalomania, and psychosis than it did with economics or accounting.

That's old news. I am more inclined to confine my focus to the effects this "pro-business" climate has had on the American "character". For example: do we still have character?

Before the rise of Bush, America, despite her many shortcomings, was still admired around the world. Now, we are reviled; and if the various religious and secular guests on a recent installment of Bill Moyer's Faith and Reason are accurate, the world wide revulsion to American culture has reached epidemic levels.

One does not have to be an Islamic radical to find America crass, obsessed with bigness for the sake of bigness, and arrogant for the sake of feeling "cool". Nevermind that there is no hard evidence to support Bush's official conspiracy theory of 911; I have concluded that to the degree that there is a real terrorist threat, it is nothing more nor less than blow-back, a fatal resistance to the arrogant bully on the block.

Now George W. Bush has made of America, the "state" version of Enron. The fact that this nation is financially as well as morally bankrupt is papered over with lies that must surely be compared to Enron's phony books. Many Enron employees, for example, were encouraged to take part of their salary in company stock i.e. you let me cut your salary and I'll make up the difference with worthless pieces of paper —Enron stock. On the national level, Bush tried to sucker retirees out of their Social Security with an equally dubious plan.

Of course a good "con game" requires a willing and greedy sucker. Enron was seen to be a place where employees were seduced into believing that after ten years they could retire rich in Sugarland —Tom Delay's ultra-conservative district. The three words that summed up the Reagan years also describe Enron and the administration of George W. Bush. Those words are: Greed is good!

Because greed is good, all orgnizations, especially American corporations, will inevitably trend toward inefficiency and mediocrity. An American middle manager, for example, is not likely to hire anyone smarter than he/she; secondly, he/she will look for someone that is "like" him/herself. Should the surprisingly competent get hired, he/she will probably leave for a better job where the cycle will repeat itself. Meanwhile, mediocrity, like sour cream, will rise to the top. The truly bright and talented don't go to work for corporations and, if so, it's only until they find something better. The "company man" is not likely to change the world, is not likely to leave a footprint on history. Corporations are not looking to hire philosophers, honest politicians, revolutionaries, poets, or dramatists.

Power for its own sake has become the corporate raison d'etre, just as it similarly motivates Bush and Bushie. Corporate power is based upon an absurdity —that corporations are individuals and have all the "rights" of individuals. Moreover, corporations, if they are to be considered "people", must certainly be seen to be psychopaths. For this reason, the Bush administration, as a collective, as a corporatized government, should be locked up and straight-jacketed.

It was the Reagan administration that began the corruption of American values despite sticking on the word "family". In retrospect, the Reagan administration can be thought of as proto-Bush. Adding their own absurdities to the the moral rot, the Bush regime threatens to bring down this country like Enron, like the Twin Towers, like a collapsing bag. To greed is good has been added Thom Friedman's what does being right have to do with anything?

Thus Friedman has made his lasting contribution to American culture. In the future, when one wants to describe a society in which nothing of value is valued, where only lies are celebrated, they will quote Friedman. Indeed, if being right has nothing to do with anything, what difference did it make that Enron's subsidiaries were almost all entirely fictitious? Friedman may consider himself 'lucky' for claiming that dubious phrase; it might have been puked up by an Enron executive some six years ago.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

A Death Too Convenient

It is not only Kenneth Lay's cozy connections with Dick Cheney that makes his sudden death a matter of extreme public interest. Lay's death may hide forever the subtle connections between Enron, Dick Cheney's Energy Task Force, 911, the Saudi Royals, and the war against Iraq.

For a start, Ken Lay's death takes the heat off the Bush family, primarily because Lay was at the very nexus of the Bush/Saudi axis of oil and energy. In death, there are no more tales to tell save for what can be pieced together thus far. The source for much of the following information is a captured document that, according to former federal prosecutor, John Loftus, was produced by Al Qaeda. The document supports charges of a cover-up. Ongoing terrorist investigations were said to have been shut down or interfered with even as the Enron Corporation negotiated with the Taliban for pipeline rights through Afghanistan.

Who ordered the cover up? Why was Enron made off limits to federal investigation? Who but someone very high up in the Bush administration could have shut down such an investigation? Who, in fact, did?

From that document and other bits and pieces, the following picture emerges.

Before 911, US energy companies were secretly negotiating with the Taliban to build a pipeline across Afghanistan. Unocal and Enron executives met with Taliban representatives in Tom DeLay's district of Sugar Land in 1997, an event that seems suspicious in retrospect. At the time, however, no one was suspicious of oil men flying in and out of Houston. It happens every day.

On another occasion, some 40 Enron representatives met with the Saudi royals in Tashkent. Enron was at the time "...the Afghan pipeline consultant for UNOCAL" [See Loftus vs. Sami Al Arian]; Prince Turki, son of King Faisel, was chief of Saudi intelligence. Also present at the Tashkent meeting was a Unocal consultant: Hamid Karzai —now called derisively the "Mayor" of Kabul.

At the time, the Saudis were pumping money into Enron. The Saudis wired some $10 billion "... from a Cypriot bank through Barclay's Bank in London and on to Houston" in a bid to make of Enron a "player" in the ongoing pipeline negotiations —but why? What kind of deal had Enron struck up with Prince Turki, the ruling Saudi royals, and the Bush administration?

Prince Turki, who made several trips into Afghanistan, dismisses them as mere peace missions. That rings hollow. Officially, the talks were about pipelines —not war! Peace missions are made to prevent wars, not pipelines. Did Prince Turki spill the beans?

As the Saudis placed heavy bets on Enron, the Bush State Department was at work on another front —threatening the Taliban with carpet bombs should the negotiations break down [See Forbidden Truth]

Eventually, the pipeline discussions would collapse and Prince Turki would be fired as head of Saudi intelligence. It's a safe bet, however, that he's still a major player. He was in Houston just last week. He is most certainly still close to the Bin Laden family which, according to Loftus, was promised "the" construction contract [the pipeline contract, presumably] in return for a "baksheesh" [kickback] to the Saudi Royal family. According to Loftus, this is a common business practice initiated by the Carlyle Group's contracts in Saudi Arabia.

As the Republican IPO magazine, Red Herring, confirms, President Bush' father was business partners in the Carlyle Group with the Bin Laden family during this period . This company is a Who's Who of former Democratic and Republican intelligence and political officials, whose specialty is acting as super-lobbyists at the highest levels of government. They are also suspected of arranging construction kickbacks to the Saudi royal family in return for discount oil sales. —Former Federal Prosecutor, John Loftus
Loftus has filed a private lawsuit, Loftus vs. Sami Al Arian, currently pending in Hillsborough County, Florida. It is credited with having shut down what Loftus has called the "Saudi funding conduit" and with having influenced a government raid of so-called Saudi Charities in the US. The lawsuit charges bluntly that the charities were not charities at all, rather, they "...were fronts for networking with other terrorist groups." From the lawsuit:
75. Under the guise of an ICP educational conference, Defendant and/or his agents and servants, repeatedly invited known international terrorists and leaders of extreme racist organizations to the United States. [FBI tr. P.1]

76. Defendant’s own videotapes show that Defendant regretted that some of the people he invited were prevented from attending his ICP conference, including the “Blind Sheik” who was later investigated for the first bombing of the Twin Trade Towers, and was afterwards convicted of another conspiracy to bomb New York landmarks. [FBI Tr. P.1]

77. In order to facilitate the process of obtaining visas for terrorists to attend Defendant’s terrorist conventions, Defendant, his agents and servants incorporated yet another purported non-profit entity in the State of Florida known as the “World Islamic Studies Enterprise.” (WISE).

If these allegations are true, I want to know who was funneling money into the Saudi charities. The 911 plot might also be exposed if we but knew to whom the monies are funneled.

There is reason to believe that many of these things were discussed with Enron's Ken Lay. There is reason to believe that the pipeline may have been the number one item on the agenda when Lay participated in a meeting of Dick Cheney's energy task force.

Documents turned over in the summer of 2003 by the Commerce Department as a result of the Sierra Club’s and Judicial Watch’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, concerning the activities of the Cheney Energy Task Force, contain a map of Iraqi oil fields, pipelines, refineries and terminals, as well as two charts detailing Iraqi oil and gas projects, and “Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oil field Contracts.” The documents, dated March 2001, also feature maps of Saudi Arabian and United Arab Emirates oil fields, pipelines, refineries and tanker terminals. There are supporting charts with details of the major oil and gas development projects in each country that provide information on the project’s costs, capacity, oil company and status or completion date.

Documented plans of occupation and exploitation predating September 11 confirm heightened suspicion that U.S. policy is driven by the dictates of the energy industry. According to Judicial Watch President, Tom Fitton, “These documents show the importance of the Energy Task Force and why its operations should be open to the public.”

When first assuming office in early 2001, President Bush's top foreign policy priority was not to prevent terrorism or to curb the spread of weapons of mass destruction—or any of the other goals he espoused later that year following 9-11. Rather, it was to increase the flow of petroleum from suppliers abroad to U.S. markets.

Secrets of Cheney's Energy Task Force Come to Light

But not all of the information was released following the lawsuit by Judicial Watch. Now, it would appear, that it will never be known to what extent the Bush administration betrayed the people of the United States and fabricated a pretext to invade both Afghanistan and Iraq.

May Kenneth Lay rest in peace. Death among Bush cronies seems to be as statistically high as GOP votes from a DieBold machine. Lay's probable complicity in the crime of the century will remain obscure on the whole and completely unknown in its details.

Jacob Bronouski had reasoned from sheer logical positivism an ethic: behave in such a way that what is true may be verified to be so! But —tragically —the Bush administration typifies an opposite and amoral view —what I call the Thom Friedman cop out: what does being right have to do with anything? It's a question that only the dead wrong would ask. Of Ken Lay, who is remembered in Houston by his many victims, it is a death too convenient!

The Existentialist Cowboy

Monday, July 03, 2006

A Declaration of our Independence

At a time in our history when the President of the United States claims to be above the law, when the nation has been taken to aggressive war upon a pack of lies, when the Congress scrambles to make legal ex post facto the crimes the "President" has already committed, when the Supreme Court states bluntly that the President is a war criminal, when the private conversations and bank records of tens of millions of Americans are routinely pilfered, when the Fourth Amendment is flouted and the Constitution called "quaint" by the Attorney General and a "...Goddamned piece of paper" by the President, it is well to consider on this Independence Day the very sources of what we like to call American freedom or American liberty!

It would be well to remember that the original colonies separated from England for less. It would be well to remember that two words —probable cause —are under attack, if not killed off already. It is also important to remember that those two words stand between us and tyranny.

It is also time to make a "Revolutionary" statement: that whenever a government breaks its contract with the people; that whenever a government abrogates their "inalienable rights", it is the right of those people to abolish that government and replace it.

Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence between June 11 and June 28, 1776. Since that time, it is the Declaration of Independence that is most often thought of as our nation's most cherished symbol of liberty. Even so the Declaration is too often regarded as mere high sounding words perhaps in the same way that George W. Bush says of our Constitution that it is "...just a goddamned piece of paper"!

Nothing could be further from the truth. Jefferson was an educated man, articulate and sometimes profound. The Declaration is a product of a down-to-earth, realistic political philosophy grounded in common sense even as it eschews fanciful metaphysics and meaningless speculation. It expresses an ideal of liberty that has its roots in the no nonsense empirical philosophy of John Locke.
John Locke (1632-1704), is among the most influential political philosophers of the modern period. In the Two Treatises of Government, he defended the claim that men are by nature free and equal against claims that God had made all people naturally subject to a monarch. He argued that people have rights, such as the right to life, liberty, and property, that have a foundation independent of the laws of any particular society. Locke used the claim that men are naturally free and equal as part of the justification for understanding legitimate political government as the result of a social contract where people in the state of nature conditionally transfer some of their rights to the government in order to better insure the stable, comfortable enjoyment of their lives, liberty, and property. Since governments exist by the consent of the people in order to protect the rights of the people and promote the public good, governments that fail to do so can be resisted and replaced with new governments.

Locke's Political Philosophy

Locke wrote extensively, articulately, persuasively on such topics as the Raison d'Etre of Government, the Separation of Powers, the Ends of Government, and the Extent, indeed, the limits of governmental powers.

Jefferson was also influenced by the Virginia Declaration of Rights drafted by George Mason and adopted by the Virginia Constitutional Convention on June 12, 1776. Later, Mason's Virginia declaration became a major influence on the US Bill of Rights, drafted by James Madison.

I am confident that these men —Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Mason, John Locke —would be appalled, perhaps as outraged as am I, that the modern GOP has literally thumbed its nose at these principles.
Section 1. That all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

Section 2. That all power is vested in, and consequently derived from, the people; that magistrates are their trustees and servants and at all times amenable to them.

Section 3. That government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation, or community; of all the various modes and forms of government, that is best which is capable of producing the greatest degree of happiness and safety and is most effectually secured against the danger of maladministration. And that, when any government shall be found inadequate or contrary to these purposes, a majority of the community has an indubitable, inalienable, and indefeasible right to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal.

Virginia Declaration of Rights

Both John Locke and Thomas Jefferson wrote about governments that break the social contract with the people. Both Locke and Jefferson considered such a breach to be justification for a break with the offending "government":
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

—Thomas Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence [emphasis mine]

Locke had already come to the same conclusion.
4(h). Revolution:

If a government subverts the ends for which it was created then it might be deposed; indeed, Locke asserts, revolution in some circumstances is not only a right but an obligation. Thus, Locke came to the conclusion that the "ruling body if it offends against natural law must be deposed." This was the philosophical stuff which sanctioned the rebellions of both the American colonialists in 1775, and the French in 1789.

John Locke: "The Philosopher of Freedom."

Many years later, a young revolutionary would reprise the sentiments of Jefferson and Locke:
When the forces of oppression come to maintain themselves in power against established law; peace is considered already broken.

—Che Guevara, Guerrilla Warfare

And this Independance Day is also a good day to remember what sacrifices were made for those very freedoms and rights that Bush so cavalierly dismisses with a smirk:
For the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our Sacred Honor.

—Declaration of Independence

Since posting this piece, I've read Katherine Vanden Heuvel's excellent piece in "The Nation". She also believes that the Bush administration has engaged in an un-American assault on our Consitution and the very rule of law, her article carries within it the seeds of a political strategy:
In clear violation of established law and centuries-old political precedent, they [Bushco] have wiretapped American citizens; imprisoned citizens without warrants, charges, or means of redress; sanctioned and abetted the torture of foreign nationals; ignored clear Congressional legislative intent with the likes of 750 signing statements; disabled Congressional oversight of their actions; undertaken an assault on the press' right to publish the truth; and suppressed dissent and public-minded information disclosure within the Executive branch itself.

This abuse and overreach of Presidential power directly challenges the "checks and balances" at the core of our constitutional design. It proposes a government fundamentally different from that declared by the Founding Fathers.


The American people's most powerful weapon in defending the Constitution is their vote in Presidential elections. But we cannot afford to wait until 2008. The danger to our Constitution is clear and present. Hence our call to all patriots to put the issue before the public in this November's elections and ask of all candidates, "Do you accept or condemn the President's assault on our Constitution?"

—Katherine Vanden Heuvel, The Nation

From one of my favorite authors, another look at just what we should be "celebrating" or, in light of recent events, just what we should be mourning:
The Declaration of Independence is the fundamental document of democracy. It says governments are artificial creations, established by the people, "deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed," and charged by the people to ensure the equal right of all to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Furthermore, as the Declaration says, "whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it." It is the country that is primary--the people, the ideals of the sanctity of human life and the promotion of liberty.

When a government recklessly expends the lives of its young for crass motives of profit and power, while claiming that its motives are pure and moral, ("Operation Just Cause" was the invasion of Panama and "Operation Iraqi Freedom" in the present instance), it is violating its promise to the country. War is almost always a breaking of that promise. It does not enable the pursuit of happiness but brings despair and grief.

—Howard Zinn, Patriotism and the Fourth of July

The Existentialist Cowboy

The Rumsfeld Doctrine: Easy Victories on the Cheap!

It was the wrong war at the wrong time and for all the wrong reasons. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld conspired with Bush's big oil sponsors to attack Iraq. The WMD cover story is not merely a black hearted malicious lie, nor even an inadvertent one by an inexperienced "decider". It was, rather, a deliberate, planned, organized hoax.

The war itself falls into all three categories: war crimes, crimes against humanity, crimes against the peace. To the extent that Rumsfeld bypassed the chain of command with his own "Einzatzgruppen", every act of torture is traceable to Rummie, Bush, and Cheney.

A Failure of Strategy

Cut through the jargon and you can sum up the Rumsfeld doctrine in a few words: easy victories on the cheap! It seemed to work in Afghanistan where small, lightly armored units scouted the enemy and coordinated the air strike that killed them —fewer troops, fewer supplies, smaller investment. What went wrong was guerilla war and suicide bombers. What went wrong was a Shiite resurgence completely unforeseen by Bush, Rummie, Cheney. Cheap tactics are impotent in the face of a growing international movement unforeseen and misunderstood by Bush.

A guerilla war in Iraq, meanwhile, has devolved into unspeakable barbarism on all sides —at a time when lights are still not on for many Iraqis and clean water is still a premium.
Military commanders in the field in Iraq admit in private reports to the Pentagon the war "is lost" and that the U.S. military is unable to stem the mounting violence killing 1,000 Iraqi civilians a month.

Meanwhile, the massacre of Iraqi civilians at Haditha is "just the tip of the iceberg" with overstressed, out-of-control Americans soldiers pushed beyond the breaking point both physically and mentally.

"We are in trouble in Iraq," says retired army general Barry McCaffrey. "Our forces can't sustain this pace, and I'm afraid the American people are walking away from this war."

Field commanders tell Pentagon Iraq war 'is lost', Doug Thompson, Capitol Hill Blue

Amid talk that America is without allies or friends in Iraq, you can be sure that Bushies are desperately seeking a way out, an American "Dunkirk". But the much vaunted 'coalition of the willing' has melted away, leaving behind a bewildered, impotent US and a nonplussed UK. There is no country willing or capable of pulling Bush's fat out of the fire. "Staying the course" is Bushspeak for let's hope it works out before the elections.

We have no exit strategy

We could be moving toward an American Dunkirk. In 1940 the defeated British Army in Belgium was driven back by the Germans to the French seacoast city of Dunkirk, where it had to abandon its equipment and escape across the English Channel on a fleet of civilian vessels, fishing smacks, yachts, small boats, anything and everything that could float and carry the defeated and wounded army to safety.

Obviously, our forces in Iraq will not be defeated in open battle by an opposing army as happened in 1940, but there is more than one way to stumble into a military disaster. Fragmented reports out of Iraq suggest we may be on our way to finding one of them. Defeat can come from overused troops. It does not help that one by one, the remaining members of the Coalition of the Willing give every appearance of sneaking out of town.

Nightmare Scenario, Nicholas von Hoffman

TV pundits are now saying that it will take a million troops to win a guerrilla war against an insurgency in Iraq! It was not so long ago that pundits predicted a 90 day "war", another easy victory on the cheap! Thom Friedman asked recently: "What does being right have to do with anything?" Simply this: because Bush was dead wrong, the US is left with no good options in Iraq. No one in Bush's incompetent regime foresaw the rise of a Shiite theocracy and its inevitable alliance with Iran. Ironically and predictably, Bush will use that as a defense i.e., no one could have foreseen the rise of the Shiites!

Similarly, we were told: no one could have foreseen that the levees would break!

No one could have foreseen that hijackers would use airliners.

I'll add one of my own: no one could have foreseen the rise of the "no one could have foreseen" defense for complete and utter incompetence!

A related update:

Survey of National Security Experts

U.S. losing terror war because of Iraq, poll says

Thursday, June 29, 2006

WASHINGTON — The United States is losing its fight against terrorism and the Iraq war is the biggest reason why, more than eight of ten American terrorism and national security experts concluded in a poll released yesterday.

One participant in the survey, a former CIA official who described himself as a conservative Republican, said the war in Iraq has provided global terrorist groups with a recruiting bonanza, a valuable training ground and a strategic beachhead at the crossroads of the oil-rich Persian Gulf and Turkey, the traditional land bridge linking the Middle East to Europe.

"The war in Iraq broke our back in the war on terror," said the former official, Michael Scheuer, the author of Imperial Hubris, a popular book highly critical of the Bush administration’s anti-terrorism efforts. "It has made everything more difficult and the threat more existential."
Some additional resources:

The Existentialist Cowboy

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The GOP tries to let Bush off the hook, to make legal crimes he's already committed!

It's now official: George W. Bush is a war criminal, in violation of both the Geneva convention and US criminal codes. [See also: International Humanitarian Law - Treaties & Documents] Predictably, however, the GOP is already making plans to make legal —after the fact —crimes that Bush has already committed.[See ABC News] There is no slicker way to exalt Bush above the law than to simply make legal the crimes he's already committed.

I have more to say about ex post facto attempts to make legal the numerous crimes Bush has committed but first the Hamden decision to date: in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, handed down June 29, the United States Supreme Court ruled that George W. Bush exceeded his authority. Neither the Congressional Authorization for the Use of Military Force, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), nor the so-called inherent powers give Bush the legal authority to set up military tribunals at Guantanamo.

For those of us who have maintained for some time now that Bush is a "war criminal" —who has breached both international conventions and US criminal codes —the high court's decision is vindication. In effect, SCOTUS has said that for a period of some five years, the Bush/Rumsfeld/Cheney gang has been guilty of violating the Third Convention on treatment of prisoners of war as well as a US federal law of 1996 which binds the US executive to those relevant parts of the Geneva convention.

Predictably, a conspiratorial GOP is scrambling to let Bush off the hook —though he is most certainly guilty of violating US and international law. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., says that Congress will reverse the Supreme Court's declaration and Sen. Arlen Specter is already at work on the language of the bill. I submit to Sen. McCain that Congress does not have the authority to reverse a decision of the supreme court; it can only pass a new law addressing its objections. The effect of any new law is of that date; it cannot be retroactive in its effects. There is no precedent for excusing culprits ex post facto!

Ex post facto is latin for "from something done afterward" or "after the fact". Ex post facto law is retroactive. On it its face, this is unfair but more importantly, it is blatantly unconstitutional

No bill of attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.

Article I, US Constitution

Bush and his GOP co-conspirators are routinely at odds with the supreme law of the land but also simple common sense. Because ex post facto laws change —after the fact —the legal consequences of acts already committed, the ex post facto law becomes an instrument of oppression and tyranny. Hoping to crack down on dissenters, for example, a tyrannical government need only make the voicing of certain opinions a crime but only after they've been printed, broadcast or spoken. Such a government need only make the law, round up the usual suspects, and prosecute them for actions that were legal at the time of their commission. Conversely, the dictator-in-chief in such a society, need only subvert the very foundations of law and order itself and demand that his actions be made legal —after the fact! Convenience is the enemy of the rule of law.

The notion that Congress can somehow exculpate Bush for the crimes he's already committed is not merely absurd, it's seditious and dangerous —a short road to tyranny and dictatorship.

To her credit, Sen. Dianne Feinstein has refuted every dubious point made by Sen. John McCain in defense of this pernicious strategy. She has shown the Democrats the way. If the Democratic party is to have any future at all, it must begin now to oppose with its every fiber a creeping, insidious Bush dictatorship. Allowing even a bright and capable leader the rope he needs to simply improvise his way through office is nothing less than the death of the rule of law.

An update from the Washington Post:

Democrats urge broader view of Bush war powers

By Matt Spetalnick

Sunday, July 2, 2006; 4:12 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senior Democrats called on Sunday for a broader review of whether President George W. Bush had overstepped his war powers after the Supreme Court struck down his administration's Guantanamo military tribunals.

Seeking to capitalize on the sharpest judicial rebuke yet of Bush's tactics in the war on terrorism, Democratic critics said the ruling opens the door for a closer look at complaints he had improperly bypassed Congress in other areas as well.

The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the military commissions created by Bush to try foreign terrorism suspects held at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo were unlawful and violated the Geneva Conventions. ...

Around the blogosphere, some great comments. Here's a excerpt from Rubicon, but I recommend the entire post:
The big question now is how Bush and his Republican Congress will respond. So far, they seem to think that they can retroactively legalize what Bush has done. That will not be easy to do. Hamdan raises the stakes: it's war crimes we're talking about.

A little legislative fix won't erase war crimes, though a few resignations and impeachments would certainly be a move in the right direction. It's a hopeful sign that Democrats are not the only people now talking about the seriousness of the situation. Andrew Sullivan has written thoughtful posts on the subject (here and here), and he points to an analysis of the case by the Cato Institute that emphasizes "command responsibility" and military "orders." Editorial boards that have until recently treated Bush's authoritarian claims with deference—including the Washington Post and the New York Times—have changed their tunes.

Many more voters are becoming disillusioned, too, and Congress may well change hands in November. A new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll shows a 14-percent advantage for Democrats, with the gap up to 26 points among women. With a Democratic Congress, we might even see the legislative branch join the judiciary in a drive to restore nonmonarchical government.

Rubicon, Notes on Politics, Science and Art

The Existentialist Cowboy