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No, Obama Hasn’t Ended the War in Afghanistan

By Claire Bernish | ANTIMEDIA | July 2, 2015

Protests erupted north of Kabul on Monday after U.S. forces raided a local residence in search of a weapons cache—revealing that U.S. troops might not play as “limited” a role in Afghanistan as the Pentagon claims.

It’s been months since President Obama declared an official end to the combat mission in Afghanistan. At present, the U.S. mission is ostensibly limited to advising Afghan forces and counterterrorism strikes targeting the Taliban—at least, according to the military’s stated role. However, troops descending from a helicopter in the pre-dawn hours to raid the house of a local commander who has no connection to al-Qaeda—or even the Taliban—certainly muddies the definition of “adviser.”

In fact, Jan Ahmad, who was targeted in the raid, fought against the Taliban in the past and the Soviets before that. Charikar locals, who felt the matter should not have involved foreign forces, hastily closed shops and took to the streets in outrage, shouting, “Death to America!”

“The protesters burned a lot of tires to show their rage,” said local resident Mahmood Hamidy, according to the New York Times, “and that, if the issue is not taken seriously, they are ready for violence.”

Colonel Brian Tribus, spokesperson for General John Campbell, who commands U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said the purpose of the raid was “to destroy a cache of munitions that could be used to conduct attacks against Afghans and coalition forces.” After a thorough search, the cache was blown up.

With hundreds of millions of dollars spent to disarm the numerous militias that lack ties to either al-Qaeda or the Taliban, the motivations of the U.S. military seem somewhat questionable. Elders and other former commanders suspected the raid was political retribution for Ahmad’s support of Abdullah Abdullah in the last presidential election.

A similar raid in March comprised of U.S. drones and troops cooperating with Afghan forces left three people dead—but not the person targeted, who suffered only minor injuries.

Questions further surround the U.S.’ role in Afghanistan—including yet another example in a seemingly endless supply of official statements that lack credibility.

July 3, 2015 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Corruption, Deception, Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

Obama Signs Legislation Inhibiting Boycott of Israel

IMEMC News & Agencies | July 2, 2015

barack-obama-with-benjamin-netanyahu_190_190President Obama has signed legislation which would tackle anti-Israel boycotts all over the world and would raise specific US priorities in roughly 150 trade objectives in its negotiations.

One of the main goals, according to World Bulletin/Al Ray, is to counter willingness to support “Boycott Divestment and Sanctions” movement against Israel within the European Union. The legislation was made by a group of congressmen and the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

The new US-Israel Trade and Commercial Enhancement Act is specifically targeted “to discourage politically motivated actions to boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel by states, non-member states of the United Nations, international organisations, or affiliated agencies of international organisations that are politically motivated and are intended to penalise or otherwise limit commercial relations specifically with Israel or persons doing business in Israel or in Israeli- controlled territories.”

The new legislation was signed in spite of numerous warnings from Obama’s advisors and officials, who said that such a law can seriously harm trade relations with the European Union members that favor “Boycott Divestment and Sanctions” movement and prohibit trading with Israeli companies that operate in the occupied territories.

July 2, 2015 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Economics | , , , , | 2 Comments

Both Major U.S. Parties are Plagues on Humanity

By Glen Ford | Black Agenda Report | July 1, 2015

There has never been a dime’s worth of difference between the Clintons (Bill and Hillary) and Barack Obama, and less than ten cents separates the worldviews of these Democratic political twins from the Bush wing of the Republican Party.

hilary-clintonEach has their individual quirks. Barack destroys international order and the rule of law while dabbling at song; Bill dismantled the U.S. manufacturing base and threw record numbers of Blacks in prison as he toyed with his trumpet; George W. played the fool who would Shock and Awe the world into obedience; and Hillary is the evil crone that curses the dead while screaming “We are Woman” like a banshee. But they are all the same in their corporate soullessness.

They all lie for a living, and they live to lie. Hillary Clinton commingled official and personal criminality through the medium of email. Knowing that, in a life dedicated to crime, she could never successfully sequester her private and public conspiracies, Hillary privatized all of her email correspondence during her tenure as Obama’s Secretary of State (in the perfect spirit of neoliberalism). The fate of millions of Haitians whose country’s earthquake and development “aid” are under the Clinton family thumb were doubtless bundled into the tens of thousands of messages she erased on leaving Foggy Bottom.

Republicans have harassed her ever since, seeking an electronic smoking gun to show Clinton’s cowardice or lack of resolve to “stand up for America” and “our troops” or some other nonsense. What the Benghazi affair actually proves is that the Obama administration was just as intent as the Republicans to maintain the fiction that the “rebels” put in power by seven months of NATO bombing of Libya were not various flavors of Islamic jihadists – some of whom were already turning on their erstwhile masters. The U.S.-Saudi project to create and nurture the international jihadist network is a bipartisan venture that dates back to Jimmy Carter’s presidency – and, therefore, nothing for Democrats and Republicans to fight about. However, the GOP’s churning of Clinton’s emails does provide a glimpse into her quest to run for president in 2016 as the woman who vanquished Muammar Gaddafi (“Qaddafi” or simply “Q” in Clinton’s usage).

A number of Clinton’s correspondences were with Sidney Blumenthal, a former Clinton family spin-master who wrote nasty things about Barack Obama while working for Hillary’s 2008 presidential campaign – which made it impossible for her to hire him at the State Department. Nevertheless, Clinton needed his talents for hype for the campaign ahead. Their emails in the summer of 2011 discussed how Hillary’s status as stateswoman could soar when the Libyan leader was finally eliminated. “This is a historic moment and you will be credited for realizing it,” wrote Blumenthal, feeding the crone’s huge gizzard of ego, according to an article in Monday’s New York Times. “You must go on camera,” wrote Blumenthal. “You must establish yourself in the historical record at this moment.” Hillary was anxious to seize the time to establish what Blumenthal described as “the Clinton Doctrine.”

The Times piece somehow concludes that Obama stole Clinton’s thunder with an 1,100-word speech, in late August, declaring: “The Gaddafi regime is coming to an end, and the future of Libya is in the hands of its people.” But Hillary best expressed the ghoulishness of America’s ruling duopoly two months later, in October, when Gaddafi was savagely butchered by screaming jihadists. “We came, we saw, he died,” cackled the banshee.

In the annals of global diplomacy, no more vulgar words have been spoken by a major power foreign minister or head of state. Yet, Clinton’s calculated quip perfectly encapsulates the bloodlust that is the common characteristic of both the governing duopoly of the United States and their suckling children in ISIS and the other proliferating al Qaida factions.

Thanks to Seymour Hersh, we now have a much more plausible scenario for the May 2, 2011, demise of Osama bin Laden, the “OG” of the U.S.-Saudi spawned global jihad, whose body will never be located. Virtually the entire U.S. account of his death is a lie, repeatedly contradicted on its own terms – another layer of fictional Americana in the age of empire in decline.

Clinton was hard-pressed to imagine how she might trump the president’s bin Laden death-watch extravaganza. Her opportunity came five months later, when she delivered her gruesome paraphrase of Julius Caesar on the occasion of Col. Gaddafi’s murder. In the context of Washington’s deeply racist foreign policy, Gaddafi and bin Laden were equally deserving of death, although Gaddafi was among the most fervent and effective fighters against Islamic jihadists: his government was the first in the world to request a global arrest warrant against bin Laden.

The Libyan Islamists were quickly transferred to the new U.S.-NATO-Saudi-Qatari front lines in Syria. The CIA station in Benghazi was at the center of the action – and got burned in the wild and unwieldy process of herding jihadists, who find it difficult to take orders from “infidels,” even when the “Crusaders” are paying the bills and supplying the weapons.

The U.S. consulate and CIA station in Benghazi were attacked on September 11, 2012. The next day, the Pentagon’s intelligence agency issued a report predicting that a “Salafist principality” – another term for an Islamic State – would likely arise in Syria as a result of the war, and that “Western countries, the Gulf States and Turkey are supporting these efforts.” Moreover, the establishment of such an Islamic “principality” would create “the ideal atmosphere for AQI [al Qaida in Iraq, which became ISIS, ISIL and the Islamic State] to return to its old pockets in Mosul and Ramadi” in Iraq – events that have since transpired.

The Defense Intelligence Agency report didn’t say so, but the “Western Powers” included the United States, through its CIA.

The document was declassified this year as the result of a suit by a libertarian right-wing legal outfit. The people of the world continue to be fed the fiction that the U.S. is engaged in a long, twilight struggle against al Qaida Salafists whose international network was created by, and continues to benefit from, “Western countries, the Gulf States and Turkey.”

However, the 2012 Pentagon warning about the rise of an Islamic State may have had some effect on U.S. policy in Syria. One year later, in September of 2013, President Obama backed off from his threat to bomb Syria in “retaliation” for a chemical missile attack against civilians – a crime much more likely committed by western-backed Salafists. The conventional wisdom is that the Russians tricked a hapless Secretary of State John Kerry into agreeing to the peaceful, internationally supervised destruction of Syria’s chemical arsenal; or that the refusal of Britain’s Parliament to go along with an air assault on Syria made the U.S. position untenable; or that Obama feared losing a vote on the issue in the U.S. Congress. None of this rings true to me. The United States is not easily deterred by the opinions of Europeans, who in the end accept Washington’s acts as a fait accompli. And, it was not clear that Obama would have lost the vote in Congress – a vote that he requested, while at the same time declaring that he did not need the legislature’s permission to “punish” Syria for crossing his “red line.”

I think that high Pentagon officials and elements of the Obama administration – probably including the president, himself – took the Benghazi disaster and the Defense Intelligence Agency report to heart, and decided that it was better to keep bleeding the Syrians and their Russian, Lebanese and Iranian allies through a prolonged war, than to bomb al Qaida into power. For the U.S., regional chaos is preferable to the triumph of the, ultimately, unmanageable Salafists – unchained.

The thirty-plus year war against Iran would, however, be ratcheted up. The Bush administration was snatched back from the brink of a military assault against Teheran in 2007 when – to the great consternation of Vice President Dick Cheney – all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies declared, publicly and unanimously, that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapons program, years before.

The spooks reaffirmed their consensus in the 2010 National Intelligence Estimate – again, that there was no evidence Iran has any intention of making a bomb. The Obama administration has since avoided asking the intelligence agencies for their analysis on the issue, knowing they would get the same answer. Instead, they rely on Israeli propaganda, pick and choose various “experts” from inside and outside the arms control “community,” or simply put forward unsupported statements on Iran’s capabilities and intentions: the Big Lie. While Bush was humiliated by facts supplied by his own intelligence experts, Obama has escalated the confrontation with Iran, applying crippling sanctions and the whole range of low-level warfare, in close collaboration with Israel – proving, once again, that Obama is the “more effective evil.”

Obama has nearly completed knocking off victims on the “hit list” of countries that George Bush was working on when General Wesley Clark ran across it in 2002. Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Somalia have been invaded since then, and Sudan was stripped of a third of its territory. Only Iran and Lebanon remain intact and outside the U.S. imperial umbrella.

The Republican-Democratic duopoly plays tag-team in promoting the Project for a New American Century – a doctrine promulgated by neo-conservatives in 1997 that has served as the guiding light of both the Bush and Obama administrations. The differences between the two teams are merely rhetorical. The Bush regime is described as “unilateralist,” although it employed the same “Coalition of the Willing” approach to aggressive war as does the Obama administration. President Obama claims the right to disregard and methodically undermine international law through “humanitarian” military intervention, whereas Bush claimed to be “spreading democracy.” Same weapons systems, same mass murder, same objective: U.S. domination of the planet.

There’s nothing democratic or humanitarian about the U.S. imperial project. Therefore, its maintenance requires the deployment of 24-7 psychological operations worldwide, but directed primarily against the U.S. public.

Republican strategist Karl Rove was far more honest than his Democratic counterparts when he explained to a reporter, back in 2004:

We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.

Election seasons are reality-creation festivals, during which the two corporate parties pretend to put forward different visions of the national and global destiny – when, in fact, they answer to the same master and must pursue the same general strategy.

The continuity of GOP-Democratic rule – the near-identical depravity – is horrifically evident in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where six million people have been slaughtered by U.S. surrogates since 1996: the largest genocide since World War II. Successive U.S. administrations – Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, assisted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice, the high U.S. official most deeply implicated in the entirety of the genocide – have armed, financed, and covered up the Congolese holocaust. Each administration has collaborated with its predecessor to hide the crime and obscure the question of guilt – and then to continue the killing.

Decent people do not vote for political parties that produce such fiends, who deserve Nuremburg justice of the capital kind. Any talk of “lesser evils” is both stupid and obscene.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

July 2, 2015 Posted by | "Hope and Change", War Crimes, Militarism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Just Say Anything!” – The US Responds to the UN Review of its Human Rights Record

By Janet Phelan – New Eastern Outlook – 29.06.2015

The US has a history of making inaccurate statements to international bodies in order to advance its global agenda. One need only look at the statements made on the international stage prior to the invasion of Iraq to realize that the intention to invade Iraq was not going to be hindered by a realistic assessment of its “weapons of mass destruction” program.

In recent UN convenings, we are now seeing false statements put on the record by high-ranking US officials concerning the US’s domestic agenda. As the UN has no dominion over the domestic issues within the United States, one can only view these coordinated efforts by the US officials as a studied effort at propaganda.

This past May, the UN reviewed the human rights record of the United States. Known as the UPR (Universal Periodic Review), this session in May marked the second such review, the first having taken place in 2010. Civil society was invited to submit reports and over ninety NGOs and grassroots organizations did so. In addition, over 110 UN member nations also voiced their concerns as to the US’s human rights record.

Criticisms and concerns were entered on many different issues. The failed campaign promise of President Obama to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay was mentioned repeatedly. So were the failures of the United States to ratify many human rights treaties, including the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Convention on the Rights of the Child, The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, The Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance as well as other international treaties.

Racial profiling and police killings of US citizens, many if not most being African Americans, were raised as consistent concerns. In addition, recommendations were made that the US halt its application of the death penalty and also establish a national human rights agency.

The tone of the US response was quite a bit different from the tack taken in 2010. Gone were the promises, empty as they were. Instead, the US adopted a regimented and in some cases a somewhat belligerent defense of what might be considered indefensible activities. And where belligerence might have failed to impress, outright lies were employed.

Muted belligerence was clearly in evidence in the statements made by Brigadier General Richard Gross, legal counsel to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who addressed concerns about Guantanamo Bay and the detainees. “The detainees are detained lawfully,” he declared. According to Gross, there were 242 detainees at the beginning of the Obama administration and 116 have been transferred out since then. He stated that 122 remain. As these figures omit four individuals, it is assumed that they have died.

Alarmingly, Gross made the following revelations: Of the remaining 122, he told us, 57 are designated for transfer. Out of the 65 others, 10 are currently facing charges or have been convicted. The remaining 55, he stated, will be reviewed by the periodic review board. In other words, 55 individuals have been detained for years without being charged. This is hardly in accordance with US law, which guarantees a speedy trial, among other legal considerations.

And it is US law which pertains to the detainees. Supreme Court decisions have granted the detainees protections under US law, including the right of habeas corpus. Over 200 writs of habeas corpus have been filed by Guantanamo Bay detainees. Not one has been granted.

Police abuse is of grave concern to many different sectors. The US attempted to assuage these concerns with outright lies. Indeed, the US continued on with its hooey about the non-existent “hundreds of federal prosecutions” for police abuse that it tried to front a few months back at the Convention Against Torture meeting in Geneva. As discussed in this article, the actual numbers of federal prosecutions for police abuse could be counted on the fingers of one hand. 

Rather than correct the previous misstatements, the US officials amplified the bogus figures, and cited a total of 400 such prosecutions. The Big Lie is always the best, and for those who gagged on the overblown figure of 330 such prosecutions stated at the CAT by Assistant Attorney General David Bitkower a few months back, the new figure of 400 such prosecutions provides an even bigger loogey to swallow.

For students of effective propaganda, it might be of interest to note that the US did not use David Bitkower, a white man, as the mouthpiece for this lie on the occasion of the UPR. As previously noted, most of the police killings involve a black victim, and accordingly, the US used one of its black DOJ officials, James Cadogan, to deliver this line of horse puckey. Cadogan is Senior Counselor to the Assistant Attorney General.

Well, using the facade of race to convince the naïve population that it was getting something other than more of the same worked in the 2008 election, did it not?

It looks like the US, seemingly on a roll of grandiose pronouncements as to its diligent protection of human rights, did not stop with this false figure. Other declarations were made at the UPR which were similarly suspect. For example, according to Kevin Washburn, with the Department of the Interior, the US has restored about a million acres to Indian tribes under this administration. Well, that sounds pretty impressive, doesn’t it?

The problem arises in verifying Washburn’s “million acre” pronouncement. As it turns out, Washburn also testified before a Congressional subcommittee just a scant three days after he made the “million acre” declaration to the UN. In his testimony in front of the Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs, US House of Representatives on May 14, Washburn testified that the Obama administration had restored “approximately 300,000 acres to tribes.” 

That constitutes a rather serious difference in figures. In accordance with the Uncle Tomism seen in using African American Cadogan to speak on police abuse, Washburn, who is the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the Department of the Interior, also claims to be a member of the Chickasaw Nation, an Oklahoma tribe.

At the 2010 UPR, the US promised to ratify the Convention On the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In fact, Congress voted against ratification in 2012. In the US report to the UPR for the 2015 review, the US stated that “The United States has robust protections to prevent discrimination against persons with disabilities and has actively enforced these protections since our last report.” In fact, multiple ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) complaints have been filed with the Department of Justice, stating profound violations of rights affecting the elderly and disabled by state courts. According to recent statements made by an ADA employee to this reporter, not one of these complaints has been pursued by the DOJ.

Another red flag appeared in the US’s statements about the number of federal hate crimes prosecutions. The US claimed that over 200 individuals had been convicted under federal hate crime laws, including the Shepard/Byrd Act, in the past five years.

This reporter contacted the DOJ press office as well as the FBI and was refused details on hate crime convictions. A dedicated internet search, including DOJ and FBI websites as well as newspaper reports, turned up a total of 72 convictions for federal hate crimes since 2009. Sixteen of these convictions—for the infamous Amish beard cutting defendants– were subsequently reversed in 2014, leaving a grand total of 56.

Parenthetically, as the press office at the US DOJ refused to supply factual documentation (such as case numbers and names), this reporter filed a Freedom of Information Request for this information. It is possible that the fulfillment of this request will provide a different perspective. For the edification of the readers, the last FOIA request by this reporter was filed in 2009. I am still awaiting the response.

Recently, the Wall Street Journal ran an article on the lack of transparency in the Obama administration and cited multiple problems with FOIA. According to the article, “Most Administrations play games with FOIA, but the Obama White House has turned stonewalling into an art form.” 

The WSJ article goes on to discuss the following ploys being utilized to evade replies to FOIA requests– imposing sky high fees, failing to process requests within the legal time limit, destroying information and excessively redacting information.

Access to accurate information is a fundamental part of a democracy. If the citizenry is kept in the dark about the nature of its governance, it will not be able to make appropriate decisions. Those in power who play a shell game with the facts of their activities do so in accordance with the dedicated purpose of any liar–fear of exposure and avoidance of accountability.

Janet C. Phelan, investigative journalist and human rights defender that has traveled pretty extensively over the Asian region, an author of a tell-all book EXILE.

June 30, 2015 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Civil Liberties, Deception, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Honduras Bleeding

The Coup and Its Aftermath

By ERIC DRAITSER and RAMIRO S. FUNEZ | CounterPunch | June 29, 2015

June 28 marked the six year anniversary of the military coup in Honduras – the day that a democratically elected left wing government was ousted by a US-backed, US-trained cabal of generals and right wing politicians and landowners. It could correctly be called a “Quiet Coup” primarily because it took place with very little fanfare from the corporate media which, to the extent that it covered it at all, did so mostly from a distorted perspective which spread more misinformation than truth. Today, six years (and many innocent lives, and billions of dollars) later, this shameful moment in recent history still remains largely forgotten.

Perhaps it was the lingering euphoria felt by liberals and so-called progressives in the months after Obama’s election and inauguration. Perhaps it was the still new economic crisis and subsequent bailout and financial turmoil. Perhaps it was plain old imperialistic, neocolonial disregard for Latin America and the rights of the people unfortunate enough to be living in “America’s backyard.” Whatever the reason, the fact remains that the Obama administration and those who supported it, then and now, are complicit in an ongoing political, economic, and social tragedy in Honduras.

But why bring it up now, other than to mark the anniversary of the coup? For starters, because one of the primary participants and benefactors happens to be the likely Democratic Party presidential candidate: Hillary Clinton. Also, far from being a discrete episode of US imperialism’s sordid past, the coup and its legacy remain a driving force in Honduran politics and society today. The beneficiaries and participants are all still either in government or have shifted to the private sector, and continue to enrich themselves at the cost of the poor and working people of the country [though alleged coup orchestrator Miguel Fucase just died]. The coup government of Honduras continues to wage a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing against minority communities to benefit itself and its patrons from the US and elsewhere.

Perhaps most importantly, the coup of 2009 reveals the extent to which the United States remains a neocolonial, imperial power in Latin America, and reminds us of just what countries like Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador have been struggling against. It illustrates in the starkest terms the human cost of Washington’s policies, not in books about a historical period, but in images and videos of a country under its thumb today. It reminds us just how real the struggle still is.

The Coup and the US Role

The 2006 election of José Manuel Zelaya, known as “Mel” to his friends and supporters, was a watershed moment in the history of Honduras. A country that, like its neighbors, suffered under a succession of US-backed right wing governments, had finally elected a man whose politics were of the people, rather than of the military and business interests. Despite coming from a wealthy family, and having been elected under the Partido Liberal (Liberal Party) banner, Zelaya’s politics shifted significantly to the left once he assumed office.

Not only did Zelaya commit the great sin of forging ties with the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America) and PetroCaribe blocs, but Zelaya challenged the political status quo in the country, promising to represent the poor and working class in a country traditionally dominated by wealthy landowners and the military. As journalist, author, and former adviser to the Permanent Mission of Honduras at the United Nations, Roberto Quesada, told Counterpunch in an exclusive interview:

When Zelaya came into power, even though he was in a traditional party, he changed the traditional politics of the Liberal Party and made it into a people’s party. He turned the presidential palace into a house for the people…For the first time those without voices were given a voice…He wanted to introduce the Cuarta Urna [Fourth Ballot Box Referendum]. For the first time the Honduran people could decide what they wanted and change the constitution [because]…the constitution of 1982 was in favor of the right wing and was not in the interests of Hondurans.

And so it seemed in 2009 that Honduras, like Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua before it, would legally and democratically break free of the political and corporate hegemony of the US. Clearly this was something that Washington, even with the newly elected president of “Hope” and “Change” in the White House, could not abide. Enter: then newly appointed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Clinton has since admitted openly, and quite brazenly, her central role in legitimizing, supporting, and providing political cover for the illegal, and internationally condemned, coup against Zelaya. As Counterpunch contributor Mark Weisbrot has noted, Clinton stated clearly in her book Hard Choices that, “In the subsequent days [after the coup] I spoke with my counterparts around the hemisphere, including Secretary [Patricia] Espinosa in Mexico… We strategized on a plan to restore order in Honduras and ensure that free and fair elections could be held quickly and legitimately, which would render the question of Zelaya moot.”

What exactly was the plan? Aside from providing diplomatic cover by not openly calling it a military coup, Clinton employed her longtime associates Lanny Davis and Bennett Ratcliff who whispered sweet nothings in the ears of the right people in Washington and on Wall Street, including in a laughable op-ed in the Wall Street journal, thereby paving the way for new “elections” in Honduras, in order to, as Clinton put it, “render the question of Zelaya moot.” Lanny Davis, as has been noted by a number of journalists, is a direct representative of powerful business elites in Honduras.

Davis himself explained this fact in an interview just weeks after the coup when he stated, “My clients represent the CEAL, the [Honduras Chapter of] Business Council of Latin America… I do not represent the government and do not talk to [interim] President [Roberto] Micheletti. My main contacts are [billionaires] Camilo Atala and Jorge Canahuati. I’m proud to represent businessmen who are committed to the rule of law.” Indeed, Davis quite candidly exposed himself as an agent of powerful oligarch financiers and landowners who, until the election of Zelaya, had always maintained firm control of the reins of government in Honduras.

Essentially then, Clinton and her henchmen played the key role in facilitating an illegal coup against a democratically elected government in the interests of their billionaire friends inside Honduras, and the geopolitical agenda of the United States in the region. Though she is busy employing populist rhetoric in her presidential bid these days, Clinton has done yeoman’s work for the right wing, anti-democratic forces of Latin America, and the Empire broadly speaking. Of course, none of this should come as any surprise to people who have followed Clinton, and US imperialism in Latin America for that matter.

Equally unsurprising is the US role in the training and backing of the Honduran generals who carried out the coup on that early morning in late June 2009. As School of the Americas Watch (SOAW) noted at the time:

The June 28 coup in Honduras was carried out by the School of the Americas (SOA) graduates Gen. Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, the head of the of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Honduran military and by Gen. Luis Prince Suazo, the head of the Air Force… SOA-trained Honduran Army Attorney Col. Herberth Inestroza justified the military coup and stated in an interview with The Miami Herald ‘It would be difficult for us, with our training, to have a relationship with a leftist government. That’s impossible.’ Inestroza also confirmed that the decision for the coup was made by the military… According to information that SOA Watch obtained from the US government through a Freedom of Information Act request, Vasquez studied in the SOA at least twice: once in 1976 and again in 1984…The head of the Air Force, General Luis Javier Prince Suazo, studied in the School of the Americas in 1996.

The School of the Americas (since renamed Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, aka WHINSEC) is a US military institute located at Fort Benning, Georgia infamous for graduating a literal who’s who of Central and South American military dictators, death squad leaders, and other assorted fascists who left their bloody marks on their respective countries. It’s been called the “School of Dictators” and a “coup factory,” and it seems that Honduras in 2009 was merely the latest victim of its illustrious alumni. Indeed, this was not the first time for Honduras, as both General Juan Melgar Castro (military dictator, 1975-1978) and Policarpo Paz Garcia (death squad leader and then military dictator, 1978-1982) were graduates of the School of the Americas. Needless to say, the legacy of the United States in Honduras is a bloody and shameful one.

Honduras: A US Military Foothold in Central America

One should not be fooled into believing that since 2009 and the US-backed coup and subsequent regime change, somehow the US has not been involved militarily inside Honduras. Indeed, just weeks ago the US military announced that it would be sending a contingent of US Marines to Honduras, ostensibly to “provide assistance during hurricane season.” However, the reality is that the US is merely continuing, and indeed expanding, its ongoing military partnership and de facto occupation of Honduras and a number of other key Central American countries.

In an exclusive interview with Counterpunch, the US Coordinator of the National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP) and Refoundation Party (LIBRE), Lucy Pagoada succinctly explained, “The coup forced us to wake up to the reality of Honduras. I lived in Honduras until I was 15 years old. I’ve never seen my country so militarized as the way it has become after 2009. It has turned into a large military base trained and funded by the US. They even have School of the Americas forces there… There have been high levels of violence and torture since the coup against the resistance and the opposition.” According to Pagoada and other activists both in Honduras and in the US, the country has essentially become an annex of the US military, acting as a staging area for a variety of Washington’s military operations in the region.

This conclusion is confirmed by a report from the North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA) which noted:

The steady increase of U.S. assistance to [Honduran] armed forces [is] an indicator of tacit U.S. support. But the U.S. role in militarization of national police forces has been direct as well. In 2011 and 2012, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team (FAST)… set up camp in Honduras to train a local counternarcotics police unit and help plan and execute drug interdiction operations… Supported by U.S. helicopters mounted with high caliber machine guns, these operations were nearly indistinguishable from military missions, and locals routinely referred to the DEA and Honduran police agents as “soldados” (soldiers). According to the New York Times, five “commando style squads” of FAST teams have been deployed across Central America to train and support local counternarcotics units…In July 2013, the Honduran government created a new “elite” police unit called the Intelligence Troop and Special Security Group, or TIGRES (Spanish for “tigers”). The unit, which human rights groups contend is military in nature, has been deployed in tandem with the new military police force and has received training in military combat tactics from both U.S. and Colombian Special Forces units.

For those with even a cursory understanding of how US support for the contra death squads of Central America in the 1970s and 1980s actually worked, the description above should bear a chilling resemblance. Essentially, US military and covert assets provide the arms, training, and coordination for a patchwork of well-organized units whose function is to terrorize communities whose real crime, far from involvement in drug trafficking, is either opposition to the government or having the misfortune of living on valuable real estate prized by the same business interests that Mrs. Clinton and her cronies represent.

Of course, the US military presence has a regional dimension as Washington attempts to use its assets to reassert and/or maintain control over the entire region which it has seen steadily slipping from its grasp since the election of Hugo Chavez more than 15 years ago, and the subsequent rise of Evo Morales in Bolivia, Rafael Correa in Ecuador, and Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua. But, from the strictly Honduran perspective, this military cooperation is intended to provide the Honduran military, now doubling as internal police and security forces, with the necessary support to carry out ethnic cleansing operations and killing of political opponents in order to make the country safe for business.

Cleansing Honduras for the Sake of Profit

The military operations in Honduras are aimed primarily at enriching the oligarchs running the country since the ouster of Zelaya in 2009. The goal is to ethnically cleanse prime real estate, either through eviction or brute force, in order to free it up for privatization. One of the means by which this is taking place is through the so called “Ciudades Modelos” (Model Cities) program which promotes tax-free business havens for newly privatized land seized from indigenous communities.

One of the communities most deeply affected is the Garifuna, an Afro-indigenous nation whose land stretches hundreds of miles of prime real estate on the Honduran Carribbean coast which the corrupt government of President Hernandez, and his financial backers in Tegucigalpa (the Honduran capital) and the US, envisions as a money-making tourist zone. TeleSur noted in 2014 that the Barra Vieja Garifuna community was under eviction threat by the Honduran government which prized their land for the “further development of the Bahia de Tela tourist project and the building of the five star Indura Beach and Golf Resort. In a business alliance, the Honduran government holds 49 percent of the shareholds for the project while 51 percent is in the hands of private business.” New York City alone is home to roughly 250,000 Garifuna people from Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Belize; they have to watch as their families and friends back in Honduras continue to face persecution at the hands of a right wing government serving business interests from the US and elsewhere.

But of course, the Garifuna are not alone, as many other indigenous communities in Honduras face unspeakable repression at the hands of the militarized Honduran government and its 21st Century version of death squads. As Lucy Pagoada recounted in her interview with Counterpunch, “Margarita Murillo, an indigenous woman, dedicated her life to the defense of the land and the workers. She was killed with seven bullets by her home in the department of Yoro… She was a leader of the resistance.”

Indeed, the brutal assassination of Murillo in August 2014 was yet another chilling reminder of the war waged by the Honduran government on peasants and indigenous people in the country who refuse to be displaced in the interests of the business elites. Murillo, who had just recently been named President of the Asociativa Campesinos de Producción Las Ventanas (Window Production Peasants Association), had been an advocate for her fellow indigenous peoples and the poor, and had been involved in mediating a land dispute between a number of local families and a group of wealthy landowners in the area. She was shot execution-style by a group of three men in ski masks.

Murillo’s assassination was far more than simply a murder motivated by a local land-grab. Rather, it was a clear warning to the resistance movement in Honduras that any organized effort to fight back against the government and the wealthy landowners backing it would be met with brute force. This is the sort of message that the people of Honduras, especially those who lived through the 1970s and 1980s, understand all too well. In fact, such violence, and the despair that it produces, has driven many Hondurans, especially from the Garifuna community, to flee to the US in search of a better life.

Maria Vives is an administrative assistant with the Give Them to Eat ministries of the Bronx Spanish Evangelical Church. Speaking with Counterpunch she recalled:

We have a soup kitchen and food pantry. We help people on an emergency basis… Three Garifuna women showed up last summer and expressed needs—they were frustrated. They have [sic] been caught crossing the border and ankle bracelets have [sic] been put on them. They were shackled… Word spread that we were helping people in need and soon we had a total of almost 50 or 60 women who show up with their children… They have several reasons for leaving Honduras. For the violence, they were killing off a lot of people in the neighborhood because they wanted to take over their lands. Some were scared their children would join gangs. As soon as the children reach a certain age they were recruited to join the gang. I know one mother in particular who brought over her three children because one of them was being recruited into the gang.

Although the corporate media constantly referred to the “child immigration crisis” during its brief coverage in 2014, the reality was that it was a refugee crisis, and that those children, at times accompanied and at times unaccompanied, were fleeing precisely the sort of repression described above. Whether Garifuna or members of other indigenous or peasant communities, those children and families sought refuge in the US, refuge from the horrors perpetrated against them in Honduras; of course, all with the tacit approval and covert participation of the US Government.

As we mark the sixth anniversary of the 2009 coup against the legal government of Honduras, we must be sure to not simply recognize the event as yet another despicable example of US imperialism and its support for repressive governments in Latin America. We must instead recognize that that singular event set into motion a series of events which have led to the political and social crisis ongoing in Honduras today. As Roberto Quesada told us, “We can’t talk about the coup as if it is in the past. It continues to leave the country in a state of chaos.”

Eric Draitser is the founder of StopImperialism.org and host of CounterPunch Radio. He is an independent geopolitical analyst based in New York City. You can reach him at ericdraitser@gmail.com.

Ramiro S. Fúnez is a Honduran-American political activist and independent journalist based in new York City. You can reach him at ramirofunez@gmail.com.

June 29, 2015 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Sewer Socialist” Bernie Sanders’ Anti-Russian Propaganda

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By Caleb Maupin – New Eastern Outlook – 28.06.2015

The presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders — an anti-Russia, Israel-supporting politician from Vermont — revives an archaic feud among leftists. The old debate about “sewer socialism” is back.

In the early part of the 20th century, there was a broad movement of people in the United States who advocated the overthrow of capitalism. Among them were many revolutionaries like Eugene Debs, William Z. Foster, Lucy Parsons, and Paul Robeson.

However, there was another current of people who called themselves “socialists” but had no interest in revolution. They were called “sewer socialists.” The term originated in reference to Victor L. Berger, a “socialist” who ran on a platform of improving the city’s sewer system and eventually became the mayor of Milwaukee. The sewer socialists did not want to overthrow capitalism, but simply to be elected to local public office and improve government policy. They wanted to make a global system built on exploitation of people all over the world a little more comfortable for those living within the western economic centers.

The battle between these two poles of the left movement – with the revolutionary and anti-imperialist wing of socialism on the one hand and the “sewer socialist” wing on the other — played out on a global level. Commenting on the debate, Russian socialist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin described the trend this way: “The bourgeoisie of an imperialist ‘Great’ Power can economically bribe the upper strata of ‘its’ workers by spending on this a hundred million or so francs a year, for its superprofits most likely amount to about a thousand million… this little sop is divided among the labour ministers, ‘labour representatives’… labour members of War Industries Committees… labour officials, workers belonging to the narrow craft unions…”

In the modern United States, it isn’t sewer socialism but “Vermont socialism” that plays the role of the ‘Labor Ministers.’ US Senator Bernie Sanders is running for president, and openly describes himself as a “socialist.” Despite using this word to describe himself, with many well intentioned anti-capitalist activists supporting him, Sanders’ platform in reality articulates a strategy for strengthening global monopoly capitalism and its expanding militarism.

Big Oil’s Campaign Against Russia

Currently, Wall Street is doing all it can to suppress Russia, a rising competitor on the global markets. US oil and natural gas corporations in particular want to attack and isolate the Russian Federation, as hydraulic fracking floods the market and drives down oil prices and profits. As Russia stabilizes and expands, continuing to export more and more natural gas, big business desperately needs to purge the country’s oil from the global market.

In service of the western oil and natural gas cartels, US agents overthrew the democratically elected government of Ukraine. The orgy of street violence in Kiev that deposed Yanukovich was conducted with the direction of the CIA and billions of dollars in US funding. In Ukraine, the intervention of the United States has pushed a formerly peaceful country into civil war and installed a fanatically anti-Russian government. Russia now faces a hostile, US-aligned regime directly on its doorstep. Civil war is unfolding as the peoples of eastern Ukraine have taken up arms against it.

US-funded terrorists are waging a campaign of death and destruction in Syria, another Russian-aligned country. Hundreds of thousands have already been killed. The US and its allies in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan continue to pour money into the so-called “Free Syrian Army” — a group that openly tortures, kidnaps, and beheads innocent people, and has a history of collaborating with ISIS.

Despite giving demagogic anti-corporate speeches, Sanders brags that he is even more in line with big oil’s anti-Russia campaign than President Obama. “The entire world has got to stand up to Putin. We’ve got to deal with sanctions, we’ve got to deal with freezing assets,” he declared in a TV interview with FOX news host Bill O’Reilly.

In the same interview, he declared: “You’ve got to totally isolate them politically. You’ve got to totally isolate them economically… You freeze assets that the Russian government has all over the world… International corporations have huge investments in Russia, you could pull them out…”

A “Socialist” who Loves War and Israel

Sanders is very much a friend of the military industrial complex. In his home state of Vermont, Sanders “rarely misses a photo opportunity with Vermont National Guard troops when they are being deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq.” While criticizing Bush’s invasion of Iraq, Sanders consistently votes for the massive US military budget. In fact, Sanders is vocally very supportive of Obama’s drone strikes program, and has worked to bring US military research corporations into his home state to set up facilities.

As a highly rated ally of the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee, Sanders has consistently voted and spoken out in support of Israel. When criticized for it, he often replies with standard Israel lobby talking points, saying things like, “Hamas is sending missiles into Israel… some of those missiles are coming to populated areas…” Other than vaguely saying that Israel may have “overreacted,” he blatantly supports and defends Israeli military policy.

Sanders openly believes that the Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation is “terrorism,” and that the existence of a “Jewish state” on Palestinian land is somehow ethical. In his 2013 interview with Playboy, he declared: “The Palestinians must fulfill their responsibilities to end terrorism against Israel and recognize Israel’s right to exist.”

A Friend of the Rising Police State

As a loyal ally of military corporations, he not only supports their war against people in Ukraine, Syria, and Palestine, but also their profitable activities at home. Big business is making huge profits from a prison industrial complex as well as the rapid expansion of the role of police in US society. As police patrol the halls of elementary schools, and “stop and frisk” people on the streets without probable cause, it is young African-Americans who are their primary targets.

Sanders has never been an opponent of the prison industrial complex or the rising incidents of police violence. In Michael Moore’s 2009 film “Capitalism: A Love Story,” Moore interviewed Sanders and asked him to explain what it meant to be a socialist. Sanders responded with a vague, populist rant in which he portrayed the police as victims: “We’ve become very religious in worshipping greed. We put on the front pages of magazines guys who have made millions of dollars, we ignore the cops… who every day are doing so much in improving the lives of people.”

More recently, in response to the massive uprising against police brutality and mass incarceration in the United States, Sanders has declared: “Look, the issue here is…. I was a mayor for eight years, and being a cop is a very, very difficult job. But the word has got to get out that when police act inappropriately, and of course in this case there has to be a thorough investigation.” Sanders gives standard, Obama-style talking points on the issue, saying he supports “body cameras” and wants more community cooperation and involvement with police departments.

Inevitably, whenever the issue of police brutality is raised, Sanders changes the subject to economics. In response to the Baltimore uprising after the killing of Freddie Grey, Sanders declared, without ever even mentioning Grey’s name: “In the neighborhood where this gentleman lives, as I understand it, the unemployment rate is over 50 percent, over 50 percent. What we have got to do as a nation is understand that we have got to create millions of jobs, to put people back to work, to make sure that kids are in schools, and not in jails…. so they’re not hanging out on street corners.”

No one can deny that unemployment is a huge problem, especially for Black and Brown communities in the United States. However, Eric Garner wasn’t choked to death by a bill collector. The direct issue at hand is the fact that police officers have essentially been given a “license to kill” by the courts, and routinely face no penalty after blatantly and intentionally killing people of color.

By diverting the conversation to economics and not calling out the police in harsh terms, and then using racially loaded phrases like “hanging out on street corners,” Sanders is essentially saying: “If only Black people had more economic opportunities, they wouldn’t be worthless, low-life criminals who the police have to kill.”

A Bigger Slice of Empire?

Often Bernie Sanders is asked what it means to be a socialist. He does not respond with a call for public management of the economy, “workers’ control of the means of production,” a workers and farmer’s government, or any of the definitions of “socialism”  used by socialists historically. Instead, he talks about Norway, Sweden, and other US-aligned imperialist countries. He emphasizes that these countries have a national health service, and provide free university education. […]

Sanders’ political viewpoint, based on his experience of decades in governing his home state — where only 1.2% of the population is Black — has been: “If we give white middle class Americans a bigger slice of the pie, they will be far more willing to line up with Wall Street against Russia, China, Iran, and the Palestinians.”

Lenin accurately described leaders like Sanders as “opportunists and social-chauvinists,” saying, “They are defending the temporary privileges of a minority of the workers…” Back in 1916, Lenin urged his followers to “go down lower and deeper, to the real masses… teach the masses to appreciate their true political interests, to fight for socialism and for the revolution.”

The following year, Lenin and the Bolsheviks were victorious. Capitalism, along with its mischievous and demagogic defenders like Bernie Sanders, was overthrown in Russia. That was nearly 100 years ago. How this battle will play out among 21st-century leftists remains to be seen.

Caleb Maupin is a political analyst and activist based in New York. He studied political science at Baldwin-Wallace College and was inspired and involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement.

June 28, 2015 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Economics, Militarism, Wars for Israel | , | 5 Comments

CHARLESTON MURDERS COMMONPLACE IN MIDDLE EAST, MISTER OBAMA

By Sherwood Ross | Aletho News | June 20, 2015

President Obama was, of course, right to denounce the massacre in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston and to call for an end to such violence.

But this begs the question of whether he will stop his own illegal drone strikes in the Middle East that are just as deadly and a hundred times more numerous than the attack in South Carolina.

According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism(BIJ), London, just since Mr. Obama came to power, at least several thousand innocent persons (all are presumed innocent unless proven guilty by trial) in Pakistan alone have been murdered by his agents in the CIA and Pentagon. Among the dead are several hundred children. Here are BIJ’s distressing figures for that nation:

All actions 2004 – January 31 2015

Total Obama strikes: 362
Total US strikes since 2004: 413
Total reported killed: 2,438-3,942
Civilians reported killed: 416-959
Children reported killed: 168-204
Total reported injured: 1,142

The Bureau’s reports regarding covert US drone attacks cover both the missions of the CIA and the Pentagon’s secretive Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).

If nothing else, the horror of Charleston should inform the American public of the shock and awe their president is inflicting with grim regularity in the Middle East. His is a campaign that, to our shame and sorrow, is creating immense blowback against America.

Mr. Obama has maintained U.S. forces take great care that only terrorists are killed but an April 26th article in The Wall Street Journal by Adam Entous reports “he secretly approved a waiver giving the Central Intelligence Agency more flexibility in Pakistan than anywhere else to strike suspected militants…”

Entous continued, “The rules were designed to reduce the risk of civilian casualties. Mr. Obama also required that proposed targets pose an imminent threat to the U.S.—but the waiver exempted the CIA from this standard in Pakistan.” Why, you ask?

Mr. Obama, (who is reputed to be a former CIA employee,) according to RealClearPolitics is “In Thrall to CIA Killing Machine.” Writer Toby Harnden wrote of him on April 16, 2013: “The man who ran as a liberal, anti-war candidate has brushed away concerns about the (drone) attacks. During one meeting he responded to a request for an expansion of America’s drone fleet by saying: ‘The CIA gets what the CIA wants!'”

In his comments about the church murders, Mr. Obama said, “once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun.” (Much less directing America’s trillion-dollar-a-year killing machine!)

Mr. Obama said further, “let’s be clear… It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency, and it is in our power to do something about it.” (Oh, yes it does! It happens far more often in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, among other places, and the man who is responsible for them and who can do something about it is the same man wearing the long face in the White House.)

With reference to this article, the eminent Francis Boyle, professor of international law at the University of Illinois, Champaign, commented:

As the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Junior said a generation ago, the United States government is ‘the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.’

It is a terrible tragedy and a great shame that nothing has changed today under our first African American President and my fellow graduate of the Harvard Law School who knows better. The massive violence that America perpetrates abroad brutalizes the American People at home. President Obama has taught the world that in his opinion ‘violence works.’ Doctor King is now crying in Heaven.

June 20, 2015 Posted by | "Hope and Change", War Crimes | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Obama Versus Hersh: Who’s Telling The Truth?

By Sherwood Ross | Aletho News | June 17, 2015

Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh has charged in the London Review of Books that the White House narrative of the May 2, 2011, killing of the al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, is largely “false.”

In a 10,000-word account, Hersh wrote that when bin Laden was slain by U.S. Navy Seals he had been a prisoner of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency(ISI) since 2006 and that top Pakistani military officials knew of the raid in advance and were complicit in bin Laden’s execution by removing their guards from his compound and ensuring airspace access for attacking U.S. helicopters.

President Obama said bin Laden and two of his men were killed in the firefight during the raid, as well as a bin Laden wife used as a human shield. He added that “no Americans were harmed.” (It’s a rather strange “firefight” when all the dead and wounded are on one side.)

Moreover, the idea that bin Laden was killed when he resisted the assault force, suggests that the ISI guards allowed their prisoner and his aides to have weapons, also dubious. And the U.S. claim that Obama was not an ISI captive is undercut by the location of bin Laden’s compound, in a Pakistan military and intelligence community.

ISI was holding bin Laden hostage, threatening Taliban and al-Qaida leadership with turning him over to the U.S. if they ran operations contrary to ISI interests, Hersh said.

“Some of the Seals were appalled later at the White House’s initial insistence that they had shot bin Laden in self-defense,” a Hersh source told him. “Six of the Seals’ finest, most experienced NCOs, faced with an unarmed elderly civilian, had to kill him in self-defense?” the source scoffed.

Hersh pointed out that “The White House press corps was told in a briefing shortly after Obama’s announcement that the death of bin Laden was ‘the culmination of years of careful and highly advanced intelligence work,'” when, in fact, the U.S. learned of his whereabouts from a walk-in informer. This man was an ex-Pakistani intelligence officer “who betrayed the secret in return for much of the $25 million reward offered by the U.S…”

Then there’s the matter of Obama’s alleged burial at sea. Although Rear Admiral Charles Gaouette said the funeral service followed “traditional procedures for Islamic burial,” Hersh pointed out “there was no indication of who washed and wrapped the body, or of which Arabic speaker conducted the service.”

What’s more, the Navy refused to make the carrier’s log of daily events available to reporters and skipper Bruce Lindsey told them he was unable to discuss the burial. And Rear Admiral Samuel Perez, commander of the carrier group’s strike force, told reporters “the crew had been ordered not to talk about the burial.” Sound a bit fishy? Maybe that’s because two “longtime consultants” to Special Operations Command(SOC) told Hersh,”the funeral aboard the Carl Vinson didn’t take place.”

Over and again, we find the Administration ordering its officials not to talk about the raid. As Hersh pointed out, every member of the Seals hit team and some members of the Joint SOC leadership “were presented with a nondisclosure form drafted by the White House’s legal office; it promised civil penalties and a lawsuit for anyone who discussed the mission, in public or private.”

Readers attempting to decide which account of bin Laden’s death to believe might also consider that the Administration shifted its story on key points.

“Within days (of the raid),” Hersh said, “some of the early exaggerations and distortions had become obvious and the Pentagon issued a series of clarifying statements. No, bin Laden was not armed when he was shot and killed. And no, bin Laden did not use one of his wives as a shield.” The fact that bin Laden had no weapons adds strength to the argument he was an ISI prisoner, not a free man shielded by guards bristling with guns.

White House National Security spokesman Ned Price, brushed off the Hersh article with, “There are too many inaccuracies and baseless assertions in this piece to fact check each one.” (So how many did he fact check?) And a CIA official dismissed the Hersh account as “utter nonsense.” (This from an agency with a track record for lying stretching from Viet Nam to Iraq.)

In point of fact, while Obama has built a reputation for lying and breaking his promises, Hersh has a reputation for honesty and repertorial excellence. He won a Pulitzer Prize for breaking the My Lai massacre story in 1969. He’s also won two National Magazine awards and five coveted Polk awards. Plus UK’s prestigious George Orwell Award for political writing.

By contrast, numerous observers have concluded that President Obama lies systematically to the public. Attorney John Whitehead, President of the non-profit Rutherford Institute, of Charlottesville, Va., a defender of civil liberties, writes:

“When it comes to the NSA, Obama has been lying to the American people for quite some time now. There was the time he claimed the secret FISA court is ‘transparent.’ Then he insisted that ‘we don’t have a domestic spying program.’ And then, to top it all off, he actually insisted there was no evidence the NSA was ‘actually abusing’ its power.”

Pacifist writer David Swanson, author of “War No More: The Case for Abolition,” found no fewer than “45 lies” in Obama’s September 24, 2013, speech to the United Nations. Just one example: Obama said, “we have … worked to end a decade of war.”

To the contrary, Swanson says, “Obama expanded the war on Afghanistan. Obama expanded… drone wars. Obama has increased global U.S. troop presence, global U.S. weapons sales, and the size of the world’s largest military. He’s put ‘special’ forces into many countries, waged a war on Libya, and pushed for an attack on Syria. How does all of this ‘end a decade of war’?”

We also need to consider how much Obama had to gain if he could show voters he could “get” bin Laden. In his 2012 re-election bid, the Obama campaign milked the bin Laden slaying for all it was worth, even making a video narrated by actor Tom Hanks about it. The Huffington Post’s Ben Feller at the time wrote an article headlined, “Obama Campaign Using Osama Bin Laden Killing As 2012 Campaign Tool.”

If the Hersh account is accurate, and bin Laden was unarmed, it begs the larger question of why the Pentagon ordered an elite unit to assault his compound with guns blazing when he could have been taken prisoner? Isn’t there a question or two the American people might have liked to ask bin Laden about the 9/11 massacre?

In retrospect, the Obama White House achieved its goals. President Obama improved his re-election chances by killing bin Laden rather than bringing him to justice, even if he had to stamp out the truth to do it. In the process, he fixed things so the Seals can’t talk, the sailors can’t talk, the admirals can’t talk and, above all, Osama bin Laden can’t talk.

June 17, 2015 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Deception, War Crimes | | Leave a comment

Saudi Arabia’s Human Rights Campaign

By Daniel McAdams | Ron Paul Institute | June 9, 2015

When thinking about the protection of human rights, Saudi Arabia doesn’t immediately come to mind. After all, this year the Saudis are on course to break their own record of 87 decapitations in 2014. It is only June and the Saudi leaders have already chopped off their 84th head. Religious apostasy is a leading offense resulting in decapitation and last year half of all such killings were carried out for non-lethal offenses. According to a news report last year, bringing Christian bibles into the country is considered a capital offense.

In addition, it is illegal to build a Christian church in Saudi Arabia.

That is why it seems so strange that Saudi Arabia last week hosted an international conference “on combating religious discrimination” backed by the United Nations and attended by the president of the UN Human Rights Council. Saudi Arabia, considered one of the planet’s worst human rights abusers, is a member of the UN Human Rights Council and will take over as chair of the Council next year.

Saudi Arabia’s unique view of human rights extends beyond its borders as well. For the past three months Saudi Arabia has been bombing neighboring Yemen in retaliation for the overthrow of the Saudi-favored Yemeni leader. Yemen did not attack or commit aggression against Saudi Arabia, but thus far Saudi bombs have killed thousands of innocent Yemeni citizens. Just this week one raid killed more than 40 civilians, including women and children.

In Syria, Saudi Arabia has likely spent billions financing terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda’s Syrian franchise, Jabhat al-Nusra — and even ISIS.

How ironic that a US government that seems to go out of its way to see the splinter in the eye of other nations seems to consistently turn a blind eye to the log in the eye of the Saudi royals (and in our own too, it must be said).

Of course this is not to say that the United States should attack or even sanction Saudi Arabia. But should we promise to defend them? Just last month President Obama pledged that he would use the US military to defend Saudi Arabia and the other US “allies” in the Gulf.

Said the president:

The United States will stand by our GCC partners against external attack and will deepen and extend the cooperation that we have when it comes to the many challenges that exist in the region.

It is all about shared values and human rights.

June 13, 2015 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | Leave a comment

The Ideological Perils of Bernie Sanders

Hope and Change 2.0

By EOIN HIGGINS | CounterPunch | June 12, 2015

A Bernie Sanders run at the Democratic nomination has garnered a lot of interest from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. Members of the anyone-but-Hillary caucus (who readily admit they will vote for her anyway come the general election) are desperately seeking an alternative. Just as in 2008, a challenger has come from her putative left. Then it was the Junior Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama. This time, it is the Independent Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders.

Although it is difficult to remember now that we are seven years into the neoliberal and neocon Obama administration, in the primary battle between Clinton and Obama there seemed to be an actual difference between the two candidates. Where Clinton was a relic of the past, Obama was the future. Where Clinton’s record in the Senate tied her irrevocably to the wars and policies of the Bush administration, Obama’s scant record and impassioned though empty speeches on the campaign trail promised a new way forward. Hope. Change.

It hardly bears explaining what a sham the Obama campaign of 2008 was. Wether bailing out the banks to warrantless domestic surveillance, or continuing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and extra-judicial assassinations, a plurality of the most noxious Bush policies were continued and in many cases expanded under Obama. The writing was on the wall in the first week, of course, when Obama immediately broke his pledge to close Guantanamo.

Yet after seven long years of their increasingly acrobatic Obama apologia and the slow, slow realization that they were duped into supporting a president well to the right of sainted slime Ronald Reagan, the liberal wing of the Democratic Party is willing and ready once again to throw its support behind an inevitable disappointment.

It’s not that Bernie Sanders is as right wing as Barack Obama on domestic issues. Sanders has identified as a democratic socialist for most of his political career and his rhetoric on domestic economic policy is remarkably consistent. He isn’t radical, or at least he wouldn’t be in a sane society. Sanders embodies and exemplifies the traditional urge of the Democrats to be slightly more accommodating to the interests of the working class under capitalism, while still maintaining the basic economic status quo.

For an illustrative example of Sanders’ lack of radical politics, take his social media post of a few weeks ago which was spent lauding Facebook for paying its employees a baseline salary of 15 dollars an hour. Now while it is certainly better for the company to pay its workers 15 dollars an hour than, say, 10 dollars an hour, it’s not as if Facebook is the kind of company any self-respecting member of the left wing of American politics should be heaping praise upon. After all, this is a company that a few years ago was shamed into backing away from assuming control over the life rights to the image identity of newborns.

“Fine,” you say, “I can see that Bernie may have had to adopt some of his rhetoric and policies to the realities of American capitalism. But he’s still in favor of the working class! Haven’t you heard his speeches? This won’t be like Obama, I swear it! He’ll be different!”

Sorry to burst your bubble, but Bernie Sanders is no friend of the working class, in America or the world. It’s fundamentally impossible to be such if you support the Washington war machine and the system of Western imperialism. And Bernie Sanders has proven, over and over again, that he is the friend of those who dominate, not the domineered, and the friend of those who kill, not their victims.

Bernie has been a vocal supporter of American military adventurism for the length of his Congressional career. Whenever there are wars to be fought, Bernie comes out in favor of them eventually and helps to facilitate their fighting. Maybe he sees it as an American Jobs Program to send the country’s disadvantaged youth halfway across the world to kill similarly disadvantaged people who had the misfortune to be born in the wrong country. Maybe he just doesn’t care about the poor in other countries. Who knows. What’s for sure, though, is that the Independent Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, likes war just as much as his Democratic and Republican counterparts.

When the reality of Sanders’ milquetoast left wingery and neocon foreign policy finally sink in for the American liberal, the refrain will include such hits as:

“Well, it’s him or Hillary”

“What alternative would you choose?”

“It’s hard to be ideologically pure and politically successful”

These are all meaningless arguments. In fact, they’re the antithesis to the arguments being used by Sanders’ allies to support his bid for the Democratic nomination. Almost every week, another thinkpiece or article is released wagging the metaphorical finger at Sanders naysayers for denying the possibility of a Bernie Democratic nomination. “If you work at it and go out and vote,” they say, “then Bernie will beat Hillary and get the nomination!”

Here’s a real alternative: find a candidate who actually represents the left and go out and vote for him or her in the general election. Supporting Bernie Sanders will only lead to more disappointment, no matter what happens in the primary fight and general election.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

June 12, 2015 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Militarism | , | Leave a comment

Barack Obama: No Jack Kennedy

By Ray McGovern | Consortium News | June 10, 2015

Democratic Sen. Lloyd Bentsen’s “you’re no Jack Kennedy” put-down of Republican Sen. Dan Quayle in the 1988 vice presidential debate springs to mind on a day on which I cannot help but compare the character of President Barack Obama to that of John Kennedy, the first President under whom I served in the Army and CIA.

On this day 52 years ago, President John Kennedy gave a landmark speech at American University, appealing for cooperation instead of confrontation with the Soviet Union. Kennedy knew all too well that he was breaking the omerta-like code that dictated demonization of the Soviet leaders. But the stakes could not have been higher – a choice of an endless arms race (with the attendant risk of nuclear conflagration) or bilateral cooperation to curb the most dangerous weapons that jeopardized the future of humankind.

Forgoing the anti-Soviet rhetoric that was de rigueur at the time, Kennedy made an urgent appeal to slow down the arms race, and then backed up the rhetoric with a surprise announcement that the U.S. was halting nuclear testing. This daring step terrified those sitting atop the military-industrial complex and, in my opinion, was among the main reasons behind Kennedy’s assassination some five months later.

At American University, John Kennedy broke new ground in telling the world in no uncertain terms that he would strive to work out a genuine, lasting peace with the Soviet Union. And to underscore his seriousness, Kennedy announced a unilateral cessation of nuclear testing, but also the beginning of high-level discussions in Moscow aimed at concluding a comprehensive test ban treaty.

In tightly held conversations with speechwriter Ted Sorensen and a handful of other clued-in advisers, Kennedy labeled his address “the peace speech.” He managed to hide it from the military advisers who just eight months before had pressed hard for an attack on the Soviet nuclear missiles sent to Cuba in 1962.

It was then that Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev, his Soviet counterpart, stood on the brink of ordering the incineration of possibly hundreds of millions of people, before the two worked out a face-saving compromise and thus thwarted the generals of both sides who were pressing for Armageddon.

Kennedy’s resistance to relentless pressure – from military and civilian advisers alike – for a military strike, combined with Khrushchev’s understanding of the stakes involved, saved perhaps the very life of the planet. And here’s the kicker: What neither Kennedy nor his advisers knew at the time was that on Oct. 26, 1962, just one day before the U.S.-Soviet compromise was reached, the nuclear warheads on the missiles in Cuba had been readied for launch.

This alarming fact was learned only 30 years later, prompting Robert McNamara, Kennedy’s defense secretary to write:

“Clearly there was a high risk that, in the face of a U.S. attack – which, as I have said, many were prepared to recommend to President Kennedy – the Soviet forces in Cuba would have decided to use their nuclear weapons rather than lose them. …

“We need not speculate about what would have happened in that event. We can predict the results with certainty. … And where would it have ended? In utter disaster.”

It was that searing experience and the confidential exchange of letters between Kennedy and Khrushchev that convinced them both that they needed to commit to working out ways to lessen the chance of another such near-catastrophe in the future.

American University Speech

Kennedy’s “peace speech” was a definitive break with the past. Saturday Review editor Norman Cousins wrote simply: “At American University on June 10, 1963, President Kennedy proposed an end to the Cold War.”

Kennedy told those assembled that he had chosen…

“this time and this place to discuss a topic on which ignorance too often abounds and the truth is too rarely perceived … world peace.”

“What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. … I am talking about genuine peace – the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living – the kind that enables man and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children – not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women – not merely peace in our time but peace for all time. …

“Today the expenditure of billions of dollars every year on weapons acquired for the purpose of making sure we never need to use them is essential to keeping the peace. But surely the acquisition of such idle stockpiles – which can only destroy and never create – is not the only, much less the most efficient, means of assuring peace. …

“So let us persevere. Peace need not be impracticable – and war need not be inevitable. … No government or social system is so evil that its people must be considered as lacking in virtue. … We can still hail the Russian people for their many achievements – in science and space, in economic and industrial growth, in culture and in acts of courage.

“Among the many traits the peoples of our two countries have in common, none is stronger than our mutual abhorrence of war. Almost unique among the major world powers, we have never been at war with each other. And no nation in the history of battle ever suffered more than the Soviet Union suffered in the course of the Second World War. At least 20 million lost their lives. Countless millions of homes and farms were burned or sacked. A third of the nation’s territory … was turned into a wasteland – a loss equivalent to the devastation of this country east of Chicago.

“Today, should total war ever break out again … all we have built, all we have worked for, would be destroyed in the first 24 hours. And even in the Cold War … our two countries … are both devoting massive sums of money to weapons, which could be better devoted to combating ignorance, poverty, and disease.

“So, let us not be blind to our differences – but let us direct attention to our common interests and to means by which those differences can be resolved. … For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal. …

“Above all, while defending our vital interest, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war. To adopt that kind of course in the nuclear age would be evidence only of the bankruptcy of our policy – or of a collective death wish for the world. …

“Finally, let us examine our attitude toward peace and freedom here at home. … In too many of our cities today, the peace is not secure because freedom is incomplete. … We shall do our part to build a world of peace, where the weak are safe and the strong are just. We are not helpless before that task or hopeless of its success. Confident and unafraid, we labor on … toward a strategy of peace.”

As mentioned above, Kennedy backed up his words by announcing the unilateral halt to nuclear testing and the start of negotiations on a comprehensive test ban treaty. In a sharp break from precedent, the Soviets published the full text of Kennedy’s speech and let it be broadcast throughout the U.S.S.R. without the usual jamming.

Khrushchev told test-ban negotiator Averell Harriman that Kennedy had given “the greatest speech by any American president since Roosevelt.” The Soviet leader responded by proposing to Kennedy that they consider a limited test ban encompassing the atmosphere, outer space and water, as a way to get around the thorny issue of inspections.

In contrast, Kennedy’s AU speech was greeted with condescension and skepticism by the New York Times, which reported: “Generally there was not much optimism in official Washington that the President’s conciliation address at American University would produce agreement on a test ban treaty or anything else.”

A ‘Complex’

In giving pride of place to his rejection of “Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war,” Kennedy threw down the gauntlet to the “military-industrial complex” against which President Dwight Eisenhower had pointedly warned in his Farewell Address:

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, but the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

Ike got that right. Then, as now, the military-industrial complex was totally dependent on a “Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war.” It was policed by the Pentagon and was/is a hugely profitable enterprise.

Opposition coalesced around the negotiations toward a test ban treaty, with strong opponents in Congress, the media, and (surprise, surprise!) the military-industrial complex. Kennedy courageously kept his warmongering senior military out of the loop, and rushed Harriman through the talks in Moscow.

On July 25, 1963, Harriman initialed the final text of a Limited Test Ban Treaty outlawing nuclear tests “in the atmosphere, beyond its limits, including outer space, or under water, including territorial waters or high seas.”

The next evening, Kennedy went on TV, using his bully pulpit to appeal for support for ratification of the treaty. In a swipe at the various players in the formidable anti-treaty lobby, the President stressed that the vulnerability of children was a strong impetus to his determination to fight against all odds: “This is for our children and our grandchildren, and they have no lobby here in Washington.”

But the Establishment was not moved; and seldom have its anxieties been more transparent. It is axiomatic that peace is not good for business, but seldom do you see that in a headline. But the plaintive title of a U.S. News and World Report on Aug. 12, 1963, was “If Peace Does Come – What Happens to Business?” The article asked, “Will the bottom drop out if defense spending is cut?”

Kennedy circumvented the military-industrial complex by enlisting the Citizens Committee led by Norman Cousins, the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, and prominent religious leaders – among others – to appeal for ratification. In early August, Kennedy told his advisers he believed it would take a near-miracle to get the two-thirds Senate vote needed. On Sept. 24, the Senate ratified the treaty by a vote of 80 to 19.

I am indebted to James Douglass and his masterful JFK and the Unspeakable; Why He Died & Why It Matters, for much of the play-by-play in that whirlwind rush to ratification. Douglass argues persuasively, in my view, that Kennedy’s bold move toward carving out a more peaceful strategic relationship with the Soviet Union, first announced on June 10 at American University, was one of the main factors that sealed his fate.

An Obama Complex

While it’s true that comparisons can be invidious, they can also be instructive. Will President Obama ever be able to summon the courage to face down the military-industrial complex and other powerful Establishment forces? Or is it simply (and sadly) the case that he simply does not have it in him?

Referring to Obama’s anemic flip-flopping on Ukraine, journalist Robert Parry wrote that Obama’s policy on Ukraine suggests that he (1) believes his own propaganda, (2) is a conscious liar, or (3) has completely lost his bearings, and simply adopts the position of the last person he talks to.

I see as the primary factor a toxic, enervating mix of fear and cowardice. Former Air Force Col. Morris Davis, who quit his job as chief prosecutor at Guantanamo when ordered to accept testimony based on waterboarding under the Bush administration, may have come close with his unusual burst of military-style candor.

Davis told an interviewer: “There’s a pair of testicles somewhere between the Capitol Building and the White House that fell off the President after Election Day [2008].”

Shortly before his re-election in 2012, Obama reportedly was braced at a small dinner party by wealthy donors who wanted to know whatever happened to the “progressive Obama.” The President did not take kindly to the criticism, rose from the table, and said, “Don’t you remember what happened to Dr. King?”

It is, of course, a fair question as to whether Obama should have run for President if he knew such fears might impinge on his freedom of decision. But let’s ask the other question: What did happen to Martin Luther King Jr.? Would you believe that the vast majority of Americans know only that he was killed and have no idea as to who killed him and why?

In late 1999, a trial took place in Memphis not far from where King was murdered. In a wrongful death lawsuit initiated by the King family, 70 witnesses testified over a six-week period. They described a sophisticated government plot that involved the FBI, the CIA, the Memphis Police, Mafia intermediaries, and an Army Special Forces sniper team. The 12 jurors, six black and six white, returned after 2 ½ hours of deliberation with a verdict that Dr. King has been assassinated by a conspiracy that included agencies of his own government.

My hunch is that Obama walks around afraid, and that this helps explain why he feels he has to kowtow to the worst kind of thugs and liars lingering in his own administration – the torturers, the perjurers, and the legerdemain lawyers who can even make waterboarding, which Obama publicly condemned as torture, magically legal. So far at least, Obama has been no profile in courage – and he’s nearly 6 ½ years into his presidency.

I have two suggestions for him today. Let him take a few minutes to read and reflect on President Kennedy’s American University speech of 52 years ago. And let him also reflect on the words of Fannie Lou Hamer – the diminutive but gutsy civil rights organizer of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and of Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964:

“Sometimes it seems like to tell the truth today is to run the risk of being killed. But if I fall, I’ll fall five feet four inches forward in the fight for freedom.”

Obama has a nine-inch height advantage over Fannie Lou Hamer; he needs somehow to assimilate a bit of her courage.

[For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’sCan Obama Speak Strongly for Peace?”]

June 10, 2015 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Case Against Re-Banning Torture Yet Again, Again

By David Swanson | War is a Crime | June 10, 2015

Senator McCain and friends have a new push on to once again ban torture (except for exceptions in the Army Field Manual) that is being presented as an effort to preempt future Republican presidents’ torturing. This reinforces two false beliefs. One is that torture is not ongoing today under President Peace Prize. The other is that torture wasn’t banned before George W. Bush was ever selected by the Supreme Court.

Last December, Senator Ron Wyden had a petition up at MoveOn.org that read “Right now, torture is banned because of President Obama’s executive order. It’s time for Congress to pass a law banning torture, by all agencies, so that a future president can never revoke the ban.” This is the same mythology being pushed by McCain yet again. Wyden went on to explain:

“We live in a dangerous world. But when CIA operatives and contractors torture terrorist suspects, it doesn’t make us safer — and it doesn’t work. The recent CIA torture report made that abundantly clear. Right now, the federal law that bans torture only applies to the U.S. military — not our intelligence agencies. President Obama’s executive order barring all agencies from using torture could be reversed, even in secret, by a future president. That’s why it’s critical that Congress act swiftly to pass a law barring all agencies of the U.S. government, and contractors acting on our behalf, from engaging in torture. Without legislation, the door on torture is still open. It’s time for Congress to slam that door shut once and for all.”

Why in the world would anybody object to this unless they supported torture? Well, let me explain.

Torture and complicity in torture were felonies under U.S. law before George W. Bush moved into the White House, under both the torture statute and the war crimes statute. Nothing has fundamentally changed about that, other than the blatant lack of enforcement for several years running. Nothing in those two sections of the U.S. code limits the law to members of the U.S. military or excludes employees or contractors or subcontractors of so-called intelligence agencies. I emailed a dozen legal experts about that claim in the above petition. Michael Ratner replied “I don’t see where they get that from.” Kevin Zeese said simply “They’re wrong.” If anyone replies to me with any explanation, I’ll post it as an update at the top of this article on davidswanson.org — where I can be contacted if you have an explanation.

For the past several years, the U.S. Congress, White House, Justice Department, and media have gone out of their way to ignore the existence of U.S. laws banning torture. When silence hasn’t worked, the primary technique has been proposing over and over and over again to ban torture, as if it were not already banned. In fact, Congress has followed through and banned it a number of times, and done so with new exceptions that by some interpretations have in fact weakened the war crimes statute. This is my best guess where the nonsense about applying only to “intelligence agencies” comes from: laws like the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that claimed to pick and choose which types of torture to ban for whom.

When President Obama took President Bush’s place he produced an executive order purporting to ban torture (again), even while publicly telling the Justice Department not to enforce any existing laws. But an executive order, as Wyden seems to recognize, is not a law. Neither can it ban torture, nor can it give legal weight to the pretense that torture wasn’t already banned. In fact the order itself states: “Nothing in this order shall be construed to affect the obligations of officers, employees, and other agents of the United States Government to comply with all pertinent laws and treaties of the United States governing detention and interrogation, including but not limited to: the Fifth and Eighth Amendments to the United States Constitution; the Federal torture statute, 18 U.S.C. 2340 2340A; the War Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C. 2441 . . . .”

Senator Wyden said he would introduce yet another bill to “ban torture.” Here’s how the Washington Post was spinning, and explaining, that:

“Torture is already illegal, but Wyden notes that protections can be strengthened. To oversimplify, the U.S. is a signatory to the U.N. Convention Against Torture, in which participating states agreed to outlaw intentionally inflicting severe pain for specific purposes. The Bush administration obviously found a (supposedly) legal route around that.”

In other words, because it was done by a president, it was legal — the worldview of the Post’s old buddy Richard Nixon.

“After the Abu Graib revelations, John McCain helped pass a 2005 amendment that would restrict the military from using specific brutal interrogation tactics — those not in the Army Field Manual. (This didn’t preclude intel services from using these techniques, which might explain why CIA director John Brennan felt free to say the other day that future policymakers might revert to using them). In 2008, Congress passed a measure specifically applying those restrictions to intelligence services, too, but then-President Bush vetoed it. Senator Wyden would revive a version of that 2008 bill as a starting point, with the goal of codifying in law President Obama’s executive order banning the use of those specific techniques for all government employees, those in intelligence services included.”

But let’s back up a minute. When a president violates a law, that president — at least once out of office — should be prosecuted for violating the law. The law can’t be declared void because it was violated. Loopholes can’t be created for the CIA. Reliance on the Army Field Manual can’t sneak into law the loopholes built into that document. Presidents can’t order and un-order things illegal. Here’s how the United Nations Special Rapporteur on counter terrorism and human rights, Ben Emmerson responded to the release of the Senate’s report summary:

“The individuals responsible for the criminal conspiracy revealed in today’s report must be brought to justice, and must face criminal penalties commensurate with the gravity of their crimes. The fact that the policies revealed in this report were authorised at a high level within the U.S. Government provides no excuse whatsoever. Indeed, it reinforces the need for criminal accountability. International law prohibits the granting of immunities to public officials who have engaged in acts of torture. This applies not only to the actual perpetrators but also to those senior officials within the U.S. Government who devised, planned and authorised these crimes. As a matter of international law, the U.S. is legally obliged to bring those responsible to justice. The UN Convention Against Torture and the UN Convention on Enforced Disappearances require States to prosecute acts of torture and enforced disappearance where there is sufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction. States are not free to maintain or permit impunity for these grave crimes.”

Now, one could try to spin the endless re-banning of torture as part of the process of enforcing an international treaty that under Article VI of the U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land. But banning a practice going forward, even when you ban it better, or ban it more emphatically for the 8th time, does absolutely nothing to fulfill the legal obligation to prosecute those crimes already committed. And here we are dealing with crimes openly confessed to by past officials who assert that they would “do it again” — crimes that resulted in deaths, thus eliminating any attempt at an argument that statutes of limitations have run out.

Here’s a different sort of petition that we’ve set up at RootsAction.org along with Witness Against Torture and the Bill of Rights Defense Committee: ” We call on President Obama to allow the U.S. Department of Justice to enforce our laws, and to immediately appoint a special prosecutor. As torture is a crime of universal jurisdiction, we call on any willing court system in the world to enforce our laws if our own courts will not do so.”

The purpose of such a petition is not vengeance or partisanship or a fetish with history. The purpose is to end torture, which is not done by looking forward or even by pardoning the crimes, as the ACLU has proposed — to its credit recognizing that the crimes exist. That should be a first step for anyone confused by the endless drumbeat to “ban torture.”

June 10, 2015 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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