Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sauce for the Goose

For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill.
The eyes of all people are upon us.
-- John Winthrop, Governor of Massachusetts, 1630 --

A TERRIFIC POST from Bill W. (who is also a contributor at Crooks and Liars, who've also posted it) really lays on the line just how much harm the criminal Bush administration has done to international law, peace, and just incidentally, America's reputation. And it comes with a great video clip! (uploaded to YouTube by Bill W. - man, this guy does it all and gives you your correct change to boot.)

Sudan Cites US Example Why It Won't Comply With UN, ICC
One sad truth that Bill doesn't go into (and I'm racking my brains here to find a base he hasn't covered) - from the point of view of someone who isn't an American (I'm proudly Canadian, eh?) - is that this is just another example of the idea of American Exceptionalism that has been accepted and even nurtured under the good old Stars and Stripes for far too long.

Ah yes, American Exceptionalism - the bastard child of Manifest Destiny and the Monroe Doctrine. The not-quite-so-evil twin of Might Makes Right. Nurtured and fed on a falsehood that is older than the country itself - the idea that the US is so morally superior to everyone else that it can be described as The City on the Hill, The Beacon of Democracy, the Font of Everything That is Good in The World.

And the reason that the world doesn't have to be concerned about the actions of America or its leaders? - because they're just so darned peachy-keen, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed gee whiz golly gosh dripping with good intentions. And if those good intentions turn out to make some US businesses a tidy profit? Well all the better! We'll throw in a slice of hot apple pie, and teach your folks how to play baseball.

And if those good intentions lead to us backing a coup against your democratically elected leader and installing a business-friendly tinpot dictator who starts murdering the opposition? Well shucks, dang, and whoa there Bessie. That never happens! Except for a few times in Guatemala, Iran, Chile, Nicaragua, Panama, and enough places that it's hard to remember them all. But you can rest assured it will never happen again anyway. Trust us.

And not to seem too critical of our well-armed neighbour to the south, I'd like to add that this principle of Exceptionalism is running afoul of another principle that originated in the US, in fact the very principle that the ICC is based on. Yes, that's right, it's called the Nuremberg principle. The idea is that entire countries are not responsible for wars, their LEADERS are. Especially when the leaders in question have been caught in so many lies that no-one can even keep track anymore. And let's not forget that indispensable adjunct to the Nuremberg principle, that the leaders must be held accountable for their actions. Please let's not forget that.

If Bush and his gang of criminals are not held accountable, and significantly if that accounting is not spearheaded by America herself, any credibility you have internationally will be lost forever. Because in Bush's eye's it's not the country as a whole that benefits from this status of City on A Hill, it's himself personally. And that's just not right. As important as it is for the world that Bush be brought to justice it is equally important to America that they take an active role. Else you'll be painted with the brush of complicity in his crimes.

The eyes of all people are upon you.

To wind it up, I've got some more video for you that's to the point:
All Presidential Accountability Goes Out The Window!

Oh, and there's one other thing. Did I mention that this is all going on against the backdrop of a British Parliament report that US assurances that it does not torture can no longer be taken at face value? Well, I meant to. It seems relevant.

Cross-posted from Les Enragés.org

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Hey, I'm Still Blogging

Visitors to Friendly Neighbour's backyard could not help but have noticed that I haven't posted here in some time. I just want you to know that this doesn't mean I've gone quiet or anything, just that I have devoted all of my blogging energies to my team blog, Les Enragés.org. And things are really hopping over there lately, with the addition of a number of new contributors. Wordsmith and Unconventional Conventionist are new to the game, and are signing on kind of as apprentices to augment the efforts they are putting into their own nascent blogs. Kvatch, of Blognonymous fame, is an old hand, and I'm sure will be able to teach me a thing or two. Kvatch also contributes to If I Ran The Zoo.


Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Disappeared

Human Rights Watch says 38 Rendition Victims are 'Missing'

From BBC News,
"Thirty eight people believed to have been held in secret CIA prisons - or black sites - are missing, according to a report by a US human rights group.

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) report also details allegations of torture by a terror suspect who was held in secret custody for more than two years."
I speculated in an earlier post on rendition victims that someone who had been tortured and then proven innocent was more likely to be killed than someone who could be shown to be guilty of involvement in terrorism. Why? Because an innocent victim is more of an embarrassment to the government, more of a legal threat to the torturers (with the potential for both criminal charges and lawsuits), and could 'reveal our methods to the terrorists.' - Bush and his administration don't want their methods revealed, after all. Does anyone really believe that Bush's motive is to protect America, and not to shield himself or others from justice? Because I sure as hell don't. And I'll tell you why.
"In a televised address in September, Mr Bush admitted that 14 detainees had been held at secret CIA prisons that used interrogation methods that were 'tough' but 'lawful and necessary.'

'The United States does not torture,' Mr Bush said at the time. 'It's against our laws, and it's against our values. I have not authorised it - and I will not authorise it.' "
Rii-iight. Anybody remember this gem? These remarks were made by Bush in April, 2004;
"Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires-a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so."
Bush's statements as pResident show the same credibility as that Jon Lovitz character from Saturday Night Live - "Yeah, that's the ticket." - He is, in short, a pathological liar.

This article from The Washington Post gives you some idea of the treatment rendition victims undergo. Marwan Jabour's ordeal,
"...began in May 2004. In interviews, he said he was muscled out of a car as it pulled inside the gates of a secluded villa in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.

In the week before his arrival, Jabour said, Pakistani intelligence officers had beaten, abused and burned him at a jailhouse in Lahore, where he was arrested. There two female American interrogators also questioned him and told him he.. ..would vanish for life if he refused. He said he was later blindfolded and driven four hours north to the villa in a wealthy residential neighborhood.. ..Jabour spent five weeks there, chained to a wall and prevented from sleeping more than a few hours at a time. He said he was beaten nightly by Pakistani guards after hours of questions from U.S. interrogators. Then he and others were whisked off to CIA-run sites. Some sites were in Eastern Europe; Jabour went to one in Afghanistan. Interrogators -- whom he described as Americans in their late 20s and early 30s -- told Jabour he would never see his three children again."
In Jabour's case, there was a relatively happy ending - which can't be said for the 38 still missing and unaccounted for.
"On his last day in CIA custody, Marwan Jabour, an accused al-Qaeda paymaster, was stripped naked, seated in a chair and videotaped by agency officers. Afterward, he was shackled and blindfolded, headphones were put over his ears, and he was given an injection that made him groggy. Jabour, 30, was laid down in the back of a van, driven to an airstrip and put on a plane with at least one other prisoner.

His release from a secret facility in Afghanistan on June 30, 2006, was a surprise to Jabour -- and came just after the Supreme Court rejected the Bush administration's assertion that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to prisoners like him."

I've already linked to Maher Arar's first-person account of his rendition to Syria, which follows the same pattern, as does the treatment of Jose Padilla. H. Candace Gorman at Huffington Post has a similarly sickening story of a man named Al-Ghizzawi, who was kept in Guantamo Bay's Camp Six (built by Halliburton at probably obscene profit margins with your tax dollars.) That article has this scathing passage, reminiscent of a recent Jurassic Pork piece. "Mr. Al-Ghizzawi asked me what the American people are doing about Guantánamo. I explained to him that Americans were really busy these days because some two-bit model died and everyone is trying to figure out who the father of her baby is."

Maybe America should spend a little more time on trying to figure out what happened to their democracy, and the rule of law.

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Friday, March 02, 2007

A Ray of Light?

News From the Front in the Real War of Terror

On the thread about Chris Dodd's efforts to restore habeas corpus to the American judicial system, GL responded with, "A ray of light breaking through the clouds?" Perhaps, but it may have been little more than the bright line that one detects along the edge of a closed door in a very dark room. A decision rendered by a federal judge in the Jose Padilla case may signal the opening of that door, if only by the slightest crack. With the light may come some much needed air into the room.

As reported by BBC News,
"A US citizen suspected of being an al-Qaeda conspirator is mentally unfit to stand trial, a psychiatrist for his defence has said.

Speaking at a hearing to determine Jose Padilla's competence, Angela Hegarty said he lacked the capacity to assist his counsel in the case."
Padilla was most recently in the news when he was photographed blindfolded and wearing sound-blocking earmuffs on a trip to the dentist. The inhuman sensory deprivation that he has been subjected to for 3½ years is the direct cause of his current mental incompetence. Naomi Klein of Alternet has more details. This is a link I put up in the hope you will actually click on it and read Naomi's entire shocking post.
"Arrested in May 2002 at Chicago's O'Hare airport, Padilla, a Brooklyn-born former gang member, was classified as an 'enemy combatant' and taken to a navy prison in Charleston, South Carolina. He was kept in a cell 9ft by 7ft, with no natural light, no clock and no calendar. Whenever Padilla left the cell, he was shackled and suited in heavy goggles and headphones. Padilla was kept under these conditions for 1,307 days. He was forbidden contact with anyone but his interrogators, who punctured the extreme sensory deprivation with sensory overload, blasting him with harsh lights and pounding sounds. Padilla also says he was injected with a 'truth serum,' a substance his lawyers believe was LSD or PCP.. ..These same practices have been documented in dozens of cases of 'extraordinary rendition' carried out by the CIA, as well as in prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan"
She observes, "America has deliberately driven hundreds, perhaps thousands, of prisoners insane. Now it is being held to account in a Miami court." Let's hope so. The Bush administration has made a habit of ignoring court decisions, including Supreme Court decisions, that didn't go their way. Bu$hCo™ ARE the terrorists, as this case clearly shows, and they are waging a war against the American people and the rule of law. Did I mention, Padilla is an American citizen, arrested on American soil, who has never been anywhere near any armed conflict? His arrest was way before the MCA was passed, and has been a textbook case of abuse of power. For a point of comparison, read Maher Arar's personal account of the way he was treated, in CounterPunch. Clearly this is all part of a wide-ranging program approved at the highest levels of government - they can't blame everything on Lynndie England.

In other related news, the Toronto Star reported Friday on a UNANIMOUS Canadian Supreme Court decision striking down the government's use of so-called 'security certificates' to detain and deport non-citizens suspected of terrorism ties. Turns out the certificate system is in conflict with Canada' Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Kudos to the Supreme Court of Canada - must be all that clean air up here.

In other other news, Les Enragés.org drew the attention of, and a link from Chris Dodd's blog for a piece we ran about Senator Dodd
sponsoring the Effective Terrorist Prosecution Act, which aims to reverse the worst aspects of the Military Commissions Act (aka The War Criminals' Protection Act.) Kudos again, senator.

To reiterate: Restore Habeas, Repeal the MCA, and defend the Constitution. Dammit!

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Kudos Chris Dodd

Fighting to Restore Habeas Corpus Rights

Chris Dodd (D - no really, a Democrat, honest) is the senior senator from Connecticut. In that capacity he has the unenviable task of trying to provide some balance to the other senator from Connecticut, Joe LIEberman (I - diot.) LIEberman, as you all know, took over the post of senior DINO in Washington with the retirement of Zell Millar (D - ecrepit.) Balancing LIEberman's reprehensible career of deception is a task in itself, but Senator Dodd earns his kudos for sponsoring the Effective Terrorist Prosecution Act, which aims to reverse the worst abuses of the Military Commissions Act (Which we deplore here at Les Enragés as the War Criminals' Protection Act.) Here's Dodd's video to explain.
Restoring the Constitution
Note in particular that Dodd urges everyone to 'become in effect a citizen co-sponsor' of the bill. You can do that by visiting Restore-Habeas.org and signing on.
"The bill will restore Habeas Corpus protections to detainees, bar information acquired through torture from being introduced as evidence in trials, and limit presidential authority to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions."
I think this is really important. If the thugs currently in control of the country are allowed to have their way, you are under the thumb of one of the most brutal gang of criminals since Al Capone Atilla the Hun. Do you really think it's safe to let them make up whatever rules they like, then to interpret those rules however they see fit?

BTW, Chris is a 'dark horse' candidate for the Democratic Presidential nomination. From what I've seen he is showing more substance and integrity than the front runners. It's typical of the MSM to virtually ignore anyone who could actually bring real change to the political morass.

NOTE: belatedly cross-posted from Les Enragés. I've been spending more of my time on that blog lately, and you may have to check over there from time to time to see my newest stuff.

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Why Do Federal Judges Hate the Law?

Jane Smiley did an interesting editorial at HuffPo yesterday entitled, 'What Would You Do If Bush Declared Martial Law?' To tell the truth, she was a lot more optimistic about the outcome than I would have been. I've always had a talent for painting worst-case scenarios, and I have no problem seeing BushCo™ using the most brutal possible methods of repression. I won't go into the depressing details.
"An editorial in the New York Times yesterday pointed out, for those of us who didn't realize it, that the Bush administration had inserted two provisions into last October's defense budget bill that would make it easier to declare martial law in the US. Senators Leahy and Bond have introduced a bill to repeal these changes, and it is important that voters keep track of this bill and hold their Congresspeople to account on it. Along with several other measures the Bush adminstration has proposed, the introduction of these changes amounts, not to an attack on the Congress and the balance of power, but to a particular and concerted attack on the citizens of the nation. Bush is laying the legal groundwork to repeal even the appearance of democracy. Any senator who does not vote in favor of the Leahy/Bond repeal of these provisions should promptly be recalled by his or her constituents."
(I gotta say here, I really love Senator Leahy. He's doing a great job of defending the constitution and making the fascistic bastards like Alberto 'Abu' Gonzales squirm. We need more like him.)

While Jane Smiley's editorial and the underlying New York Times editorial are disturbing and alarming, they don't come close to this piece in yesterday's NYTimes, that has got me tearing the hems of my garments and reaching for the ashes. Because quite frankly, it's stories like this that make Jane Smiley's hypothetical look much more like a real possibility.
"A divided federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld a new law stripping federal judges of authority to review foreign prisoners’ challenges to their detention at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

The decision set the stage for a third trip to the Supreme Court for the detainees, who will once again ask the justices to consider a complex issue that tests the balance of power among the White House, Congress and the courts in the murky context of the fight against international terrorism.

The Supreme Court previously ruled twice that federal statutes empowered the courts to consider Guantánamo prisoners’ habeas corpus petitions challenging the grounds for their detention. In response to those rulings, Congress twice rewrote law to limit the detainees’ avenues of appeal. The most recent rewriting was at issue in Tuesday’s 2-to-1 decision.. ..That law, the Military Commissions Act of 2006, was signed by President Bush last October. Its enactment followed the Supreme Court’s rejection of his administration’s earlier arguments that the right of habeas corpus — the fundamental right, centuries old, to ask a judge for release from unjust imprisonment — did not apply to foreigners being held outside the United States as enemy combatants."
Article II, section 9 of the Constitution clearly states, "The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it." So how did these bozos get to be judges without even a rudimentary understanding of the relationship between the legislature and the U.S. Constitution? Yeah, yeah, I know - the simple answer is that they are Republican-appointed partisan political hacks, just like their boss, Alberto 'Abu' Gonzales. They treat Lady Justice like she was just another whore hired to entertain the likes of Dusty Foggo, Brent Wilkes and Randy 'Duke' Cunningham. Pull up her skirt, strip off her panties, and wipe her ass with the constitution, she's bought and paid for. I swear, they're running the government like it was some Skull and Bones kegger.

It makes me want to weep.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Supporting the Troops

...Some Historical Perspective

Way back in the 16th century a coalition of Catholic nations led by Spain decided that they would invade England and punish them for their heretical Protestant ways. After years of diplomatic efforts, political bickering, bribery and cajoling they finally assembled a fleet we now know as the Spanish Armada. In 1588, after a logistic nightmare getting the ships, men and equipment together they set out for the glory of God. Of course, by this time Queen Elizabeth I was well aware of their intent, and had cobbled together an army from the peasant farmers of the realm to defend against the anticipated onslaught. Her country appeared about to pay in blood for her father Henry VIII's snubbing of the Papacy, and establishment of the Anglican church.

The attempts to land the invasion force were a disaster for the Spanish coalition. Initial attempts were made near Southampton, and were thwarted by local conditions that could best be described as treacherous. Truth be told, in the days of square-rigged ships, any approach to land was fraught with hazards, and could only be taken on by an experienced ship's master equipped with hard won local knowledge of wind, current and tide. Even with the services of such a local pilot, one may have to wait days or weeks for the optimum combination of conditions to occur. To be caught on a lee shore could well lead to the loss of the fleet.

The Armada was forced to make its way further and further north along England's channel coast, but nowhere were conditions to be found that were favorable to longboats laden with soldiers, horses and cannons. Eventually the invasion fleet was forced all the way around the northern end of Scotland. I think a 'plan B' emerged, to stop in the still-Catholic parishes of Ireland to replenish supplies and take on replacements for the crewmen and soldiers who had already been lost. Water and food were running low, as such a lengthy voyage had not been contemplated.

The final blow to the Armada came when a gale force storm came upon the fleet and dashed the ships against the rocks of the Outer Hebrides. They were caught on a lee shore. A true believer could be excused for thinking that maybe God didn't want this particular plan to succeed.

But I digress. I'll admit, I told that story for no better reason than that I think it is one of the greatest examples of hubris in all the great span of human folly - and for background. This next bit I tell to make a point.

Queen Elizabeth I now had a standing army raised ad hoc for the purpose of repelling an invasion that had never come. Even before word made it to her of the Armada's fate, it was clear that the invasion had failed. Winter was coming on, and the soldiers were clamoring to be paid, and released from service to return to their homes and families. Times would be hard enough, for they had been away from their fields all summer, and larders would be thin.

The story goes that the chancellor of the exchequer came to 'Good Queen Bess' that winter to plead for the soldiers' cause. She was advised that many of the troops could and likely would starve to death without immediate relief. Her response was as cold-blooded and cruel as one could imagine. "Good. Let them starve. Then the problem will have solved itself at no cost to my treasury."

History has a terrible way of repeating itself. (Visit Ice Station Tango - more at The Washington Post)

Kansas City Star: "The Bush administration plans to cut funding for veterans’ health care two years from now — even as wounded troops returning from Iraq could overwhelm the system." (h/t Americablog)

UPDATE: Read Jurassic Pork's reaction to this scandal here.
"You want to know why we bloggers get outrage fatigue from time to time? It’s because of stories like this, stories such as this that drain the soul, that beggar the imagination at how criminally we’re treating and even exploiting these wounded troops after all the overtures Uncle Sam made them about taking care of them and their families, all the pie in the sky promises under the fucking sun just to get that John Hancock on the dotted line to get them one blip closer to making quota."
IMAGE: Calshot Castle, one of many forts built during Henry VIII's reign to defend England's channel coast.


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