Saturday, December 30, 2006

Justice in a Kangaroo Court?

As I write this, various news outlets are saying that the Americans have already turned Saddam over for an "imminent" execution. It`s hard to imagine how executing anyone convicted by a kangaroo court advances the cause of justice. It`s hard to imagine how anything good can come of this travesty of a "trial". There may have been a legitimate case against Saddam. There may have been legitimate accusations. But they were not heard in this court where the rules of
evidence clearly did not apply, where the presumption of innocence was abandoned, where defense objections were dismissed out of hand, where the fix was in.

From Information Clearing House:
Saddam Hussein was a secular leader and a staunch friend of India, who consistently supported India on Kashmir and other issues. US corporate and British government media outlets have already tried to convict Saddam by playing up the Halabja massacres and other accusations which are not even part of this trial. When unsubstantiated allegations were made that Iraq was behind the plot to kill former US President George H.W Bush in Kuwait , father of the current US President in 1993, President Bill Clinton had hit Iraq with missiles. Why no charges against him!
Swiss legal expert Prof Marc Henzelin, Professor of international law at Geneva University had declined to defend Saddam Hussein. He put it this way in the same article: "Wonderful material for a US television series but nothing to do with a fair trial. I think it is all about justifying the United States' invasion of Iraq and to string Saddam Hussein up sooner rather than later without asking too many questions.”

The nature of the war --called illegal by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan --raises doubts about the legitimacy of Saddam`s trial itself --let alone the suspicious conduct of it. When Saddam --guilty or not --is executed by the illegitimate government of Jawad al Maliki, the US will have committed another war crime in a string of war crimes not matched since Adolph Hitler.

Is subverting the very concepts of western justice what Bush meant when he said that we were fighting for Democracy in Iraq? Of the many lies told by Bush to justify his war of naked aggression, this must surely be the most egregious. America, under Bush`s criminal regime, proves itself not merely incapable but unwilling to support the very ideals of our founding.

-The Existentialist Cowboy


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Friday, December 29, 2006

UK Troops Demolish Police Station

Iraq Security Forces Untrustworthy
Let's see if I've got this straight. We'll stand down when the Iraqi security forces stand up, right? What I've always wondered is how do the coalition screen those they train and arm to enter into the security forces they hope will stand up at some undefined point in the future. In a country where the vast majority hate the US led occupation of their country, how do you give someone an assault rifle with the assurance it won't eventually find its way into the wrong hands? For that matter that the guy you're training isn't the wrong hands to begin with?

Actions by UK forces in Basra over the weekend really underline the importance of these questions in an undeniable way. Here's the story as reported by CBC news;
"British forces stormed a police station in Basra in southern Iraq on Monday, rescuing prisoners on death row and killing seven Iraqi gunmen during the pre-dawn raid.
More than 1,000 British troops backed by tanks then demolished the building with explosives.
The military called the police headquarters a symbol of oppression for the city's residents and said the unit was suspected of torturing and murdering prisoners.
Many of the 127 people rescued — all of whom were suspected criminals — were crowded together in a small cell, living in "appalling conditions," the military said.
But the Basra council has stopped co-operating with the military in protest of what the council described as an illegal raid...
..The operation came days after Iraqi officers were arrested Friday on suspicions of leading death squads. The unit is also accused of being responsible for murdering both local and international troops."
Once again, let me get this straight - Our guys (the Brits are still on our side, aren't they?) were appalled so much by the Iraqi security forces we trained and armed (the good guys) they've had to arrest some of them, raid a police building, release prisoners (the bad guys - predictably there is evidence of torture) and blow up the police headquarters. Because the 'stand up' guys we're hoping to hand the country over to are suspected of leading death squads. Hoo, boy! I think there is a notable flaw in this plan. And how does this square with this report from the BBC, only five weeks ago?
"The UK has 'confidence' it may be able to hand Basra's security to Iraqi forces 'at some point next spring', the UK's Foreign Secretary has said.
Margaret Beckett told MPs Iraq's fate was 'hanging in the balance' and said it was necessary 'to hold our nerve'.
'The progress of our current operation in Basra gives us confidence we may be able to achieve transition in that province... at some point next spring.' "
Uhhhh...I think you may want to rethink that one guys. If this is the way your brilliant plan is working out (the phrase, 'I doubt six months' bounces around in my head), you may be in it for the long haul hell.

The New York Times has more on this story.
Cross-posted from Les Enragé

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Saturday, December 23, 2006

War Is Over

If You Want It*
*Disclaimer: May take some effort.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Two or More Wrongs

...Don't Make a Right.
..Perpetuating the Victimization of Maher Arar.

What's got me enraged today? Mostly, this article in the Toronto Star, about US authorities refusing to take Maher Arar off a security watch list even though he has been cleared of any wrongdoing by a Canadian Royal Commission.
"In a written statement yesterday, the U.S. ambassador to Canada David Wilkins said his government deported Arar in 2002 to Syria because of 'information from a variety of sources.'

Wilkins appeared to assert that the United States had its own reasons to act against Arar, and does not intend to comply with a Canadian government request to take Arar off its border watch lists.

...Wilkins' letter was not specific about what sources of information he was referring to — whether they were a "variety" of Canadian sources, or whether the intelligence came from U.S. officials or other foreign agents."The decision to remove Mr. Arar from the United States in 2002 was made by U.S. officials based on our own independent assessment of the threat to the United States," said Wilkins.

That means Arar is effectively barred from travelling to about 70 countries that share information with the U.S., Arar's lawyer, Julian Falconer, said last week."Due to a lawsuit in the United States initiated by Mr. Arar which was dismissed at the trial level and is now on appeal, I cannot go into any further detail," Wilkins said in the release."
Mr. Arar was kidnapped by American law enforcement personnel in September of 2002 on flimsy evidence, to whit; "the RCMP passed on erroneous information to the U.S., among other things, labelling Arar and his wife as 'Islamic extremists' linked to Al Qaeda." I use the term kidnapped because no charges were ever laid, so I won't dignify what happened with the word 'arrest.'

Arar was 'renditioned' to Syria where he spent nearly a year in an underground cell barely bigger than a coffin, and only taken out to be tortured daily. I blogged about this last Sept. 19. (Canadian Terror Suspect Vindicated.)

I deeply regret having referred to Mr. Arar as a 'terror suspect,' a term I parroted from the articles I was quoting. The correct term is 'innocent victim.' I do not regret reminding our readers that Mr. Arar's innocence was proven after an investigation that lasted two years. A line from a commenter on Glenn Greenwald's threads comes back to me, in that instance referring to Jose Padilla, but equally applicable here,
"The only thing that has ever gotten through to anyone is to list the evidence against Padilla, and point out, 'They have that much evidence against YOU.' Because, frankly, there is that much evidence on just about every American."
(H/T - DaveCM)

The phrase, "there but for the grace of God" comes to mind.

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Cross-posted to Ice Station Tango - A cool place to chill out.


Thursday, December 14, 2006


This Glenn Greenwald article has me literally wanting to throw up. I am so upset I can barely type, and tears are in my eyes. In the first case to test the habeas corpus-negating provisions of the onerous Military Commissions Act (AKA Torture Bill, AKA War Criminals' Protection Act), a district court has ruled in favor of the administration's bid to strip defendants of their constitutional and even pre-constitutional rights going back to the 13th. century Magna Carta. Glenn rightly describes the MCA as a 'legislative atrocity', and up until now I held out some hope that judges would have the decency and good sense to slap it down like an annoying insect.
"The decision was a major victory for the Bush administration's attempt to vest the President with the power to imprison individuals -- even for life -- without according them any meaningful opportunity to contest the validity of their imprisonment.

The district court ruled that (1) the MCA successfully stripped federal courts of jurisdiction to hear habeas corpus petitions filed by "war on terrorism" detainees, and (2) under controlling Supreme Court precedent, "enemy aliens" who have no substantial connection to the U.S. (i.e., never resided inside the U.S.) have no constitutional right to seek habeas corpus review. As a result, the court dismissed the case of the Guantanamo detainee seeking habeas review here and, in essence, upheld the Bush administration's power to detain such "enemy combatants" forever while denying the detainees all access to our courts."
Glenn obliquely references the fact that the plaintiff, Salim Ahmed Hamdan (The same individual named in the lawsuit Hamdan v. Rumsfeld that forced the creation of the MCA) was protected not only under US law, but the Geneva Convention as well. This decision would seem to make official the status of the US as an out of control rogue state in the international community.
Meanwhile the majority of Americans remain either unaware or unconcerned that their country has been hijacked by war criminals, and calmly and complacently went about their holiday preparations. -baaaaa- I would think it more appropriate for the entire populace to don black armbands over this, wear sackcloth and ashes, or tear at the hem of their garments in mourning for the last hope that the constitution has not been torn to shreds. But that's just me.
Glenn provides links to the Washington Post's article on the decision, as well as the reaction from the Center for Constitutional Rights. I strongly recommend reading the latter in its entirety.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Onward Christian Soldiers -Pt. 1

New Battles in the War Against The First Amendment

A couple of stories today about the ongoing efforts by elements in the Republican party and the current administration to turn America into a theocracy. First up is this item from the Washington Post on the subject of high-ranking officers in the Pentagon violating regulations by proselytizing in uniform.
"A military watchdog group is asking the Defense Department to investigate whether seven Army and Air Force officers violated regulations by appearing in uniform in a promotional video for an evangelical Christian organization.

In the video, much of which was filmed inside the Pentagon, four generals and three colonels praise the Christian Embassy, a group that evangelizes among military leaders, politicians and diplomats in Washington. Some of the officers describe their efforts to spread their faith within the military.
"I found a wonderful opportunity as a director on the joint staff, as I meet the people that come into my directorate," Air Force Maj. Gen. Jack J. Catton Jr. says in the video. "And I tell them right up front who Jack Catton is, and I start with the fact that I'm an old-fashioned American, and my first priority is my faith in God, then my family and then country. I share my faith because it describes who I am."
Pete Geren, a former acting secretary of the Air Force who oversaw the service's response in 2005 to accusations that evangelical Christians were pressuring cadets at the Air Force Academy, also appears in the video. The Christian Embassy "has been a rock that I can rely on, been an organization that helped me in my walk with Christ, and I'm just thankful for the service they give," he says.
In 2003, Army Lt. Gen. William G. "Jerry" Boykin drew criticism for appearing in uniform before church groups and saying, in remarks captured on video, that President Bush was "appointed by God," that the United States is "a Christian nation" and that Muslims worship "an idol." The inspector general's office determined that Boykin had not violated any rules, and he remained in a top intelligence post."
The part about Pete Geren I find particularly disturbing, as I blogged on the Air Force Academy issue HERE, and it is obvious that the response to complaints about this blatant violation of the first amendment is to assign someone who is part of the problem to deal with it. That approach seems to be part of White House doctrine these days, the policy of perpetuating every problem.

I myself am an atheist, but I respect other people's right to make up their own minds about things. I don't even see why some people object to such things as having the ten commandments displayed in public buildings, it sounds too much like censorship to me.
Blatant violations of the first amendment are another thing altogether. The protections guaranteed by the Bill of Rights also protect believers and members of faiths not in the majority. See RevPhat's post on this subject HERE.
There is also the issue of being Christian and being a soldier to begin with. Many pacifist faiths require a conscientious abstention from military duty. This post at Lew Rockwell points out why.
"If the U.S. military was engaged in guarding our borders, patrolling our coasts, and genuinely defending the country instead of establishing and guarding a U.S. global empire, then perhaps a soldier would be a noble occupation that one could wholeheartedly perform as a Christian.
But now more than ever, the Christian in the military faces the possibility of having to kill (in the name of freedom and democracy, of course) for the state in some foreign country that we are not at war with (there has been no declaration of war in the United States since World War II) and many Americans can’t even locate on a map.
Blind obedience to the state is not a tenet of New Testament Christianity."
I don't even want to begin on the possibility that the Religious Right is deliberately trying to start a perpetual holy war against Islam. That's just too scary.
Onward Christian Soldiers - Pt. 2
Related Posts:
Faith-Based Initiatives Abused
Once Upon A Time
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Cross-Posted from Les Enragé


Onward Christian Soldiers -Pt. 2

New Battles in the War Against The First Amendment

Item #2: From this New York Times article about a government funded program to rehabilitate prison inmates.
"The program — which grew from a project started in 1997 at a Texas prison with the support of George W. Bush, who was governor at the time — says on its Web site that it seeks “to ‘cure’ prisoners by identifying sin as the root of their problems” and showing inmates “how God can heal them permanently, if they turn from their sinful past.” "
To qualify for inclusion in the program the inmate had to, "satisfy the evangelical Christians running it that he was making acceptable spiritual progress." One big problem with it was that it was blatantly sectarian.
"One Roman Catholic inmate, Michael A. Bauer, left the program after a year, mostly because he felt the program staff and volunteers were hostile toward his faith.

“My No. 1 reason for leaving the program was that I personally felt spiritually crushed,” he testified at a court hearing last year. “I just didn’t feel good about where I was and what was going on.” "
Another problem was how do you judge the sincerity of prisoners being bribed for their participation? They were getting the following perks:
"More books and computers were available, and inmates were kept busy with classes, chores, music practice and discussions. There were occasional movies and events with live bands and real-world food, like pizza or sandwiches from Subway. Best of all, there were opportunities to see loved ones in an environment quieter and more intimate than the typical visiting rooms."
Sounds to me like something other than a prison environment. Several programs just like the one in Iowa just discussed have already been declared illegal.
"And, typically, the only penalty imposed when constitutional violations are detected is the cancellation of future financing — with no requirement that money improperly used for religious purposes be repaid.

But in a move that some constitutional lawyers found surprising, Judge Pratt ordered the prison ministry in the Iowa case to repay more than $1.5 million in government money, saying the constitutional violations were serious and clearly foreseeable.

His decision has been appealed by the prison ministry to a federal appeals court and fiercely protested by the attorneys general of nine states and lawyers for a number of groups advocating greater government accommodation of religious groups. The ministry’s allies in court include the Bush administration, which argued that the repayment order could derail its efforts to draw more religious groups into taxpayer-financed programs."

Well Boo frickin' Hoo. It's so typical of the Bush administration to break the law and then whine like babies when their transgressions are pointed out to them. I say Kudos to Judge Pratt for defending the Constitution and the rule of law.

Related Posts:
Onward Christian Soldiers - Pt. 1
Faith-Based Initiatives Abused
Once Upon A Time
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Cross-posted from Les Enragé


Sunday, December 10, 2006

It's Comin' On Christmas

Sara McLachlan - River
I couldn't find a version of this by Joni Mitchell herself, but this is pretty nice. There's another gorgeous version of this by Canadian Indie artist Allison Crowe HERE. The song poignantly captures the pre-Christmas blues many people get as the year's biggest family interface approaches. I hope you all enjoy it.

This song always makes me think of Ottawa, where every year they clear the snow off of the Rideau Canal to provide the world's longest and largest public skating rink. The little artificial puddle they put in front of Toronto City Hall pales in comparison. Skating is a great way to take off those turkey pounds put on over the holidays.

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Panel Rejects Fair Elections

..Votes Against Election Machine Checks
From the AP Wire:
"A federal advisory panel on Monday rejected a recommendation that states use only voting machines that produced results that could be independently verified.

The panel drafting voting guidelines for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission voted 6-6 not to adopt a proposal that would have required electronic machines used by millions of voters to produce a paper record or other independent means of checking election results. Eight votes were needed to pass it.

The failed resolution, proposed by Ronald Rivest, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology computer scientist and panel member, closely mirrored a report released last week warning that paperless electronic voting machines are vulnerable to errors and fraud and cannot be made secure.

Some panel members who voted against the proposal said they support paper records but don't think the risk of widespread voting machine meltdowns is great enough to rush the requirement into place and overwhelm state election boards.

'They should be longer-range goals,' said Britain Williams of the National Association of Election Directors. 'You are talking about basically a reinstallation of the entire voting system hardware.' "
Question: Who decided that these people were competent and well-informed enough to be deciding this crucial issue? Their decision seems, well..INSANE!

Answer: "Congress created the panel after vote-counting problems in the 2000 presidential election to advise the Election Assistance Commission."

Oh, now I get it. This panel was hand-picked by a Republican Congress to come up with a predetermined conclusion. After SIX YEARS of dragging their feet which resulted in MORE dubious election results in 2002, 2004 and now 2006 (especially in FLA 13) these pinheads treat voter fraud like the Repug EPA treats global warming. And what a lame excuse to justify their decision. Reinstallation of the entire voting system hardware requires nothing more than printing paper ballots and providing enough pencils.

The only thing being preserved here is the Repugs chance to steal the election in 2008. This is disgusting.

Also read: What Election Fraud Looks Like -by Michael Richardson in OpEd News

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Olbermann on Erosion of Privacy

Perhaps some of you are familiar with Jonathan Turley, Law Professor at George Washington University, and a frequent commenter on Keith Olbermann's show. I really like the guy because he has a clear idea of what Constitutional protections of freedom and privacy are supposed to be about. In this piece he demonstrates that he also has a pretty good sense of humor.
Virtual Strip Search
Get a load of this exchange between Keith and Jonathan.

KO: "Having now seen that photo (right), we can't not begin with the X-Ray machine. It would seem Jonathan to be not just intrusive but actually indecent, so much so .. What is the difference between requiring passengers to subject themselves to that and simply asking them to strip off all their clothes before boarding?"

JT: "Well maybe this is a recruiting tool to get TSA applicants, which should now be called T 'n' A or something, I don't know. But most of us are more afraid we'll be sent to something like Jenny Craig than Gitmo after this, because it is a very revealing picture."

Correct me if I'm wrong, but that's two zingers in as many sentences, and both worthy of a Saturday Night Live skit, though admittedly neither would be the funniest line on even a mediocre night. And I don't think it's the best comedic technique to laugh at your own joke, especially before you even tell it as he does here. Nonetheless I give Jonathan two thumbs up for his effort, especially the reference to Jenny Craig. Not ROTFLMAO, but at least LOL. And for the record I don't think Turley's venture into comedy undermines his credibility when he speaks seriously to substantive issues.

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Inalienable Rights

...And Impeachable Offenses

God bless Glenn Greenwald for never letting up on the criminal behavior of the Bush administration and for reminding us that every day they are in power is a day that untold victims languish in torture prisons. And thank you Glenn for today's post refreshing our outrage at the treatment of Jose Padilla, a US citizen who was held in prison for 3½ years without charges, who was finally charged in November of 2005, who still awaits trial on nebulous charges for which there is so little evidence that he will most like be acquitted.

"Last month, I wrote about the torture -- there is no other accurate word for it -- to which Padilla alleges, quite credibly, he was subjected over the 3 1/2 years of his lawless detention. Today, The New York Times describes the apparently jarring video showing a completely dehumanized Padilla being transported from his black hole to a dentist visit.

They only brought charges against Padilla in November, 2005 -- and transferred him from his military brig to a federal prison -- because the Supreme Court was set to rule on the legality of their treatment of Padilla, something they were desperate to avoid.. . .But the administration continues to argue that it has the power to detain U.S. citizens -- including those, like Padilla, detained not on a "battlefield," but on U.S. soil -- indefinitely and without any charges being brought. Nothing has changed in that regard.

..John Aschroft flamboyantly brand him "the Dirty Bomber" and then leak to the press over the next two years that he wanted to blow up apartment buildings. But the indictment contained none of those allegations (because the "evidence" on which they were based was flimsy from the start and, independently, was unusable because it was obtained via torture).. ..forced to defend their accusations in court, the Bush administration's case against Padilla has been revealed to be incredibly weak.

The Bush administration currently has in its custody 14,000 human beings around the world (at least) who have never been charged with any crime (needless to say, we're not entitled to know the number or what is being done with them, because that's Secret, like everything else)."
The statements in this article seem to compete with one another for the most outrageous or enraging title. Perhaps the statement that comes closest to putting a bottom line on the story comes from the comments;

"The only thing that has ever gotten through to anyone is to list the evidence against Padilla, and point out, 'They have that much evidence against YOU.' Because, frankly, there is that much evidence on just about every American." (H/T - DaveCM)

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Crossposted at Les Enragé