Monday, January 26, 2009

Cheney: I authorized torture. I guess, I'm guilty.

Bush: I authorized torture:

Alberto Gonzales on NPR today:

When asked by NPR's interviewer Michel Martin for his reaction to Barack Obama's Attorney General designate, Eric Holder, saying he believed waterboarding was torture, Gonzales said:

"My reaction was very similar to General (Michael) Mukasey's reaction, was concern about making a pronouncement like that, a concern that arise in the minds of intelligence officials and lawyers at the Department who all acted in good faith, working as hard as they can in difficult circumstances, to give advise and make decisions, to protect our country. And when you have that kind of pronouncement . . . One needs to be careful in making a blanket pronouncement like that if you don't have all the information because of the effect it may have again on the morale and dedication of intelligence officials and lawyers throughout the administration.

MARTIN: And you worry officers, persons who participated in these practices might be now prosecuted?

GONZALES: "I don't think there's going to be a prosecution, quite frankly, because again these activities for the most part, based on what I know, obviously there may be some activities and actions that occurred that I'm not aware of, but in terms of what people really focused on, they were authorized, they were known at the highest levels, they were supported by legal opinions at the Department of Justice, so based on those facts, I think it would be difficult, again I can't prejudge it, Mr. Holder if he is confirmed will have to make a decision whether or not to move forward with a prosecution, an investigation and a prosecution but under those circumstances I find it hard to believe . . . "

Gonzo seems real concerned Holder may have made his pronouncement about waterboarding being torture without all the relevant info regarding the threats he was facing and the legal opinions authorizing the use of torture (which were, remember, authorized at the highest levels).

Well, it looks like the Obama administration and congressional democrats might be able to help to enlighten everyone: reports congressional democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee are ramping up an effort to begin investigations into what exactly BushCo was up to on the Dark Side. And also:

"Obama’s aides have indicated that there soon may be a 'public airing' of secret Justice Department legal opinions and other documents that provided the underpinning for the Bush administration’s brutal interrogation policies . . ."

The Republicans are now apparently holding up Holder's confirmation until he promises not to prosecute any of them.

"Meanwhile, Republicans have grown increasingly worried that Holder, as Attorney General, will launch a criminal investigation into Bush’s interrogation policies. They delayed a vote on his nomination demanding that he respond to questions about whether he intends to investigate and/or prosecute Bush administration officials.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said he wants to ask Holder whether he intends to investigate the Bush administration and intelligence officials for torture. Last week, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Holder was asked about the practice of waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning that the Bush administration has acknowledged using against three terror suspects. Holder answered that 'waterboarding was torture.'

Cornyn said Holder’s view means there is a possibility that investigations might be on the horizon. 'Part of my concern, frankly, relates to some of his statements at the hearing in regard to torture and what his intentions are with regard to intelligence personnel who were operating in good faith based upon their understanding of what the law was,' Cornyn said Wednesday."

That term "operating in good faith" seems to be coming up a lot, lately. It's like telling a cop you didn't know the speed limit. Gonzo can go on and on about how legal opinions, written by such constitutional experts as he and John Yoo, said the CIA could torture the worst of the worst, but just writing something doesn't make it so.

Right, John Yoo?

"Doug Cassel: If the President deems that he’s got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person’s child, there is no law that can stop him?

Yoo: No treaty.

Cassel: Also no law by Congress. That is what you wrote in the August 2002 memo.

Yoo: I think it depends on why the President thinks he needs to do that." (Information Clearinghouse)

The real scandal isn't so much waterboarding KSM and Co., it's the permissive environment his, Yoo's and Cheney's whole gloves coming off philosophy of criminal justice engendered all down the chain of command that led to all the horrors of Gitmo, Baghram and Abu-Ghraib.

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Taxi To The Dark Side:

I really meant to see this when it came out in the theaters but I never had enough time off from work to get around to it. I saw it last night and it really blew my mind.

I have to say this one of the most detailed movies made about the Bush administration's abuse of power I've seen and makes the most convincing argument, to date, for why Bush and Cheney et al should be hauled before a war crimes tribunal.

You can complain about Michael Moore's going over the top dramatically to hammer home his point, or dismiss any number of other films exposing the crimes of this administration as partisan attacks, but this movie, even the most rabid Bush supporter (who listens to them anymore, anyway?) would have to admit, is as damning as it gets.

This is not the America I grew up in. The actions of the Bush administration spelled out in Taxi in excruciating detail, are absolutly indefensible.

This is not partisan rancure I'm expressing here. The knowledge that our best and brightest, our young, patriotic American soldiers were sent off to foreign lands to brutally torture and kill innocent Afghanis and Iraqis by these draft-dodging homunculi (in the name of those who died on 9/11, no less!), is simply beyond the Pale. (The footage of Alberto Gonzales' squearming to justify torture were particulary nauseating.)

Ulysses S. Grant wrote in his acclaimed memoir that: "Nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions."

He felt his generation had paid for the unjust invasion of Mexico by having to fight the Civil War, which cost the lives of 700,000 Americans. I'm afraid we've yet to begin to pay for what all of us allowed to happen to Dilawar

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Hey NPR! What's with all the Neocons?

Many of you coming to this blog lately might have concluded all I do is blame Israel for everything under the sun. This is not true. In fact, I really try my best to avoid the Israel/Palestine issue because it's so damned complicated and enraging.

So, for your edification I give another topic not related to Israel: My latest campaign to get NPR to stop inviting former neocon Bush administration officials on to their airwaves to spout neocon bullshit and revisionist history.

This post involves my bewilderment at NPR's Talk of the Nation program inviting Douglas Feith, Mr. "Office of Special Plans," on to discuss whether the US should be the policeman of the world. Huh?

"Isn't Douglas Feith the guy who was investigated by the the Department of Defense's Office of Inspector General (IG) for "inappropriately" producing evidence that said there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda?

He also was found to have produced 'some conclusions that were inconsistent with the consensus of the Intelligence Community.'

Those would be Saddam's WMD.

He was found to have given intelligence briefings to senior policy makers 'containing information that was different from the briefing presented to [Director of Central Intelligence], not vetted by the Intelligence Community, and that was not supported by the available intelligence.'

In other words, he fixed the the intelligence and facts around the policy for his boss Donald Rumsfeld.

He is as responsible as anyone for the disastrous invasion of Iraq.

Again, it mystifies me to no end that NPR is giving airtime to the former neocon members of the Bush administration and foisting them on their listeners as 'policy experts.'

If someone drove me into a ditch, I wouldn't let him teach my daughter how to drive, yet NPR just can't seem to get enough of these former neocons

Actually, I should have changed that last bit to just "neocons," since he isn't a former one. Or maybe former Bush administration officials was what I meant. I was in a rush and I was pigbiting mad!

In any event, the many others that left comments at the TOTN comment page gave my post 13 recommendations and also focused on the absurdity of having Dougie-boy on.

Right Web background on Rummy's Feith-based intel:

"Besides his work with the OSP, Feith was also responsible for establishing two other controversial offices in the Pentagon during the lead-up to the Iraq War: the very short-lived Office of Strategic Influence, which was closed down after creating a furor in Congress because of its purported aim of 'providing news items, possibly even false ones, to foreign media organizations as part of an effort to influence public sentiment and policy makers,' and the Counterterrorism Evaluation Group,' a small unit of intelligence analysts who examined possible links between Mr. Hussein and Al Qaeda" that issued a classified report directly contradicting CIA conclusions about such ties"

Once the invasion was done he also had a hand in making sure the people we sent over there to rebuild Iraq were loyal bushies and especially incapable of doing their jobs. A W. & Co. trademark.

Comment on Inauguration Day coverage:

"OK, seriously, Matt Continenti of the 'Weakly' Standard? When is NPR going to learn the lessons of this election? The neocon ideology has been roundly rejected by the American people. They were wrong about absolutely everything, from Iraq being a 'Cake Walk' to their dreams of American Hegemony.

Why does NPR continue to insist on giving these people air time? Something tells me the Standard's circulation is going to take a nose dive, now that the old regime and their backers have been rousted out of DC.

No one is listening to these people anymore. Get a clue!"

To which another commenter replied:

"William, (My nom de plume)

I think the point of Rep. Ryan and Continetti of the Weekly Standard was to give some opposition perspective on the inauguration and the speech. While specific neo-con viewpoints have been exposed for the worthless tripe they are, it does not mean that opposition views are inherently valueless.

A few mis-steps by the administration (or, more likely bumbling by Speaker Pelosi and Sen. Reid) could push the demos back into the minority again

To which, I replied:

"Darren, I don't think 'opposition views are inherently valueless,' either. I just don't get having people on as political 'experts' who're anything but. I think the people sitting at home listening to NPR sort of expect the people on the air to know what the hell they're talking about, which Continenti clearly doesn't.

I feel kind of insulted, actually, that NPR keeps feeding us this tripe and expecting us to call it steak.

This is not the 'intelligent commentary' NPR claims they're providing

Comment to ATC on interview with John Bilinger (Condi's legal advisor):

"Two weeks before the invasion of Iraq, the UK's most senior law officer Lord Goldsmith told PM Tony Blair in a secret legal finding that 'I remain of the opinion that the safest legal course would be to secure the adoption of a further resolution to authorise the use of force.'

He further found: "A 'reasonable case' does not mean that if the matter ever came before a court I would be confident that the court would agree with the view."

Then in came your guest John Bilinger: 'On February 11, 2003, as war approached, and with Mr Blair close to panic over the legal fiasco, Goldsmith flew to the White House to meet US National Security Council legal chief, John Bellinger. His message was clear: the US had no legal worries because Congress had already given Mr Bush the power to rule the war legal. In addition it believed there was no need for a second UN resolution. Mr Bellinger later boasted: 'We had a problem with your Attorney General who was telling us it was legally doubtful under international law. We straightened him out.'(The Daily Mail)

Perhaps Mr. Billinger should focus less on the Gitmo detainees' legal problems and more on his own. His name is on a war crimes prosecutor's list somewhere in the world
." (Source Watch)

Some joker replied to my comment later on, but I just found out about it and I'm not quite sure what the hell he's trying to say. Something about the 'coalition of the paid-off' endorsing the US/UK sponsored UN resolution 1441, which somehow knowledge of was suppressed by the liberal media.

That's great, except that the text above kind of points out that Lord Goldsmith gave the opinion that 1441 wasn't good enough, his legal opinion (later changed by Bilinger & Co.) was that there had to be an explicit war authorization to invade Iraq from the Security Council. As I recall, in fact, the only way W. & Co were able to get 1441 through at all was because they put a provision in there, to placate their many detractors from every other country (beside the 26 paid-off or bullied) to seek a second resolution before invading. Knowing there was no way in the hell they were going to get a second resolution, they tried to do an end 'round by claiming early Iraq resolutions would suffice. Geez, talk about revisionist history!

An update on the Lord Goldsmith question, on whether he was or wasn't pressured to revise his initial legal finding that a second resolution was required.

The Guardian, Jan 14 2009:

"Fresh questions over the legality of the Iraq war were raised today after the government admitted it could not substantiate its claim that Lord Goldsmith had changed his mind over the legal basis for the invasion before a highly controversial meeting with two of Tony Blair's closest allies.

The admission has revived allegations that the former attorney general was pressured to revise his opinion that an invasion could be illegal without an explicit UN resolution.

Opposition MPs have renewed calls for a full Iraq inquiry in light of the new information . . .

Two weeks before the invasion, in March 2003, Goldsmith gave Blair a detailed legal opinion that doubted its legality.

Six days later, on 13 March, Goldsmith met Lord Falconer, then a junior minister, and Sally (now Lady) Morgan from Blair's office.

On 17 March, he published a single-page parliamentary answer, asserting that the war would be legal on the basis of existing UN resolutions . . .

Last November, Lord Bingham, a former senior law lord, said Goldsmith's view was 'flawed' and called the invasion 'a serious violation of international law and of the rule of law'.

Critics of the war have alleged that Goldsmith had been pressured by Blair's allies to change his mind, which he has repeatedly denied.

Most ministers were not shown Goldsmith's original advice or told that he had expressed doubts on the issue

Anyway . . .

There you have it, my efforts so far to get NPR to stop wasting every body's time with neocons trying to rewrite history.

Did anyone let the PTB at NPR know there's a new sheriff in town, one that doesn't base his decisions on wishful thinking and Faux snooNews stories?

(I edited the posts to NPR to correct for typos.)

Tonight on 60 Minutes: The ugly truth Israel doesn't want you to see.

Shocking! Israel admits it used White Phosphorus in Gaza.

News item:

"On 13 January Brig-Gen Avi Benayahu, chief spokesman for the Israel Defense Force (IDF), said that in its assault on Gaza Israel was using weapons in accordance with international treaties and conventions. He denied Israel was using white phosphorus. 'I repeat Commander in Chief Ashkenazi's words: The allegations of the IDF using WP [white phosphorus] are false.'''

Times of London (Jan.21):

Martin Fletcher reports,

"As fresh evidence emerged of Gazan civilians being burned by phosphorus, Avital Leibovich, the army spokeswoman, said its use was 'legal according to international law...All the munitions we were using were legal, like the French, American and British armies. We used munitions according to international law.' (Well, if the Americans do it, it must be legal!)

The Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv reported that the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) had privately admitted using phosphorus bombs, and that the Judge Advocate General's Office and Southern Command were investigating

Yeah, I'm sure that investigation will really be thorough. The IDF can investigate themselves, you can trust them!

The problem with the whole bombing U.N. compounds where hundreds of refugees are seeking cover is that the U.N. has the clout to call for an independent, international investigation.

The Guardian:

"A visibly furious Ban Ki-moon condemned as 'outrageous, shocking and alarming' the destruction he had seen while touring Gaza, and described as 'excessive use' of force the violence wrought by both Israel and Hamas rockets . . .

'These are heartbreaking scenes I have seen and I am deeply grieved by what I have seen today,' he said, standing against a backdrop of still-smoking food aid in a UN warehouse destroyed by Israeli gunfire last Thursday.

Demanding a proper judicial inquiry and guarantees that UN buildings would not be attacked again, Ban said: 'I am just appalled. I am not able to describe how I am feeling, having seen this site of the bombing of the United Nations compound. This was an outrageous and totally unacceptable attack against the United Nations

Yeah, yeah bleeding-heart Hamas apologist!

The IDF isn't worried because, naturally, what the IDF did in Gaza was totally and completely legal . . . But just in case Haaretz reports,

"Senior Israeli ministers have expressed serious fears during the past few days about the possibility that Israel will be pressed to agree to an international investigation of the losses among non-combatants during Operation Cast Lead; or alternately, that Israelis will be faced with personal suits, such as happened to Israeli officers who were accused of war crimes in Britain for their actions during the second intifada. . .

The defense establishment has started to collect material in advance of the expected legal claims, and has prepared its defense regarding the private houses the Israel Defense Forces attacked in Gaza. The evidence includes material about where weapons were stockpiled, and sites from which Hamas was firing rockets. Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog (Labor), who is coordinating the humanitarian aid to Gaza, will also coordinate Israel's public relations efforts against the accusations of war crimes

For Israel's public relations efforts, read AIPAC pressuring the US government to cover their sorry asses and intimidating the media into regurgitating Israeli propaganda.

Today, AP reports:

"Special legal teams will defend Israeli soldiers against potential war crimes charges stemming from civilian deaths in the Gaza Strip, the prime minister said Sunday, promising the country would 'fully back' those who fought in the three-week offensive.

The move reflected growing concerns by Israel that officers could be subject to international prosecution, despite the army's claims that Hamas militants caused the civilian casualties by staging attacks from residential areas

Speaking at this weeks cabinet meeting Israeli PM Ehud Olmert said: "The state of Israel did everything in order to avoid hitting civilians. I do not know of any military that is more moral, fair and sensitive to civilians' lives."

Note the emergency personnel running from the streams of WP (that wasn't used). Better find yourself a good lawyer Ehud. And if I were you, I'd avoid any trips to Europe any time soon.

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