Friday, June 20, 2008

A Tale of Two Torture Lawyers

Two stories in the American Bar Association Journal today highlight lawyers whose refusal, in the first instance, and participation, in the second, have earned them everlasting infamy (and a demotion in the case of the resistor) in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Daniel Levin once worked for Alberto Gonzales's Department of Justice ~ until he wrote a memo disagreeing with Bushco's torture policies, whereupon he was asked to step down. "Too independent," it was said, after he had himself subjected to waterboarding while researching the Bushco predetermined party line that waterboarding isn't torture.
"[A] former high-level Justice Department lawyer says he was asked to leave after he wrote a memo opposing harsh interrogation techniques he considered torture but was promised a job as a U.S. Attorney by former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
"Daniel Levin confirmed in testimony yesterday that he was asked in 2005 to leave his DOJ job as the acting head of the Office of Legal Counsel after he opposed harsh interrogation techniques in a 2004. Although he didn't draw a direct parallel between the memo and the request to step down, others did, reports ABC News, relying on unnamed sources.
"Meanwhile, sources say Levin was told by Gonzales that he would appoint him to a U.S. Attorney position, once the dust settled, to sweeten the downward departure to a position the ex-AG found for him at the National Security Council. Although Gonzales reportedly made a preliminary move or two to get Levin a job as a U.S. Attorney, that never happened and Levin later left to return to private practice.
"'Levin, a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Chicago Law School, was seen by some in the administration as too independent, sources said. For example, while analyzing specific interrogation techniques, he went to a military base outside Washington and personally underwent waterboarding, which he concluded qualified as torture, unless done in a narrow way with close supervision,' the ABC News article recounts'."
Researching North Korean Torture Methods at the Pentagon
Today, a former lawyer for the Pentagon's testimony is expected to shed more light on when torture was first conducted versus when the Pentagon finds it now convenient to claim that it was authorized.
"The lawyer, Richard Schiffrin, said the information he obtained included studies of North Koreans’ attempted mind-control experiments on American prisoners during the Korean War. 'It was real Manchurian Candidate stuff,' he told the Times.
"The revelation comes amid disclosures that Pentagon lawyers played a more active and earlier role than previously disclosed in developing aggressive interrogation techniques for use at Guantanamo, the story says.
"The Washington Post reports that new evidence appears to contradict previous statements by former Defense Department general counsel William Haynes II about the timing of research into enhanced techniques. Haynes previously said research was done at the request of Guantanamo jailers in October 2002. But memos and e-mail show Haynes was soliciting interrogation ideas as early as July that year, the story says.
"Military lawyers raised strong concerns about the legality of enhanced techniques in November 2002, a month before they were approved, according to the Post.
"Then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved enhanced interrogation techniques in December 2002, but he rescinded his order allowing the harshest methods a month later, the Times says. The military never authorized interrogations as harsh as those carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency, which used waterboarding until the end of 2003.
The techniques approved for use at Guantanamo included stress positions and sleep deprivation.
"Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., contends in a statement that research into aggressive techniques by senior officials helped pave the way for Abu Ghraib abuses."

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Former General Calls For War Crimes Investigation

Retired General Antonio Taguba (of "the famous Taguba of the Taguba report," as Donald Rumsfeld once taunted him, at the same time professing to never have seen his report on Abu Ghraib), has called for an investigation into Bushco war crimes, according to McClatchy News today.

Taguba "accused the Bush administration Wednesday of committing 'war crimes' and called for those responsible to be held to account.
His "remarks...came in a new report that found that U.S. personnel tortured and abused detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, using beatings, electrical shocks, sexual humiliation and other cruel practices.
"'After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes,' Taguba wrote. 'The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.'
"Taguba, whose 2004 investigation documented chilling abuses at Abu Ghraib, is thought to be the most senior official to have accused the administration of war crimes. 'The commander in chief and those under him authorized a systematic regime of torture,' he wrote.
"A White House spokeswoman, Kate Starr, had no comment."
Will Congress take time away from its frenetic and self-aggrandizing witch-hunt endeavors to pass yet another piece of legislation granting the telcoms retroactive immunity for spying on us without warrants to heed the call?
The group Physicians for Human Rights has revived the controversy by issuing a report titled Broken Laws, Broken Lives "described the most in-depth medical and psychological examination of former detainees to date.
"Doctors and mental health experts examined 11 detainees held for long periods in the prison system that President Bush established after the 9-11 terrorist attacks. All of them eventually were released without charges.
"The doctors and experts determined that the men had been subject to cruelties that ranged from isolation, sleep deprivation and hooding to electric shocks, beating and, in one case, being forced to drink urine.
"Bush has said repeatedly that the United States doesn't condone torture.
"'All credible allegations of abuse are thoroughly investigated and, if substantiated, those responsible are held accountable,' said Navy Cmdr. J.D. Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman. The Defense Department responds to concerns raised by the International Committee for the Red Cross, he said, which has access to detainees under military control.
"The physicians' group said that its experts, who had experience studying torture's effects, spent two days with each former captive and conducted intensive exams and interviews. They administered tests to detect exaggeration. In two of the 11 cases, the group was able to review medical records.
"The report... concurs with a five-part McClatchy investigation of Guantanamo published this week. Among its findings were that abuses occurred — primarily at prisons in Afghanistan where detainees were held en route to Guantanamo — and that many of the prisoners were wrongly detained.
"Also this week, a probe by the Senate Armed Services Committee revealed how senior Pentagon officials pushed for harsher interrogation methods over the objections of top military lawyers. Those methods later surfaced in Afghanistan and Iraq.Former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld didn't specifically approve of the worst abuses, but neither he nor the White House enforced strict limits on how detainees would be treated.
"There was no 'bright line of abuse which could not be transgressed' former Navy general counsel Alberto Mora told the Senate committee.Leonard Rubenstein, the president of Physicians for Human Rights, said there was a direct connection between the Pentagon decisions and the abuses his group uncovered.
"'The result was a horrific stew of pain, degradation and ... suffering,' he said.Detainee abuse has been documented previously, in photos from Abu Ghraib, accounts by former detainees and their lawyers and a confidential report by the International Committee for the Red Cross that was leaked to the U.S. news media.
"Of the 11 men evaluated in the Physicians for Human Rights four were detained in Afghanistan between late 2001 and early 2003, and later sent to Guantanamo. The remaining seven were detained in Iraq in 2003.
"One of the Iraqis, identified by the pseudonym Laith, was arrested with his family at his Baghdad home in the early morning of Oct. 19, 2003. He was taken to a location where he was beaten, stripped to his underwear and threatened with execution, the report says.
'Laith' told the examiners he was then taken to a second site, where he was photographed in humiliating positions and given electric shocks to his genitals.
"Finally, he was taken to Abu Ghraib, where he spent the first 35 to 40 days in isolation in a small cage, enduring being suspended in the cage and other "stress positions."
He was released on June 24, 2004, without charge."
Report Dismissed by Pentagon as Ravings of Disgruntled Former Detainees
"'It adds little to the public discourse to draw sweeping conclusions based upon dubious allegations regarding remote medical assessments of former detainees, now far removed from detention,' Gordon said.

And Regarding the Pentagon's "The Red Cross Was There" Defense ~ (Imaginary)
Yesterday, a Senate report confirmed that Bushco was hiding detainees from the International Red Cross to avoid scrutiny of its torture operations.
"'We may need to curb the harsher operations while ICRC is around. It is better not to expose them to any controversial techniques,' Lt. Col. Diane Beaver, a military lawyer who's since retired, said during an October 2002 meeting at the Guantanamo Bay prison to discuss employing interrogation techniques that some have equated with torture. Her comments were recorded in minutes of the meeting that were made public Tuesday. At that same meeting, Beaver also appeared to confirm that U.S. officials at another detention facility — Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan — were using sleep deprivation to 'break' detainees well before then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld approved that technique. 'True, but officially it is not happening,' she is quoted as having said.
"A third person at the meeting, Jonathan Fredman, the chief counsel for the CIA's Counterterrorism Center, disclosed that detainees were moved routinely to avoid the scrutiny of the ICRC, which keeps tabs on prisoners in conflicts around the world.
"'In the past when the ICRC has made a big deal about certain detainees, the DOD (Defense Department) has 'moved' them away from the attention of the ICRC,' Fredman said, according to the minutes.
"The document, along with two dozen others, shows that top administration officials pushed relentlessly for tougher interrogation methods in the belief that terrorism suspects were resisting interrogation.
"It's unclear from the documents whether the Pentagon moved the detainees from one place to another or merely told the ICRC they were no longer present at a facility.
"Fredman of the CIA also appeared to be advocating the use of techniques harsher than those authorized by military field guides 'If the detainee dies, you're doing it wrong,' the minutes report Fredman saying at one point."
Beaver testified that she didn't recall making the comment about avoiding "harsher operations" while ICRC representatives were around, but she said she probably was referring to the need to conduct extended periods of interrogations of detainees without disruption."

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

News Compendium: Bushco War and Torture Troubles

Ill: Wizard of Whimsy

Bushworld Comes Crumbling down, Albeit in Bits and Pieces

Recent news has not been good for the warmongering Bushies, past and present, but none more so than today, when the Supreme Court handed down its THIRD wrist-slapping decision on the topic of indefinite detention without fair trials, and more specifically, the ersatz sytem of "justice" embodied in the misguided "Military Commissions Act" and related detainee legislation.
"The court declared unconstitutional a provision of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 which, at the administration’s behest, stripped the federal courts of jurisdiction to hear habeas corpus petitions from the detainees seeking to challenge their designation as enemy combatants.
"Congress and the administration had passed a shortened alternative to a habeas procedure for the prisoners in the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act. But Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority, said that procedure 'falls short of being a constitutionally adequate substitute' because it failed to offer 'the fundamental procedural protections of habeas corpus.'
Justice Kennedy declared: 'The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times.'
"The decision, which was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen G. Breyer, was categorical in its rejection of the administration’s basic arguments. Indeed, the court repudiated the fundamental legal basis for the administration’s strategy, adopted in the immediate aftermath of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, of housing prisoners captured in Afghanistan and elsewhere at the United States Naval base in Cuba, where Justice Department lawyers advised the White House that domestic law would never reach."
"Writing separately, Justice Souter said the dissenters did not sufficiently appreciate 'the length of the disputed imprisonments, some of the prisoners represented here today having been locked up for six years.'
The detainees whose fates are at issue in the case are Algerians who were legal residents of Bosnia when they were detained by Bosnian police on suspicion of planning an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo, arrested in the immediate wake of the post-911 frenzy. The New York Times calls them "not at all typical of the people confined at Guantanamo."
"The Supreme Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina ordered them released three months later for lack of evidence, whereupon the Bosnian police seized them and turned them over to the United States military, which sent them to Guantánamo."
Bush, speaking from the Roman leg of his "farewell tour" of Europe, strenuously objected to the Court's assertion of its final say over legislation a cowed and manipulated Congress pushed through on his say-so. What? Bush doesn't have the power to detain by executive fiat any random bodies it designates terrorists, lock them up indefinitely, render them extralegally, subject them to torture and the kangaroo courts set up by the Military Commissions Act?
The Detainee Treatment Act, for instance, provided that the "military [can] assign a 'personal representative' to each detainee, but defense lawyers may not take part. Nor are the tribunals required to disclose to the detainee details of the evidence or witnesses against him — rights that have long been enjoyed by defendants in American civilian and military courts.The Act also provided that "detainees may appeal decisions of the military tribunals to the District of Columbia Circuit, but only under circumscribed procedures, which include a presumption that the evidence before the military tribunal was accurate and complete."

No American in his or her right mind could call that a fair trial. But when has Bush or anyone else in his Administration, or his judicial appointees, been constrained by the rules of fair play, even in the most important decisions of life and death ~ or just lingering, indefinite detention in the legal no-man's land of U.S. prisons on foreign soil and/or prison ships or secret CIA flights?
Justice Scalia went predictably ballistic in his dissent and called on his inner Neocon Cassandra to predict very bad things for America if we aren't willing to rewrite centuries of common law on habeas corpus, later enshrined in our own law. "Reflecting how the case divided the court not only on legal but, perhaps, emotional lines, Justice Scalia said that the United States was 'at war with radical Islamists,' and that the ruling 'will almost certainly cause more Americans to get killed.' 'The nation will live to regret what the court has done today,' Justice Scalia said. "
Saying not much for the notion of "judicial temperament" when dealing what should have been a tempest in a teapot before Bushco (for many reasons only tangentially related to "terrorism") decided to make it the cause celebre of the Militant Right Wing of America.

How We Got There ~ A Short-Attention-Span Administration for a Short-Attention-Spanned Country
On the much-vaunted Senate Intelligence Committee report, suitably whitewashed for Republion consumption, Slate had some choice analysis the other day.
"On June 5, the Senate intelligence committee released its long-awaited report on whether President George W. Bush and his top officials knowingly exaggerated or falsified intelligence when making the case for invading Iraq.

"The 171-page document is neither quite as damning as the committee's press release suggests nor remotely as exonerating as a Washington Post editorial would have you believe.But more significant are the report's implications (buried between its lines) for how the next president should change the way that National Intelligence Estimates are written—and, even more, the way that they are read. "
The piece concludes that if one reads the NIE selectively (i.e., without being distracted by dissenting footnotes), some of the claims made that whipped Americans into a glassy-eyed wartime frenzy were ~ I'll be charitable ~ "true, or once were."
"The committee examined dozens of public statements about Iraq made by Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and so forth—then compared their claims with what classified intelligence analyses were reporting at the time. All the statements turned out to be wrong. But were the officials simply, and perhaps unwittingly, reciting mistaken intelligence reports? Or were they exaggerating, twisting, or even falsifying what those reports were really saying?"
"Some of the officials' claims, the committee concludes, were 'substantiated by available intelligence information.' [...] "In several instances, the claims were backed by the intelligence estimate's majority view but were disputed by some of the agencies. (An NIE is a consensus product, put together by the nation's 16 intelligence agencies; if some of the agencies disagree on some point, they often file a dissenting footnote.) This was the case for the claims that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear-weapons program and that it was building unmanned aerial vehicles for the purpose of dropping biological weapons on Americans and our allies. The Senate report chides the officials for failing, at times willfully, to take these dissents into account."
"On a few other issues, officials made claims with great confidence, whereas the intelligence reports expressed considerable uncertainty. This was the case for claims about chemical-weapons production and the prospects of postwar stability.
"Finally, several claims had no basis in, or were even contradicted by, the official intelligence reports. These include the claim that Saddam Hussein intended to give weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups, that he had a partnership with al-Qaida, that he had WMD facilities in deep underground bunkers, and that 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta met with Iraqi intelligence officers in Prague in 2001.
"It is worth noting that the claims that reflected U.S. intelligence—on biological weapons, ballistic missiles, and support for non-al-Qaida terrorist groups—were, while serious, not the sorts of threats that would rally a nation to war. Meanwhile, the claims that did galvanize support for the invasion—on nuclear weapons and alliances with al-Qaida—either exaggerated or falsified the intelligence of the day.
"Another intriguing point, made fleetingly in the Senate report's preface, is that the committee reviewed 'only finished analytic intelligence documents'—not 'less formal communications between intelligence agencies and other parts of the executive branch.' In other words (though the authors don't put it in these terms), the committee once again evaded the key question of whether the White House pressured the Central Intelligence Agency into hardening its October 2002 NIE on Iraq.
"Unless this question is addressed, the report is beside the point.[...] " If...government officials politicized the intelligence information, then the report only perpetuates the sham."

House Democrats Call for Special Counsel on Genesis of Torture Instructions
Your Demon is glad to see House Democrats catching on, and calling for a Special Counsel from outside the DOJ, which is captive itself to the Executive and highly unlikely to investigate closely while Bushco remains in office.
"In a letter to Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey, the lawmakers cited what they said is 'mounting evidence' that senior officials personally sanctioned the use of waterboarding and other aggressive tactics against detainees in U.S.-run prisons overseas. An independent investigation is needed to determine whether such actions violated U.S or international law, the letter stated.
"This information indicates that the Bush administration may have systematically implemented, from the top down, detainee interrogation policies that constitute torture or otherwise violate the law," it said. The letter was signed by 56 House Democrats, including House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) and House Intelligence Committee members Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y)."

While They're At It, Investigate This
File under obstruction of justice: report that detailed notes on interrogations were destroyed at the Pentagon's behest in anticipation of investigation into illegality.

More Kangaroo Courts: Judge Who Insisted on Evidence in Detainee Case Abruptly Dismissed
"A judge hearing a war crimes case at Guantanamo Bay who publicly expressed frustration with military prosecutors' refusal to give evidence to the defense has been dismissed, tribunal officials confirmed Friday."
NYT Editorial: Interrogations Carried Out By Private Contractors (You guess why).
"Operating free of the restraints of military rule and ethics, some of these corporate thugs turned up in the torture scandal at the Abu Ghraib prison and walked away with impunity. Others are now believed to be in the employ of the Central Intelligence Agency at secret prisons that remain outside the rule of law, exempted even from the weak 2006 rules on interrogating prisoners."

In conclusion: do we detect a trend whereby a privileged boy President and his evil shadow have NEVER been forced to play by the well-established rules, and wonder what all the hub-bub and censure are about? Absolutely outragous, in'it?


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

McCain's Sympathy For The Devil

Who also happens to be Militant Right Wing Movement Hero and "Highly Effective Fundraiser"
Poor John McCain ~ he so desperately wants to be everything to everybody he runs the risk of being nothing to no one. In a nutshell, he's schitzophrenically all over the map, on no matter more than his troubled relationship with Dick Cheney, a man who famously tolerates no dissent and is inclined to view even the most innocuous gentlemanly conduct as puling weeny-weakling pansy stuff, and doesn't at all mind telling all the world about it in mocking tones.
Cheney is a hero to the rabid right-wingers? How very sad (and what peculiar standards for the word "hero" the deluded acolytes must harbor) ~ but a blogger for Politico who posits the idea of Cheney as Veep to McCain examines the hints that it still may be possible for Cheney to play a some sort of role in a McCain administration.
All indications are (in this particular iteration of McCain's multidimensonal public persona, anyway), that the chances are slim, given that Cheney harbors grudges regarding unflattering ~ even if true ~ things McCain has said about him and his staunch ally Donald Rumsfeld in the past, and although McCain privately "ran over to me and apologized" afterwards per Cheney.
Your Demon is beginning to wonder if there's a pattern in McCain's behavior whereby he first shoots his mouth off then scurries around trying to make amends when he realizes that he's only succeeded in inserting his foot ~it's a plausible explanation, but not very Presidential.
Anyway, the tibbits in the article that caught my eye:
"Cheney and McCain ...have had a rocky relationship. They have clashed publicly and privately during the Bush years on matters ranging from the treatment of terrorist detainees to former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Most recently, they’ve been on opposite sides on the idea of a gas tax holiday and on a Cheney-backed energy bill. As a result, Cheney finds himself on the outside looking in, without a clear role to play in one of the most consequential campaigns in history and one where his signature foreign policy legacy is on the line.
"Cheney spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride said the vice president had not yet campaigned for McCain and had not, to her knowledge, been asked. 'I don’t think the McCain people want Cheney anywhere near him,' said a former Cheney aide. Asked about what role Cheney would have in the campaign, McCain communications director Jill Hazelbaker only said: 'John McCain will always treat the vice president with respect.' McCain sources note that there are no plans for Cheney and McCain to campaign together and most observers view such a prospect as highly unlikely, given Cheney’s low poll ratings and Democratic efforts to frame McCain as the third term of the Bush administration.

"Still, Cheney sympathizers believe the vice president can be helpful. "
Even though a "close" Cheney advisor recommended getting Cheney to talk McCain up on right wing talk radio as a means of energizing the demoralized conservative base (encouraging, what?), the article goes on:
"But even in a limited capacity, Cheney might make for an awkward surrogate given the prickly nature of his relationship with McCain. After McCain said last year that Rumsfeld, Cheney’s friend and mentor in the Ford administration, would 'go down in history as one of the worst secretaries of defense in history,' the vice president made plain his displeasure. 'I just fundamentally disagree with John,' Cheney told ABC News in an interview. 'John said some nasty things about me the other day and then, next time he saw me, ran over to me and apologized. Maybe he’ll apologize to Rumsfeld.”
"Cheney was alluding to an interview McCain gave to Politico in which he said President Bush 'listened too much to the vice president' and had been 'very badly served by both the vice president and, most of all, the secretary of defense.'
"Of course, McCain hasn’t always been critical of Cheney. In an interview he gave to the Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes in 2006 for Hayes’ biography, Cheney: The Untold Story of America's Most Powerful and Controversial Vice President, McCain said: 'I will strongly assert to you that he has been of enormous help to this president of the United States.'
"Going further, McCain even told Hayes in comments heretofore unpublished that he’d consider Cheney for an administration post. Asked whether he’d be interested in Cheney had the vice president not already have served under Bush for two terms, McCain said: 'I don’t know if I would want him as vice president. He and I have the same strengths.'
"But to serve in other capacities? Hell, yeah.”
A star-crossed romance in the making?

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Monday, June 09, 2008

Kucinich Introduces Articles Of Impeachment

Update: Why Not Impeach Bush? Oh yeah. Dana Milbank reminds us why we should be grateful the Articles of Impeachment seem destined to die in the Judiciary Committee.

"Why so unwilling to impeach Bush? As Democratic leaders like to say, two words: Dick Cheney. At this late stage in his presidency, Bush can still feel confident that his job is secure, if only because his foes are so terrified of the man who would succeed him. " Dana cites a speech given by Cheney today at the Chamber of Commerce.

(Again?) Bless 'is 'eart. Raw Story carries the video, which aired today on C-Span.

Don't see the MSM even bothering to report it, do you?

Click here to see it:

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Bushco "Secret" Plan To Thwart Dems, Protect Signature Achievements In Iraq

Ill: The Worried Shrimp
Whilst expressing her deep dismay, but not any particular surprise, at our most estimable American corporate media's disinterest, for the most part, in bringing the story to our attention in a way that fully fleshes out the depths to which Bushco will descend to get its way in Iraq, your Demon speculates that that very complacent streak in our MSM is probably why certain Iraqis offered it to the UK press first.
Witness: allegations that the United States, under Bushco, is holding hostage $50 billion in Iraqi assets parked in a New York bank unless the Iraqis agree to a perma-occupation of American military bases, as well as control of its airspace, and immunity from prosecution for American soldiers and mercenaries ~ er, "contractors" ~ which would also have the twin advantages of thwarting any future American Presidential ambitions to get us out of Iraq, AND keep Congress from being able to do anything about it. Seems to have "the Dick" Cheney's paw prints all over it ~ arrogance, secrecy, oil interests, and military dominance.
"The US is holding hostage some $50bn (£25bn) of Iraq's money in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to pressure the Iraqi government into signing an agreement seen by many Iraqis as prolonging the US occupation indefinitely, according to information leaked to The Independent.
"US negotiators are using the existence of $20bn in outstanding court judgments against Iraq in the US, to pressure their Iraqi counterparts into accepting the terms of the military deal, details of which were reported for the first time in this newspaper yesterday.

"Iraq's foreign reserves are currently protected by a presidential order giving them immunity from judicial attachment but the US side in the talks has suggested that if the UN mandate, under which the money is held, lapses and is not replaced by the new agreement, then Iraq's funds would lose this immunity. The cost to Iraq of this happening would be the immediate loss of $20bn. The US is able to threaten Iraq with the loss of 40 per cent of its foreign exchange reserves because Iraq's independence is still limited by the legacy of UN sanctions and restrictions imposed on Iraq since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in the 1990s. This means that Iraq is still considered a threat to international security and stability under Chapter Seven of the UN charter. The US negotiators say the price of Iraq escaping Chapter Seven is to sign up to a new 'strategic alliance' with the United States.
"The threat by the American side underlines the personal commitment of President George Bush to pushing the new pact through by 31 July. Although it is in reality a treaty between Iraq and the US, Mr Bush is describing it as an alliance so he does not have to submit it for approval to the US Senate.
"Iraqi critics of the agreement say that it means Iraq will be a client state in which the US will keep more than 50 military bases. American forces will be able to carry out arrests of Iraqi citizens and conduct military campaigns without consultation with the Iraqi government. American soldiers and contractors will enjoy legal immunity.
"The US had previously denied it wanted permanent bases in Iraq, but American negotiators argue that so long as there is an Iraqi perimeter fence, even if it is manned by only one Iraqi soldier, around a US installation, then Iraq and not the US is in charge.
"The US has security agreements with many countries, but none are occupied by 151,000 US soldiers as is Iraq. The US is not even willing to tell the government in Baghdad what American forces are entering or leaving Iraq, apparently because it fears the government will inform the Iranians, said an Iraqi source.
"The fact that Iraq's financial reserves, increasing rapidly because of the high price of oil, continue to be held in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York is another legacy of international sanctions against Saddam Hussein. Under the UN mandate, oil revenues must be placed in the Development Fund for Iraq which is in the bank. The funds are under the control of the Iraqi government, though the US Treasury has strong influence on the form in which the reserves are held."
Dick Cheney's Office Trying to Force the (Non-Negotiable) Deal on Iraq
"A secret deal being negotiated in Baghdad would perpetuate the American military occupation of Iraq indefinitely, regardless of the outcome of the US presidential election in November.
The terms of the impending deal, details of which have been leaked to The Independent, are likely to have an explosive political effect in Iraq. Iraqi officials fear that the accord, under which US troops would occupy permanent bases, conduct military operations, arrest Iraqis and enjoy immunity from Iraqi law, will destabilise Iraq's position in the Middle East and lay the basis for unending conflict in their country.
"But the accord also threatens to provoke a political crisis in the US. President Bush wants to push it through by the end of next month so he can declare a military victory and claim his 2003 invasion has been vindicated. But by perpetuating the US presence in Iraq, the long-term settlement would undercut pledges by the Democratic presidential nominee, Barack Obama, to withdraw US troops if he is elected president in November.
"The timing of the agreement would also boost the Republican candidate, John McCain, who has claimed the United States is on the verge of victory in Iraq – a victory that he says Mr Obama would throw away by a premature military withdrawal.
"America currently has 151,000 troops in Iraq and, even after projected withdrawals next month, troop levels will stand at more than 142,000 – 10 000 more than when the military 'surge' began in January 2007. Under the terms of the new treaty, the Americans would retain the long-term use of more than 50 bases in Iraq. American negotiators are also demanding immunity from Iraqi law for US troops and contractors, and a free hand to carry out arrests and conduct military activities in Iraq without consulting the Baghdad government.
"The precise nature of the American demands has been kept secret until now. The leaks are certain to generate an angry backlash in Iraq. 'It is a terrible breach of our sovereignty,' said one Iraqi politician, adding that if the security deal was signed it would delegitimise the government in Baghdad which will be seen as an American pawn.
"The US has repeatedly denied it wants permanent bases in Iraq but one Iraqi source said: 'This is just a tactical subterfuge.' Washington also wants control of Iraqi airspace below 29,000ft and the right to pursue its 'war on terror' in Iraq, giving it the authority to arrest anybody it wants and to launch military campaigns without consultation.
"Mr Bush is determined to force the Iraqi government to sign the so-called 'strategic alliance' without modifications, by the end of next month. But it is already being condemned by the Iranians and many Arabs as a continuing American attempt to dominate the region. Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the powerful and usually moderate Iranian leader, said yesterday that such a deal would create 'a permanent occupation'. He added: 'The essence of this agreement is to turn the Iraqis into slaves of the Americans.'
"Iraq's Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is believed to be personally opposed to the terms of the new pact but feels his coalition government cannot stay in power without US backing.
The deal also risks exacerbating the proxy war being fought between Iran and the United States over who should be more influential in Iraq.
"Although Iraqi ministers have said they will reject any agreement limiting Iraqi sovereignty, political observers in Baghdad suspect they will sign in the end and simply want to establish their credentials as defenders of Iraqi independence by a show of defiance now. The one Iraqi with the authority to stop deal is the majority Shia spiritual leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. In 2003, he forced the US to agree to a referendum on the new Iraqi constitution and the election of a parliament. But he is said to believe that loss of US support would drastically weaken the Iraqi Shia, who won a majority in parliament in elections in 2005.
"The US is adamantly against the new security agreement being put to a referendum in Iraq, suspecting that it would be voted down. The influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has called on his followers to demonstrate every Friday against the impending agreement on the grounds that it compromises Iraqi independence.
"The Iraqi government wants to delay the actual signing of the agreement but the office of Vice-President Dick Cheney has been trying to force it through. The US ambassador in Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, has spent weeks trying to secure the accord.
The signature of a security agreement, and a parallel deal providing a legal basis for keeping US troops in Iraq, is unlikely to be accepted by most Iraqis. But the Kurds, who make up a fifth of the population, will probably favour a continuing American presence, as will Sunni Arab political leaders who want US forces to dilute the power of the Shia. The Sunni Arab community, which has broadly supported a guerrilla war against US occupation, is likely to be split."
Bush and Cheney, understandably, want their signature achievements preserved, and to hell with any notion of democracy, ours or theirs.


Thursday, June 05, 2008

Quip Of The Day

Your Demon happened to stumble upon Night Line last night just as it was reporting viewers' responses to the question whether Obama should invite Hillary to serve as his vice-president ~


1. Caller: "I won't vote for him unless he does!"

2. Caller: "Should a boy scout invite/take a rattlesnake into bed with him on his first camping trip?"


Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Mr. McTyranny

McCain Reverses Position, Now Sez He'll Keep Unitary Executive Powers to Spy on Americans
~ with Telcom Immunity, natch ~
It's been a difficult and delicate thing for John McCain to distance himself from Bushco's most controversial and unpopular positions ~ such as the infamous "declare war unilaterally and then expand presidential powers 'in wartime'" school of Imperial Legal Reasoning. Just witness the way his campaign has flip-flopped in an effort to appease those who worry about the effects on civil liberties and the right-wingers at the same time. After all, he's running on his official War Hero cred, and he needs the war to continue and expand if he wants to win the President's office ~ and more importantly, stay in it.
Truthout, picking up a Wired story yesterday, enlightens us:
"Monday, McCain adviser Doug Holtz-Eakin, speaking for the campaign, disavowed those statements [calling for holding the telcoms accountable for secretly complying with Bushco's illegal gambits to spy on Americans], and for the first time cast McCain's views on warrantless wiretapping as identical to Bush's.
"'[N]either the Administration nor the telecoms need apologize for actions that most people, except for the ACLU and the trial lawyers, understand were Constitutional and appropriate in the wake of the attacks on September 11, 2001. [...]
"'We do not know what lies ahead in our nation's fight against radical Islamic extremists, but John McCain will do everything he can to protect Americans from such threats, including asking the telecoms for appropriate assistance to collect intelligence against foreign threats to the United States as authorized by Article II of the Constitution.
"The Article II citation is key, since it refers to President Bush's longstanding arguments that the president has nearly unlimited powers during a time of war. The administration's analysis went so far as to say the Fourth Amendment did not apply inside the United States in the fight against terrorism, in one legal opinion from 2001.
"McCain's new position plainly contradicts statements he made in a December 20, 2007, interview with the Boston Globe where he implicitly criticized Bush's five-year secret end-run around the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Then, he was quoted by the paper as follows: "I think that presidents have the obligation to obey and enforce laws that are passed by Congress and signed into law by the president, no matter what the situation is."
"The Globe's Charlie Savage pushed further, asking , 'So is that a no, in other words, federal statute trumps inherent power in that case, warrantless surveillance?' To which McCain answered, 'I don't think the president has the right to disobey any law.'
"McCain's embrace of extrajudicial domestic wiretapping is effectively a bounce-back...from...comments made at the Computers, Freedom and Privacy conference in Connecticut last month. When liberal blogs picked up the story that McCain had moved to the left on wiretapping, the McCain campaign issued a letter insisting that he still supported unconditional immunity, as well as new rules that would expand the nation's spy powers.
"The campaign's response was consistent with McCain's past positions and votes. But it riled Andrew McCarthy at the conservative National Review Online, who read the campaign's position as a disavowal of Bush's warrantless wiretapping program, and a wimpy surrender of executive power to Congress.
"'What does it mean when he says Sen. McCain does not want the telecoms put into this position again?' McCarthy asked. 'Is he saying that in a time of national crisis, the president should not be permitted to ask the telecoms for assistance that is arguably beyond what is prescribed in a statute?'
"That's when the campaign issued the letter explaining McCain's new views of executive power, and revealing that McCain would, in certain future circumstances, rely on the same theory of executive power in wartime.
"A spokesperson for McCain's camp did not respond to a request Monday for an explanation of the difference between the new policy and the December interview."
All of you disaffected Hillary supporters might want to reconsider just what you're going to get if you do, in fact, vote for Mr. McTyranny. You might as well be voting for George Bush's third term on all of the most pressing issues, and against democracy and the rule of law itself.

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Hillary, Defeated, Sez She Won

Dana Milbank for the Washington Post:
Rumor has it she's angling for the Vice-Presidency now. However good that would be for the unity of the Democratic party, if I were Obama with a Clinton-and- hubby second-in-command, I'd probably be too distracted trying to watch my back for knife wounds and assassination attempts ("We all remember Kennedy campaigning in June," indeed) to do much governing.


Sunday, June 01, 2008

Clinton Democrats Endeavor To Snatch Defeat From Jaws Of Victory

Some Hillary Supporters Threaten to Vote for McCain; Harold Ickes Tosses Hissy Fit."Disenfranchisement," "Popular Vote," Become New Pro-Hillary Battle Themes

Will Rogers said it a long time ago, and it's still true: "I'm not a member of any organized political party ~ I'm a Democrat."

What a sad and debilitating circus for the Democratic party, and one that lends more than a little credence to what guest Pastor Pfleger of Obama's (now former) church in Chicago lampooned as Hillary Clinton's sense of "entitlement," especially after the DNC rule-makers all got together and decided to seat the delegates of the contested Florida and Michigan primaries, albeit with just half the votes they would have had otherwise IF THOSE STATES HAD FOLLOWED THEIR OWN PARTY'S RULES.

Seems to your Demon, that, as Donna Brasile noted, if Hillary had followed through on her promise to play by the rules in Florida and Michigan, where voters were told well in advance that their votes wouldn't matter if they insisted on defying party rules about not trying to race around and cut in line ahead of other states without waivers from the DNC to do so, she couldn't now be accused (justly) of whining that the rules should be changed to benefit her.
I watched the raucous event in its entirety on C-Span. All I have to say is *tsk tsk*
While Floridians claim that it was the Republican majority in that state who somehow conspired to move the Democratic primary ahead and thereby violate the DNC's rules, an argument I'm inclined to empathize with, the Michigan primary is another matter altogether. Both surviving Democratic presidential candidates agreed that they wouldn't run in that particular "beauty contest," but only Obama withdrew his name from the ballot. Some are saying that it was a deliberate dirty double-cross on Hillary's part; I won't go that far, but it is certainly a cynical and disingenuous move on Hillary's campaign's part to now quibble over the amount of delegate half-votes that should be awarded to Obama.
Your Demon can only roll her eyes everytime she hears one of the Hillary camp's attempts to tap into the residual anger over the Bush-Gore outrage by loudly asserting that she has "won" the popular vote, or again with Ickes' line yesterday accusing the DNC Rules Committee of "hijacking" votes.
"The Clinton campaign’s popular vote tally includes zero votes for Mr. Obama in the Michigan primary, where his name was not on the ballot although his supporters were urged to vote for 'uncommitted.'
"The campaign will begin airing an ad tomorrow touting touting Senator Clinton’s popular vote tally."
More Little White Hillary Lies After Puerto Rico
Bloomberg just reported that voter turnout was low, and that Clinton's win has failed to revive her bid. Despite that, "Clinton's supporters argue that she is winning the popular vote. Yet going into Puerto Rico, she trailed Obama by more than 275,000 votes. Those figures include the votes in Florida, where the candidates agreed not to campaign. They don't include the results from Michigan, where the candidates didn't campaign and Obama took his name off the ballot.
"In Puerto Rico, Clinton scored a net gain of less than 150,000 votes, leaving Obama with an overall lead of 125,000, more than enough to offset any gains she may make in South Dakota or Montana.
"Clinton yesterday continued to predict she would win the most popular votes, though such assertions aren't likely to carry much weight after this weekend.
"'I will lead in the popular vote; he will maintain a slight lead in the delegates,'' she said at a rally in San Juan, Puerto Rico, adding that the race would come down to the superdelegates."
And yes, there is a plethora of things wrong the American system of presidential elections, never-ending fundraising and the need of the "big" states to push ahead in defiance of party rules just to assure the rest of us will have to live with their candidate selections chief among them, but I'm tired of the cyncism, dirty trix, and divisiveness.
Hillary, you did this to yourself (on so many levels). For future reference, I'm square in the middle of "your" demographic, and wasn't fully decided until just now. These recent maneuvers and your previous record on the war, together with the "centrist" appeasement strategies your husband's administration adopted toward the Neocons, and your apparent strong streak of self-aggrandizement (not, unfortunately, unknown to anyone who's been to law school ~ but it remains the one thing I hate most in fellow lawyers, most particularly if the claims are demonstrably untrue).
You are not "entitled" to the Crown just because you want it. And your "do anything to win" mindset ~ even if it includes the weakening of your own party and your supporters threatening to throw the most important Presidential election in history if we are to restore the rule of law and some shred of our standing/moral authority worldwide post-Bushco blunders to McBush III reminds me too much of the Republicons, who, notwithstanding, must be laughing their arses off right now. Thanks!