Sunday, June 29, 2008

Candidate McCrash

What will be the fate
Of the Manchurian Candidate?
Known to party and swirl
With dozens of girls
Showing a temper that’s famous
Using words that will shame us
While courting the Right Wing
That excuses his night flings
So, just what will unfold
Will he crash and explode?


A week ago or so, a friend handed me a short crash history of the presidential candidate. It caused me to do a little research beyond McCain’s autobiography that I had read years ago. We all know about his crash as a fighter pilot in North Vietnam and that seems to be an unfortunate reality of a man doing his job and being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Chalk that up to bad luck even if you believe that he should have ejected sooner than he did. His injuries were caused by the ejection process at 500 knots and not by his judgment. There are four other McCain airplane disasters that do not easily fall into the same category however. Let us start at the beginning of his government life. McCain had the reputation of being a marginal but hard drinking midshipman while at Annapolis. According to fellow midshipman Robert Timberg who wrote, The Nightingale’s Song, “being on liberty with John McCain was like being on a train wreck.” It is that character issue that causes me to pause at those who wink and nod at the indiscretions and bad judgment of potential leaders. I see them as being either too forgiving or blind to a defect that could affect us all if McCain becomes Commander-in-Chief. After all, we have just experienced nearly 8 years of a hard drinking party animal who continuously demonstrated bad judgment in nearly every aspect of leadership and took us all along for the ride to an unnecessary war while failing to prosecute the war in Afghanistan, to a market crash, to the loss of millions of jobs, to the loss of our noble international reputation, to institutionalizing torture, to the supremacy of loyalty over competence, and to an economy that depends more on oil today than when he took office in January 2001.
The parallels between Bush and McCain don’t end with the party animal escapades but extend into the world of privilege that both enjoyed by virtue of family ties. Let us begin with McCain’s first airplane demolition. Lt. McCain was a student pilot for 2 ½ years at Pensacola and Corpus Christi after graduating from the US Naval Academy. While in Pensacola, he dated the exotic dancer (stripper) “Marie, the Flame of Florida.” His fitness reports appear to indicate that his performance was below par. Indeed, he crashed his trainer into Corpus Christi Bay while trying to land. That was often enough to boot a trainee out of flight school, but not McCain who had an active 4 star admiral dad and a retired 4 star admiral grandfather. Of course, that could have been coincidence, just as it was coincidence that W got into the Texas Air Guard despite long waiting lists of less well-connected citizens. Sometimes good stuff happens to well-connected people. His second crash happened because he was flying too low over Spain while on a Mediterranean cruise, and he took down power lines along the way. The headlines did not reflect his bad judgment or faulty depth perception, but that he was the son of an admiral. Not to worry; he was nonetheless promoted to flight instructor back at Pensacola. His third crash happened as he was flying a Navy trainer (solo) to Philadelphia on the way to an Army-Navy game. He parachuted safely, but the plane was destroyed striking a group of trees. Nobody killed…no harm; no foul? Again, the Navy glossed over the event and there was no uproar over personal use of a military aircraft. After all, what could be more important than the Army-Navy game?
John McCain’s 4th airplane disaster actually occurred on the deck of the USS Forrestal. He was waiting on deck for takeoff, and (according to one nasty version) he wet-started his A4E Skyhawk which caused a jet of flame to strike the Phantom F 4 immediately behind him. That caused a Zuni rocket to ignite and launch starting a chain of events that killed at least 164 men. The more official version attributes the M 48 Zuni launching to stray current when the system was switched from external to internal. The “angry” (Navy veterans) version described McCain as a “hot dog” pilot who wet started his aircraft and that he panicked and dropped his two 1,000 lb bombs on the deck in the ensuing fire. Regardless of what version you may read, McCain was quickly and singularly removed from the Forrestal and put in safety, some say to protect him from other crew members who felt that the accident was caused by his actions. Indeed, a Navy veterans’ group has been vicious in criticizing McCain for this incident. If there is evidence that he caused the accident, I have not read it and, personally, I feel that the stray electrical current is a credible cause. Unfortunately, McCain reported several versions of the event himself and some critics are using this as proof of his guilt. We don’t need to go there. It is clear that he got special treatment by being the only one given immediate removal from the burning ship, but if you have experienced the confusion of similar smoke, fire and chaos, you will understand that details will never be known. It is unwise as well as unfair to blame McCain for that tragedy. He has enough blame to bear as we review his crashes and behavior.
John McCain’s fifth and final crash resulted from enemy action and, again, it is not fair or wise to assume that greater skill would have avoided it. In summary, it would appear that three of the five demolitions were caused or contributed to by questionable pilot judgment and the willingness of the Navy to keep McCain flying despite marginal skills and demonstrations of “hot-dogging.” I have not read of any “near misses,” but only of his 5 crashes. In a way, I equate McCain’s actions to that of a rebellious and spoiled teen who wrecks his daddy’s Corvette only to be given the keys to a newer model. The Navy and his 4 star daddy continued to give him the keys.
McCain’s lack of maturity showed up in more personal ways as shown by this excerpt from the web entry “thought Rogue” (http://gto7.wordpress.com)

Upon returning home with the aid of crutches, he discovered his wife Carol had survived her own ordeal - a devastating car accident in 1969 which left her with her own set of crutches, four inches shorter, and considerably heavier than the model she had been.
As he went through physical therapy for his injuries and recovered just enough to be appointed commanding officer of an A-7 Corsair II training squadron in Jacksonville, FL, his marriage entered troubled waters. For all they had been through, chasing his youth (and various women), the Maverick engaged in a series of extra-marital affairs. He said, “My marriage’s collapse was attributable to my own selfishness and immaturity more than it was to Vietnam, and I cannot escape blame by pointing a finger at the war. The blame was entirely mine.”
As the web entry indicates, the party animal of his midshipman days did not disappear after 5 ½ years in the Hanoi Hilton. He was selfish and immature. These are the same characteristics that fellow senators point to today when they describe his verbal and physical assaults in the senate environs. In a quote attributed to McCain by Cliff Schecter, his temper and shameful treatment of his second wife (Cindy) shine through in a harsh and disturbing way. As Cindy twirled his hair, she said “You’re getting a little thin up there.” McCain’s face reddened and he responded, “At least I don’t plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you c___.” He offered his fatigue for a long day as an excuse. As president, he might just have a long day once in a while.
As you may remember, the Manchurian Candidate is the story of a brainwashed POW returning to the US and politics. McCain was indeed interrogated by North Vietnamese officials during his time in prison. While McCain vigorously denied that the Soviet Russians also interviewed him, KGB Major General Kalugin testified under oath that the KGB worked on a “high ranking naval officer.” Kalugin was repatriated to the United States. Colonel Bin Tin of the North Vietnamese Army testified that the Soviets indeed interrogated American prisoners and treated them badly. Bin Tin had access to all this information due to his high position in the Communist Party. Bin Tin wants normalization of relations with the Vietnamese and was warmly greeted by McCain when he testified to the US Senate. McCain, in 1991, influenced other Republican senators to stop POW/MIA investigations. Indeed, this interrogation period is troubling because it indicates that McCain was likely given special treatment due to his relationship to his father and, worse that he may have violated Article V of the US Military Code of Conduct that prohibits providing intelligence to the enemy although McCain claims that it was only accidental that he offered “military information” at the time he was getting special medical treatment. (Ted Sampley, U.S. Veteran Dispatch, December 1992). Not incidentally, McCain provided military information that described how tactical air attacks were executed; he estimated pilot losses and how replacements were provided to the mission. It is difficult not to link the two actions since they happened simultaneously. Communists seemed to delight in having the son of an admiral in custody.
Let me review the issues. If past behavior is the best predictor of future performance, then I would expect McCain to take a high risk approach to foreign and domestic affairs as president. Further, I would expect that his “other” affairs would easily outpace Clinton and probably Bush as well. Bush has claimed sobriety for several years and, if true, that would probably cut down his girl chasing. Clinton seems to be recently more discrete if not more pure. McCain’s privileged behavior is troubling even if precipitated by pain of torture that he now supports.
Choosing to focus on issues critical to the nation over self-adulation and indulgence would not seem to be likely for McCain. His renowned temper would probably aggravate delicate foreign relations. Note that he recently rebuked Senator Obama for having said that he, Obama, would negotiate with North Korea, only a matter of two weeks before Bush announced relaxation of sanctions and negotiations with North Korea. The rude disdain he has shown for his two wives (abandonment and crude sexual insult) might not easily support the agenda for women. Finally, his past behavior of expecting personal privilege would interfere with the decision process just as it has with Bush. (“My way or the highway, and there can be no compromise on my powers.”) Three of McCain’s crashes appear to be the result of faulty judgment ignored by a compliant Navy. Bush has enjoyed both compliant parents and the Congress that spoiled him rotten. If that does not bring up the memory of George W. Bush and his inability to stay with the Air National Guard; getting bailed out of weak business decisions in Oil and Baseball industries by Daddy’s friends, then I am missing something. If character means something important to the office of President, then we need to have some straight talk for a change. We cannot afford 8 or even 4 more years of indulging the perpetual adolescent.
The Vietnamese-American citizens of Little Saigon here in Orange County, California have been very sensitive to the attempts to normalize relations with the Communists of Vietnam and they already resent the attempts by the Bush Administration to minimize the importance of the hundreds of political prisoners still held by Vietnam. McCain voted with Bush 100% of the time in 2008 and 95% in 2007 including McCain’s reversal to support torture. (He was against torture before he was for it.) Maybe he has been brainwashed in Washington if not Hanoi. It is time for an accounting and not for privilege. It is time to ground McCain and take his keys away before he crashes again.
Peace,
George Giacoppe
30 June 2008

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Nuclear Hypocrisy

 

One of the things that continues to stagger me is how the media routinely follows the United States’ party line in treating the issue of Nuclear proliferation. A recent report I heard on National Public Radio, for instance, addressed the “explosive” situation in the Middle East, with experts on Iran, Pakistan and India commenting on the danger as if all three nations were equally culpable, irrational and essentially out of control where nukes are concerned. Reference was of course made to the United States’ alarmist warnings about Iran, and the Bush administration’s constant reassertion of its threat that Iran must not, under any circumstances, be allowed to continue with its alleged quest to obtain nuclear weapons. Underlining this was commentary on the fact that Israel not only supports (or demands) this U.S. stance, but multiplies it, as evidenced by the revelation that it has recently conducted military exercises said to have been a dress rehearsal for a pre-emptive attack on Iran’s “nuclear weapons facilities.”

            All of which left out two crucial facts.

            First, India and Pakistan are two of the states on the planet which have NOT signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Iran, by contrast, HAS signed it.

            Second, India and Pakistan are KNOWN to have nuclear weapons, and have tested them in recent years. Furthermore, India has just been gifted with a proposed treaty whereby the Bush Administration would give India even more nuclear technology—despite the fact that it has NOT signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, much less abided by it.

            Then, of course, there is the real elephant in this geopolitical room. I mean Israel. Israel is the third (fourth if we count Korea) nation on the planet which has refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It has not signed because, according to almost all objective observers including Israeli nuclear scientist Mordecai Vanunu, Israel has had its own nuclear weapons program for years, and is now estimated to possess at least 200 nuclear weapons along with the sophisticated rocketry to launch them. Further, Israel’s leaders, such as Golda Meir, are known to have considered firing those weapons at the beginning of the 1973 war. That they did not does not mean they would not. As neocon godfather Norman Podhoretz wrote in Commentary in 1976: “The Israelis would fight with conventional weapons for as long as they could, and if the tide were turning against them…it is safe to predict that they would fight with nuclear weapons in the end.”

            So we have the following nuclear situation. Iran has joined the NPT. That treaty, in particular Article IV, guarantees unequivocally and in several places “the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with Articles I and II of this Treaty.” Iran has stated that its nuclear program is in fact peaceful, thereby putting it in compliance with NPT. The recent National Intelligence Estimate of the United States has also concluded that Iran, in fact, gave up all attempts to pursue nuclear weapons in 2003, and has not revived them.

            And yet, we are assaulted almost daily with inflammatory rhetoric from George Bush and Israeli officials of every stripe screaming about the threat posed by Iran and its nuclear weapons, and the right of states like Israel and the U.S. to take action against this alleged “illegal” threat because the economic sanctions are not working.

            “Iran must not be allowed to have nuclear weapons,” we are told.

            “All options are on the table,” we are told.

            ‘Both Israel and the United States are preparing to attack,’ we are told. Because this imperial “we”—Israel and the United States, we are told—these two peaceful and innocent and holy states are simply outraged that Iran would dare to secretly violate the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

            But WAIT. Israel is one of only four states which refused to sign this ultimate peace treaty! Where does it get off accusing Iran for violations? Even if Iran had violated it, which all evidence says it has not, where does Israel get the right?

            And WAIT, again. The United States is criticizing Iran? The United States—the only nation in the history of the world to ever use a nuclear weapon against another nation, wiping out 200,000 Japanese civilians in an instant—the United States is accusing Iran of seeking nuclear weapons?         

And WORSE. For aren’t we obliged to remember that the Non-Proliferation Treaty specifically states that the nuclear-weapon states (the U.S., France, England, the Soviet Union, & China—Israel, of course, not agreeing because it has never confirmed it has nukes nor signed the NPT) declare “their intention to achieve at the earliest possible date the cessation of the nuclear arms race and to undertake effective measures in the direction of nuclear disarmament” and “the liquidation of all their existing stockpiles”? Aren’t we obliged to recall that that’s what the treaty says? And that the United States has not only NOT done that, but under the Bush administration has made clear it intends just the opposite—i.e. that it is seeking to upgrade its nuclear arsenal and outfit it for the space age so it can win unchallenged nuclear dominance in space? Isn’t this the most egregious NPT violation of all? 

            And this is the nation that is threatening Iran for its alleged nuclear weapons program?

            In spite of its own intelligence estimate that Iran has no weapons program?

            Aided and abetted and egged on (one cannot tell if it is Israel which is egging on the U.S. here, or the other way round) by Israel, the secret possessor of over 200 nuclear weapons and one of the four refusers of the NPT?

            Are you kidding me?

            And yet. And yet we have the idiot American media propagandizing us daily, without a touch of irony, with never a mention of Israel—except to refer to poor little Israel which feels so threatened by the possibility that Iran might some day get nuclear weapons. Poor little Israel with only 200 measly nukes, as well as rockets and submarines capable of launching them, of its own.    

            It is the height of hypocrisy. Though actually, the word hypocrisy doesn’t even begin to address the colossal gall, the provocative, calamitous, Imperial arrogance of this stuff.

            Not to mention the fact that this kind of threat is precisely what is prohibited in the United Nations rules and by-laws. So that what we have here, on the part of the United States and its chief enforcer Israel, is something more akin to the threats and blackmail Nazi Germany began to toss around in the years leading up to World War II.

            That is what we have here. And it is time the media and the American people and the U.S.Congress began to wake up to it, and do something about it before it is too late.

 

Lawrence DiStasi

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Torture Conspiracy

The McClatchy newspapers—the only major media group that has even pretended to employ investigative reporters to question Bush administration policies—has done it again. This time, in a June 18 article by Tom Lasseter, it has pointed out that the “framework under which detainees were imprisoned for years without charges at Guantanamo and in many cases abused in Afghanistan,” was an organized attempt to circumvent U.S. laws and treaties “to prevent anyone…from being held accountable.” Five White House lawyers, all of them familiar to anyone who has been following this, are identified as part of the so-called “War Council:” David Addington, now chief of staff to VP Cheney; Alberto Gonzalez, one-time Attorney General; John Yoo, one-time counsel in the Justice Department;  William J. Haynes II, former Pentagon general counsel; and Timothy E. Flanigan, former deputy to Gonzalez. This “War Council” met every few weeks in the office of Gonzalez or Haynes to plot their nefarious policies—policies that resulted directly in depriving arrested suspects of all legal rights, and in torture. The members of this council were, in every sense of the word, a torture conspiracy, and worse, one that “created an environment in which it was nearly impossible to prosecute soldiers or officials for alleged crimes committed in U.S. detention facilities.”
            Lasseter’s article lists the memos, the direct result of the conspiracy, that did the dirty work.
            Jan. 9, 2002: Yoo sent a memo to Haynes, saying that the Geneva Convention’s Common Article Three prohibiting “humiliating and degrading treatment and torture of prisoners” did not cover al Quaeda or Taliban suspects.
            Jan. 25, 2002: Gonzalez sent a follow-up memo to President Bush, asserting that eliminating prisoner rights under Geneva (the Yoo memo) set up a “solid defense against prosecutors or independent counsels” who might some day want to pursue war-crimes charges.
            Feb. 7, 2002: Bush then followed up these memos with a memo of his own, asserting that al-Quaeda or Taliban suspects were not considered prisoners of war, and wouldn’t be given Common Article Three protections. (i.e., the memos resulted in almost immediate action.)
            Aug. 1, 2002: Gonzalez requests a memo from the Justice Department, which Yoo writes, defining torture so narrowly—injury such as death, or organ failure deriving from “extreme acts”—that it could excuse almost any abuse.
            March 14, 2003: Yoo writes a memo for Haynes (who was getting heat from his military lawyers about the abuses going on) asserting that even if some interrogation amounted to war crimes, the perpetrators still couldn’t be prosecuted because they were operating under Bush’s constitutional authority to wage war. “In wartime,” Yoo wrote, “it is for the president alone to decide what methods to use to best prevail against the enemy.”
            The conspiracy, in short, provided the legal bases for Americans to use torture, and the legal structure whereby they could escape prosecution for their crimes. These legal opinions resulted in direct and foreseeable and planned actions—first the President’s memo declaring captured detainees beyond the reach of U.S. and international laws, and then the license to interrogators to use techniques normally considered to be war crimes because the President, in his role as commander during a war, had given them sanction. Evidence exists confirming that U.S. interrogators did, in fact, use the once-forbidden techniques, i.e. torture.
            Of course, what we now know is that the Justice Department itself, under new head of Office of Legal Counsel Jack Goldsmith, found John Yoo’s Aug. 2002 and March 2003 opinions so legally abhorrent, that it reversed them. We also know that the Supreme Court first, in 2006, rebuked the Bush lawyers by ruling that Common Article Three of the Geneva Conventions DID apply to Guantanamo prisoners; and it also recently reversed the Bush administration’s contention that so-called enemy combatants do not have habeas corpus rights (the right to challenge the reason for their detention), by ruling that, in fact, they DO. We also now know that even within the administration—especially in the Judge Advocate General’s office at the Pentagon—military lawyers and officials were horrified at what they saw being perpetrated in their names, and tried to protest. But, as Lasseter makes clear, the War Council simply shut out these protesting voices.
            Now those voices are coming back to haunt them. In a Boston Globe article on June 18, Bryan Bender writes that the group “Physicians for Human Rights” has now found medical evidence corroborating the stories of eleven former Guantanamo prisoners that they were tortured. The evidence includes scars such as cheek wounds on a prisoner who says he was stabbed with a screwdriver, and burns and other scars which tend to support allegations of electrical shock and forced sodomy.
            This evidence was convincing enough to General Antonio Taguba (who wrote the first report on Abu Ghraib) to induce him to write in the report’s preface: “This report tells the largely untold human story of what happened to detainees in our custody when the commander in chief and those under him authorized a systematic regime of torture.” General Taguba, now retired, then added an even harsher judgment:
            “There is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes.”
            Does this not complete the circle? White House lawyers engaged in a conspiracy to circumvent the laws against torture, and to provide cover for those who employed torture. The President put that conspiracy into action by asserting that those captured had no rights and so could be held indefinitely without charges and treated in any way their interrogators could devise, short of murdering them (although there are up to one hundred torture deaths alleged by researchers like Alfred McCoy.) The members of the United States armed forces and other official and non-official organizations then implemented those executive orders by treating all captives as if they were guilty, subhuman, and deserving of torture. And their actions were hidden, for as long as possible, from neutral watchdog authorities like the International Red Cross.
            What more is needed, now, to begin pursuing those responsible for war crimes?
            What could possibly prevent the impeachment of this President, indeed, as Vincent Bugliosi has written in a recent book, from PROSECUTING this President and all his henchmen for nothing less than a sustained conspiracy to commit war crimes?
 
Lawrence DiStasi
           

The Torture Conspiracy

The McClatchy newspapers—the only major media group that has even pretended to employ investigative reporters to question Bush administration policies—has done it again. This time, in a June 18 article by Tom Lasseter, it has pointed out that the “framework under which detainees were imprisoned for years without charges at Guantanamo and in many cases abused in Afghanistan,” was an organized attempt to circumvent U.S. laws and treaties “to prevent anyone…from being held accountable.” Five White House lawyers, all of them familiar to anyone who has been following this, are identified as part of the so-called “War Council:” David Addington, now chief of staff to VP Cheney; Alberto Gonzalez, one-time Attorney General; John Yoo, one-time counsel in the Justice Department;  William J. Haynes II, former Pentagon general counsel; and Timothy E. Flanigan, former deputy to Gonzalez. This “War Council” met every few weeks in the office of Gonzalez or Haynes to plot their nefarious policies—policies that resulted directly in depriving arrested suspects of all legal rights, and in torture. The members of this council were, in every sense of the word, a torture conspiracy, and worse, one that “created an environment in which it was nearly impossible to prosecute soldiers or officials for alleged crimes committed in U.S. detention facilities.”
            Lasseter’s article lists the memos, the direct result of the conspiracy, that did the dirty work.
            Jan. 9, 2002: Yoo sent a memo to Haynes, saying that the Geneva Convention’s Common Article Three prohibiting “humiliating and degrading treatment and torture of prisoners” did not cover al Quaeda or Taliban suspects.
            Jan. 25, 2002: Gonzalez sent a follow-up memo to President Bush, asserting that eliminating prisoner rights under Geneva (the Yoo memo) set up a “solid defense against prosecutors or independent counsels” who might some day want to pursue war-crimes charges.
            Feb. 7, 2002: Bush then followed up these memos with a memo of his own, asserting that al-Quaeda or Taliban suspects were not considered prisoners of war, and wouldn’t be given Common Article Three protections. (i.e., the memos resulted in almost immediate action.)
            Aug. 1, 2002: Gonzalez requests a memo from the Justice Department, which Yoo writes, defining torture so narrowly—injury such as death, or organ failure deriving from “extreme acts”—that it could excuse almost any abuse.
            March 14, 2003: Yoo writes a memo for Haynes (who was getting heat from his military lawyers about the abuses going on) asserting that even if some interrogation amounted to war crimes, the perpetrators still couldn’t be prosecuted because they were operating under Bush’s constitutional authority to wage war. “In wartime,” Yoo wrote, “it is for the president alone to decide what methods to use to best prevail against the enemy.”
            The conspiracy, in short, provided the legal bases for Americans to use torture, and the legal structure whereby they could escape prosecution for their crimes. These legal opinions resulted in direct and foreseeable and planned actions—first the President’s memo declaring captured detainees beyond the reach of U.S. and international laws, and then the license to interrogators to use techniques normally considered to be war crimes because the President, in his role as commander during a war, had given them sanction. Evidence exists confirming that U.S. interrogators did, in fact, use the once-forbidden techniques, i.e. torture.
            Of course, what we now know is that the Justice Department itself, under new head of Office of Legal Counsel Jack Goldsmith, found John Yoo’s Aug. 2002 and March 2003 opinions so legally abhorrent, that it reversed them. We also know that the Supreme Court first, in 2006, rebuked the Bush lawyers by ruling that Common Article Three of the Geneva Conventions DID apply to Guantanamo prisoners; and it also recently reversed the Bush administration’s contention that so-called enemy combatants do not have habeas corpus rights (the right to challenge the reason for their detention), by ruling that, in fact, they DO. We also now know that even within the administration—especially in the Judge Advocate General’s office at the Pentagon—military lawyers and officials were horrified at what they saw being perpetrated in their names, and tried to protest. But, as Lasseter makes clear, the War Council simply shut out these protesting voices.
            Now those voices are coming back to haunt them. In a Boston Globe article on June 18, Bryan Bender writes that the group “Physicians for Human Rights” has now found medical evidence corroborating the stories of eleven former Guantanamo prisoners that they were tortured. The evidence includes scars such as cheek wounds on a prisoner who says he was stabbed with a screwdriver, and burns and other scars which tend to support allegations of electrical shock and forced sodomy.
            This evidence was convincing enough to General Antonio Taguba (who wrote the first report on Abu Ghraib) to induce him to write in the report’s preface: “This report tells the largely untold human story of what happened to detainees in our custody when the commander in chief and those under him authorized a systematic regime of torture.” General Taguba, now retired, then added an even harsher judgment:
            “There is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes.”
            Does this not complete the circle? White House lawyers engaged in a conspiracy to circumvent the laws against torture, and to provide cover for those who employed torture. The President put that conspiracy into action by asserting that those captured had no rights and so could be held indefinitely without charges and treated in any way their interrogators could devise, short of murdering them (although there are up to one hundred torture deaths alleged by researchers like Alfred McCoy.) The members of the United States armed forces and other official and non-official organizations then implemented those executive orders by treating all captives as if they were guilty, subhuman, and deserving of torture. And their actions were hidden, for as long as possible, from neutral watchdog authorities like the International Red Cross.
            What more is needed, now, to begin pursuing those responsible for war crimes?
            What could possibly prevent the impeachment of this President, indeed, as Vincent Bugliosi has written in a recent book, from PROSECUTING this President and all his henchmen for nothing less than a sustained conspiracy to commit war crimes?
 
Lawrence DiStasi
           

Friday, June 13, 2008

Iran Again....

In case you haven’t noticed, the war drums to attack Iran have started again. First, we heard from Israel’s former defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, that an Israeli attack on Iran’s alleged nuclear sites looked “inevitable.” He said: “The sanctions are ineffective. Attacking Iran, in order to stop its nuclear plans, will be unavoidable.” (quoted in Robert Naiman, “Israel Threatens War on Gaza and Iran,” The Telegraph, June 7, 2008.) Prime Minister Olmert, in deep political trouble over a bribery scandal, underlined this vow in his comments after visiting Washington, by saying that “Israel and America are of one mind over the possibility of military intervention against Tehran’s nuclear programme..” In the same vein, we heard from Gareth Porter that, despite the powerful opposition from the American military to Vice-President Cheney’s push to attack Iran last summer, the situation has changed sufficiently in recent months to begin worrying again. This is because Admiral Fallon, then head of Centcom, and the main obstacle to a strike against Iran (because Iran might well do more damage to the United States in retaliation than the U.S. could do to Iran), was forced to resign. In his place is the ever-pliant General David Petraeus. This gives Cheney and the Bushies yet another opportunity to strike at Iran before they must leave office.

Now this is almost stupefying to anyone who has been following the Iran situation. To begin with, only months ago, a National Intelligence Estimate was released stating that, in the opinion of every U.S. Intelligence agency, not only was Iran NOT working on a nuclear weapon, but it had ended its nuclear weapons efforts in 2003! Well, you may say, it’s not only the nukes; the Iranians are supplying the Iraqi “bad guys” with powerful weapons to attack Americans in Iraq. But a report on May 15, 2008 detailed not one but two refutations of this claim (“Bogus Claim, al-Maliki Stall US Plan on Iran Arms,” Common Dreams, May 15, 2008). First, our ally (some would say puppet) Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, “refused to endorse charges of Iranian involvement in arms smuggling to the Mahdi Army.” In other words, the man closest to the situation refuted the U.S. claims, repeated endlessly, that Iran is supplying the arms to our enemies. They are not, he said. More important, the same report tells us that the entire American plan to stage a huge public-relations campaign convincing the American public that Iran is really the enemy in our war in Iraq, has fallen apart. Prime Minister al-Maliki first said that actual proof of Iran’s involvement was needed. Second, on May 3 a huge cache of Iranian arms said to have been captured in Karbala turned out to be a dud, as far from the “smoking gun” as it could be. According to Porter, American munitions experts hastening to Karbala to see the longed-for Iranian weapons “found nothing they could credibly link to Iran.” The cache was a bust, and U.S. commanders had to tell reporters that the big event they were expecting had to be cancelled due to a “misunderstanding.” Misunderstanding indeed. The Mahdi army has made Karbala a center of its fight for years, thus making the weapons there of supreme importance. Nonetheless, of 4 anti-aircraft missiles, 45 RPGs, 800 RPG missiles, and 570 roadside explosive devices, not a single item of Iranian origin could be identified. The whole charge against Iran as arms supplier and trainer of our enemies turned to ashes.

You might think that would do it. No Iranian nuclear weapons program. No Iranian arms dealing. But that would be the conclusion in a rational world. This is Bush/Cheney land. This is an America that has long since swallowed the Zionist cool-aid to take Israel’s so-called ‘security’ as its own. And so we get Scott McClellan, onetime press secretary in the Bush White House, telling Keith Olbermann that yes, we should expect the Bush administration to misrepresent what it knows to justify an attack on Iran. For if Dana Perino started making noises similar to those made prior to the invasion of Iraq, McClellan said, “I would be (suspicious). I think that you would need to take those comments very seriously, and be skeptical.”

It is precisely those noises that are reaching a crescendo again. And the additional factor we must now consider is whether, in fact, even Barack Obama has been made a pawn in this game—this time by AIPAC, the America Israel Public Action Committee, one of the most powerful lobbies for Israel in all of Washington. For what Obama was induced (AIPAC and American Jews in general are said to constitute as much as 60% of the contributions to the Democratic Party) into saying when he spoke to AIPAC recently, is that he holds Iran responsible for the rockets Hezbollah launched on Israel in the recent war—“Israel had unilaterally withdrawn from Lebanon only to have Iran supply Hezbollah with thousands of rockets”—adding that “we must preserve our total commitment to our unique defense relationship with Israel by fully funding military assistance and continuing to work on the Arrow and related missile defense programs…(to) help Israel maintain its military edge and deter and repel attacks from as far as Tehran and as close as Gaza.” In short, Obama bought into the entire AIPAC propaganda line: that poor innocent little Israel is threatened by its evil Arab neighbors seeking nuclear weapons, only wants to live in peace, and needs military and financial help from the United States in order to do so. The truth—that Israel is the ONLY nuclear power in the Middle East, that its status as the 5th largest military in the entire world ensures that no combination of its neighbors could threaten it, and that it has been engaged in a policy of ethnic cleansing of the indigenous peoples of Palestine for more than 60 years—could make no appearance in this speech. The nonsense about Iran and its supposed nuclear threat had to be given primacy.

What this could mean is that the Bush administration, now chomping at the bit for one final gotterdammerung (an attack on muslim Iran either by itself or by a well-supported Israel), could find itself in an unassailable position. In a presidential election year, with Senator McCain sounding off daily about how na├»ve his rival is about war matters, Obama would have little choice but to agree with a strike, or to approve of one after the fact. This would please his masters at AIPAC, but it also could have the disastrous effect of ensuring McCain’s victory. In other words, an October surprise consisting of an air strike on Iran—Middle East intelligence analyst Wayne White has seen plans for such a strike, including “clearing a path of targets against the Iranian Air Force, Kilo submarines, anti-ship missiles and even ballistic missile capability that could target commerce and US warships in the gulf”—could frighten the electorate into, once again, voting for the “war” party, the Republicans.

Then those who support AIPAC and Israeli interests regardless of the crimes being committed against Palestinians could well claim to have goaded the world into yet another war, the consequences of which are fearsome to contemplate, consequences which were so feared even by the macho American military last summer that the generals torpedoed the administration’s attack plans. Indeed, it is to head off such a dire eventuality that a coalition of groups in Washington is promoting a write-in to Congress campaign on June 10. An ad will soon appear to this effect in the major media outlets, calling on Congress not to get dragged into another war, but rather to insist on direct talks with Iran without preconditions.

That used to be the position taken by Barack Obama. It must be forced upon him, and upon all the war mongers, again. Call your congressional rep on or before June 10. The Bush/Cheney madness must not be allowed to hoodwink the American people yet again.



Lawrence DiStasi

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Bush's War

Last night, as part of its pledge drive, KQED public television repeated the Frontline documentary, “Bush’s War.”  What struck me, aside from the devastating impact of seeing closeup once again the behavior and machinations of the criminal cabal that ruled this administration, was the lack of any analysis of the actual rationale for war. If you remember, Bush was persuaded by Colin Powell to go to the United Nations in order to provide some legitimacy for his plan to invade Iraq. Accordingly, the United States was able to browbeat the Security Council into passing Resolution 1441 on November 8, 2002. This resolution gave Iraq “a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations.”

            Iraq did comply, allowing Hans Blix of UNMOVIC and his inspectors to come into the country and inspect numerous facilities, and providing 12,000 pages of documents testifying to the destruction of its weapons (These documents were later borne out by the inability of the United States inspectors to find any WMD anywhere in Iraq). The inspectors found nothing except, on January 16, 2003, 11 empty 122mm chemical warheads previously undeclared. Iraq said they were old and forgotten; be that as it may, there were no chemicals detected to prove noncompliance.

            Lack of evidence notwithstanding, the United States insisted that Iraq was lying. The US “cemented” this position when U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell gave his infamous presentation to the United Nations on February 5, with its mockup of so-called mobile chemical and biological weapons labs, its allegation that Iraq’s aluminum tubes were being used in a nuclear weapons program, and its allegation that Iraq had ties with al-Quaeda. It maintained these charges even after February 14, when Hans Blix and Mohammed El Baradei presented a detailed update on the situation in Iraq to the Security Council—in which Blix stated not only that “the Iraqis were now more proactive in their cooperation,” but also that the arguments presented by Colin Powell were not credible: the satellite images were not convincing, and Iraqis never received early warning of inspector visits (it was not known, at the time, that the mobile lab mockups were fabrications invented by the informant known as “Curveball”). El Baradei added that it was his conclusion that Iraqis did not have a nuclear weapons program (this, too, turned out to be correct.)

            Undeterred by these setbacks, the United States then tried to pass a new resolution in the Security Council. Supported by Great Britain and Spain, the draft resolution on February 24, 2003, declared that “Iraq has failed to take the final opportunity afforded to it by resolution 1441.” Therefore, it could be invaded in accordance with the “serious consequences” provision. Unfortunately for the U.S. position, most of the member states (save for the aforementioned England, Spain, and Bulgaria) in the Security Council refused to back this resolution. France and Germany stated their intention to veto the resolution. It was therefore withdrawn without a vote.

            This left the United States with NO United Nations authority to invade Iraq. Resolution 1441 had not authorized an invasion, but merely urged Iraq to comply or face unstated “consequences”. The US’s proposed resolution, finding Iraq in “material breach” of its obligations and therefore subject to invasion, had been dropped for lack of support.

            At this point, the United States, unwilling to abandon invasion plans already underway, resorted to a thirteen-year-old UN resolution—# 678. Resolution 678, issued on November 29, 1990, was directed against Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. It authorized the use of force against Iraq to “uphold and implement resolution 660 and all subsequent resolutions to restore international peace and security.” Resolution 660 of Aug. 2, 1990, in turn, had condemned the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and demanded a withdrawal of Iraq’s troops. So 678 authorized force only to get Iraqi troops out of Kuwait—something that had been accomplished 13 years ago. This did not deter the Bushies. Another old resolution, # 687, was dusted off, and combined with 678 to justify the invasion of Iraq in 2003, to give what was essentially an unprovoked invasion additional cover. Resolution 687 of April 3, 1991, had issued the formal ceasefire ending the Gulf War, adding several conditions: 1) Iraq destroys all its chemical and biological weapons and all ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150 km; 2) Iraq agrees not to develop nuclear weapons; 3) Iraq submits a declaration of its weapons programs and voluntarily agrees to on-site inspections. UN inspectors, including Scott Ritter, had testified to the fact that Iraq had complied with virtually all of these conditions. Hans Blix and Mohammed El Baradei had added their confirmations that Iraq was in near total compliance in February/March of 2003. Furthermore, in Great Britain, as George Monbiot makes clear, senior legal counsels to Tony Blair had advised the Prime Minister that such resolutions could not be used to justify a new war with Iraq. Neither could Article 51 of the UN Charter, which gives States a right to defend themselves “if an armed attack occurs against them,” and even then only until the Security Council can intervene. Since Iraq had not attacked anyone in 2003, there was no legal justification for war. Period. 

            None of this mattered to the Bush administration. Announcing that it had authority to invade via Article 51 of the UN Charter, and via Resolution 678, for the reasons (shortly to be proven totally bogus and manufactured out of whole cloth) that Iraq was in violation of 687, it invaded anyway.  In the years since, despite not finding the alleged WMD, Bush and his henchmen have continued to insist that the United Nations authorized the invasion.

            Again, “Bush’s War” is riveting television, if for nothing else than to see the faces and hear once again the laughable justifications of those who promoted this costly, devastating war. But this leaves the viewer thinking only that this group resembled the “gang who couldn’t shoot straight.” The problem lies far deeper than that. This gang was made up of liars, propagandists, and war criminals. Their invasion of Iraq constituted an international crime—especially against Iraq and the Iraqi people who have suffered the destruction of their country, their lives, their families, their most elementary hopes. As such, it deserves not only the condemnation, but the prosecution of those responsible—beginning with the President and the Vice President, and including the Secretary of Defense, the head of the CIA, and countless other lawyers and enablers like John Yoo who did the dirty work. Until they are brought to account, this nation will continue to live in shame and infamy.

 

Lawrence DiStasi