So many things have been happening in the news this week–The NPR Williams firing, the latest Wikileaks leak, Bank mortgage fraud, DU weapons fallout in Fallujah, a sane person running for Texas School Board, the deepening crisis of joblessness — I feel I should offer another perspective on them:
A victory for the government in a federal court in New York City Monday marks another slide deeper into Dick Cheney’s “dark side” for the Obama Administration.
In a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which has been seeking to force the Pentagon to provide information about all captives it is holding at its huge prison facility at Bagram Airbase outside Kabul in Afghanistan, Federal District Judge Barbara Jones of the Southern District of New York has issued a summary judgement saying that the government may keep that information secret.
The lingering question is: Why does the US government so adamantly want to hide information about where captives were first taken into military custody, their citizenship, the length of their captivity, and the circumstances under which they were captured?
As the author of The Case for Impeachment (St. Martin’s Press, 2006), I never thought in my lifetime that I would see a president reach the depth of moral decay and depravity of President George W. Bush, but sad to say, our current president, Barack Obama, has managed to do it, and what makes it worse, as a former Constitutional law professor, he knows better.
This president’s moral nadir was hit yesterday, when he allowed a military tribunal based at Guantanamo to pressure Omar Khadr, a Canadian captured, gravely wounded, and arrested at the age of 15 in Afghanistan, and held at at Guantanamo now for nine years, to plead guilty to murder.
Khadr’s crime? He was in a house that was struck by a US air strike and then raided by US special forces during the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2002. The gravely wounded Khadr was accused of tossing a grenade at advancing US troops, which killed US Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer, and caused another soldier to lose an eye.
Although Khadr, after nine years of harsh confinement at Guantanamo, and facing a military tribunal, has pleaded guilty in a plea bargain, after insisting for nine years that he did not throw the grenade (there is no living witness to his having done so), one issue here is that even if he did toss it, that action would have been seen as that heroic act of a gravely-wounded young fighter facing a superior enemy force, but for the fact that the US is claiming Khadr was not a legitimate soldier, but rather a “terrorist.”
The American Revolution, for all the pious talk about freedom and the Rights of Man, was at bottom simply a matter of people not wanting to pay their taxes. It was about rank self interest, and it was a powerful movement.
That rank self-interest could spark a new revolution–hopefully one that will still also advance the cause of freedom and the Rights of Man.
Two issues are rushing to the fore that could have most Americans grabbing pitchforks, guns, shovels, bats, mop handles, and whatever else they have handy that could be useful in the streets.
Candidate Barack Obama, running for president, vowed to end the ludicrous Pentagon policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which, since it was established in 1993 by President Clinton has required gay and lesbian members of the uniformed services to hide their sexual orientation or be drummed out of the service.
In 2009, just installed in the White House, President Obama reiterated that the policy “doesn’t contribute to our national security.”
But now that a federal judge has ruled the policy to be unconstitutional, and has more recently issued an injunction barring the Pentagon from enforcing it, the president has responded not by deciding to let the court order stand, thus ending this particular form of discrimination against gays and lesbians, but rather by appealing the decision in an attempt to reverse it.
This is a case of the President/Commander-in-Chief following his own pathetic political policy of “Don’t Act, Don’t Lead.”
There are calls in this election season for establishing a moratorium of some sort on home foreclosures, and a number of large banks have even voluntarily stopped, at least until after Election Day, on foreclosing on houses. That’s fine as far as it goes, but what about the millions of homes that have already been lost or stolen over the past several years?
Behind the talk of a legal moratorium on foreclosures, and the voluntary pause announced by some banks, lies the reality that many if not most of the mortgages in question are legally dubious. The homeowner getting a foreclosure notice frequently has no idea who the actual holder or holders of a mortgage may be, and banks that are trying to foreclose often themselves have no idea who actually holds title to the papers. This is because with the securitization of mortgages, they have been traded and re-traded, and often have even been diced up into pieces of mortgage-backed securities, so that the paper trail of ownership has been lost, perhaps irrevocably.
In some cases and some jurisdictions, federal bankruptcy courts have been tossing out foreclosure cases, saying that the foreclosing bank has no proof of ownership of the mortgage and thus cannot claim the property. It’s a little like the person who is caught speeding and shows up in court to contest the charge only to have it tossed out because the ticketing officer didn’t show up in court to make her or his case.
The crazed obsession with secrecy, security, and ever-increasing intrusiveness by government policing and intelligence authorities into the lives of ordinary Americans has continued apace under the Obama administration. This madness can be illustrated by a case currently before the US Supreme Court involving the scientists who work at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
The case began back in the Bush/Cheney years when scientists at JPL objected vigorously to a new order that they all submit to deep background checks in order to receive new identity cards that would allow them to go to work. They were warned, when they complained about a security check that would involve looking back all the way to their college days, into not just arrest records, but student drug use, sexual histories, political activities, etc., based upon wide-ranging interviews with past employers, acquaintances, friends, family, etc., that failure to agree to the investigations would mean they could no longer come to work.
What made the whole thing ridiculous from the outset is that NASA is by law a civilian agency. It does not engage in national security activities. The scientists at JPL run the deep space probes like Viking, Cassini and the other planetary exploration programs, as well as other civilian satellite projects. Yet they were being told that even people who had worked at JPL and NASA for decades, back to the days of the Apollo Program, would be fired if they refused to submit to the new security checks.
The JPL scientists rallied against the plan and filed suit, winning at the district and appellate court levels, and many assumed that with the arrival of the Obama administration, the whole idea would be dropped.
No such luck.
If you have been feeling uneasy about having to be X-rayed by a Transportation Security Administration goon who can look under your clothes every time you fly, consider this: at least you can say no, and agree to be subjected to an old-fashioned full-body search.
No opt-out for the latest in anti-terror technology though, with reports just out in Forbes Magazine and the Christian Science Monitor that the Homeland Security Department has purchased 500 mobil X-ray vans called ZBVs that can scan cars, trucks and homes without the drivers or residents in a building even knowing that they’re being zapped.
These vans, made by a Massachusetts company called American Science & Engineering, are fitted out with what are called Z Backscatter X-ray devices, which aim a powrful X-ray beam that reportedly has the capability of penetrating 14 inches of steel.
Murder is murder, and terror is terror, you might think. But when terror is committed against an American citizen by the state of Israel the response from the US government is not protest, and it is surely not to demand justice, much less seek vengeance. It is silence.
In 1985, when terrorists from the Palestine Liberation Front, in an act of piracy on the high seas in the Mediterranean, took control of the Achille Lauro, an Italian cruise ship, and executed the Jewish American Leon Klinghoffer, shooting him in the forehead and then pushing the wheelchair-bound 69-year-old overboard, the US responded with dramatic action. To rescue the passengers, Italian negotiators had worked out a deal granting safe passage to Tunisia to the pirates, in return for the freeing of the ship and its other passengers. But President Ronald Reagan dispatched a US fighter plane to intercept the plane carrying the PLF pirates to safety, and forced it to land at a US airbase in Italy, where they were turned over to Italian authorities for prosecution.
Compare this to another more recent act of piracy, the violent assault and high-seas boarding of the Turkish cruise ship Mavi Marmara and a flotilla of smaller ships bound from Turkey to Gaza by troops from the Israeli Defense Force, who commandeered the vessels, killing eight Turkish and one young Turkish-American passenger. The US failed to condemn this latter act of piracy, and as for the American who was slain, 19-year old Furkan Dogan, there was not a word of protest.
US-led forces in Afghanistan sure did a bang-up job this week at promoting the concept of Western “democracy.”
The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the puppet intelligence agency of the Afghan government, between them, arrested and held three journalists. Rahmatullah Nekzad, a freelance reporter for Al Jazeera and the Associated Press, Mohammed Nader, a staff correspondent and cameraman for Al Jazeera, and Hojatullah Mojadadi, an Afghan local radio station manager, were all held without charge for the “crime” of allegedly having developed contacts with the Taliban. Nekzada and Nader were held by US forces for three days. Mojadadi was held by Afghan authorities for six days.
The three were finally released thanks to international pressure and following demands for the release of the two NATO-held journalists made by Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
The US military was upset with the fact that AP and Al Jazeera stringer Nekzad had developed contacts with Taliban forces. Actually, in the initial press announcement from NATO forces, they said that he was a “suspected Taliban media and propaganda facilitator, who participated in filming election attacks.” That is to say, he managed to get over to the “other side” in a guerrilla war, to let the outside world see what is going on in Afghanistan. Nader was accused of propagandizing for the Taliban.