[Remarks prepared for event with comedian Lee Camp, Charlottesville, Va., February 21, 2015, event postponed by snow storm. When it's rescheduled I'll say something completely unrelated. - DS]
This is the serious part of tonight's event, except that Lee often deals with very serious topics. So what I mean is: this is the unfunny part of tonight's event, except that I'm going to talk about the United States government. One of my favorite things that Mark Twain didn't really say but definitely should have said was "Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it." He left out the possibility of imbeciles who are putting us on.
On Thursday, Comcast Internet was not working at my house, just as Comcast's hired Congress members were introducing a bill to create a closed Internet with fast lanes for the corporate crap we didn't need the Internet for. And a good Internet media outlet called TheRealNews.com wanted to do a video interview with me, which I didn't want to do in Java Java because I try not to be quite that rude. So I sat out on the Downtown Mall and did the interview. It was about 12 degrees out, and I think you can see me shaking. And what did they want to talk about? War? Peace? The climate?
They wanted to talk about Jeb Bush. Clearly he is an imbecile who is putting us on. He'd been talking on foreign policy, and of course he agreed with Obama on most everything but claimed not to. On NSA spying, for example, he disagreed basically with the fact that there has been public criticism of Obama's abuses. How he would eliminate criticism he didn't say. He didn't bring up Ukraine or Afghanistan or drone wars, because what would he disagree with? He did bring up the Korean War in order to claim it was a success and not the stupid pointless draw that everyone called it for decades, but of course the innovator in popularizing that ridiculous claim was ... President Obama...
A former Governor of Virginia is expected to be sentenced to a long stay in prison. The same fate has befallen governors in states across the United States, including in nearby Maryland, Tennessee, and West Virginia. A former governor of Illinois is in prison. Governors have been convicted of corruption in Rhode Island, Louisiana, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Connecticut, and (in a trumped-up partisan scam) in Alabama. The statewide trauma suffered by the people of states that have locked up their governors has been...well, nonexistent and unimaginable.
Locking U.S. presidents up for their crimes is a different story. Former President Richard Nixon's understanding that whatever a president does is legal has not been challenged since he made that comment. The Washington Post --- not exactly a Nixon supporter --- has the same understanding now. The Post recently justified the latest proposal to re-ban torture by explaining that even though torture was already banned, President George W. Bush tortured and therefore had found a legal way around the law. In other words, because he hasn't been prosecuted, what he did was legal.
The New York Times, which urged prosecuting former President George W. Bush for torture six years ago, recently wrote this:
If an alien invader with a face were attacking the earth, the difficulties that governments have getting populations to support wars on other humans would be multiplied a thousand fold.
The most common response to officials calling some petty foreign despot "a new Hitler" would shift from "yeah, right" to "who cares?" The people of the world would unite in common defense against the hostile alien.
If only it had a face. And what's a face anyway? Doctors can create faces now. You'd still love your loved ones if they lost their faces. And I hear there's a movie in which a guy falls in love with his faceless computer.
The point is that there is an alien invader attacking the earth. Its name is climate change. And Uncle Sam wants YOU to fight it, as does Uncle Boris and Aunt Hannah and Cousin Juan and Brother Feng. The whole family is in agreement on this one, and we are a family now all of a sudden...
[ED NOTE: Though David Swanson, in the following article, didn't give a reason as to why his source here is unnamed, I asked him why that is. His response: "He asked not to be named, which --- given the Insider Threat Program and the culture of McCarthyism afoot in Washington --- I found reasonable, and not just reasonable but also the only way I was going to get that story." --- BF]
Believe it or not --- after John McCain played video games on his phone during a hearing on bombing Syria, and Eleanor Holmes Norton said she'd only vote to bomb Syria out of loyalty to Obama --- there are decent people in the United States government who mean well and take their responsibilities seriously. One of them, who works on actual humanitarian aid (as opposed to humanitarian bombs) spoke to me.
He said that, beyond those who will inevitably be killed by U.S. missiles in Syria, and those who will die in the escalated violence that is very likely to follow, a great many additional people may suffer for reasons we aren't paying attention to...
"So far, most of the concerns raised in connection with the use of military force in Syria have focused on the risk that the U.S. might become further embroiled in this conflict, and that initially limited strikes could soon spiral out of control, lead to retaliatory attacks by the Asad regime, spread the conflict throughout the region, and inadvertently strengthen terrorist groups linked to al Qaeda. However, there is an additional, more immediate hazard, which has been largely absent from the debate....
I sat in the courtroom all day on Wednesday as Bradley Manning's trial wound its way to a tragic and demoralizing conclusion. I wanted to hear Eugene Debs, and instead I was trapped there, watching Socrates reach for the hemlock and gulp it down. Just a few minutes in and I wanted to scream or shout.
I don't blame Bradley Manning for apologizing for his actions and effectively begging for the court's mercy. He's on trial in a system rigged against him. The commander in chief declared him guilty long ago. He's been convicted. The judge has been offered a promotion. The prosecution has been given a playing field slanted steeply in its favor. Why should Manning not follow the only advice anyone's ever given him and seek to minimize his sentence? Maybe he actually believes that what he did was wrong. But --- wow --- does it make for some perverse palaver in the courtroom...
As our government was making a fraudulent case to attack Iraq in 2002-2003, the MSNBC television network was doing everything it could to help, including booting Phil Donahue and Jeff Cohen off the air.
The Donahue Show was deemed likely to be insufficiently war-boosting and was thus removed 10 years ago next week --- and 10 days after the largest antiwar (or anything else) demonstrations in the history of the world --- as a preemptive strike against the voices of honest peaceful people.
From there, MSNBC proceeded to support the war with mild critiques around the edges, and to white-out the idea of impeachment or accountability.
But now MSNBC has seen its way clear to airing a documentary about the fraudulent case it assisted in, a documentary titled Hubris. This short film (which aired between 9 and 10 p.m. ET Monday night, but with roughly half of those minutes occupied by commercials --- watch the entire documentary now online here) pointed out the role of the New York Times in defrauding the public, but not MSNBC's role.
Yet, my primary response to that is joy rather than disgust. It is now cool to acknowledge war lies. Truth-tellers, including truth-tellers rarely presented with a corporate microphone, made that happen...
Here is the 'white paper'. With a few tweaks and a more creative title --- like "Murder With Your Hands Clean" --- this memo could sell a lot of copies.
And why not? Either there's a whistleblower in the Department of So-Called Justice about to be charged with espionage, and NBC is about to face the same persecution as WikiLeaks, or this is one of those "good" leaks that the White House wanted made public in an underhanded manner --- perhaps as an imagined boost to morality-challenged CIA director nominee John Brennan who faces his Senate Rejection Hearing on Thursday.
The white paper, which is thought to be a summary of a longer memo, says the United States can murder a U.S. citizen abroad (abroad but somehow "outside the area of active hostilities" even though killing him or her seems rather active and hostile) if three conditions are met:
1. an informed, high-level official of the U.S. government has determined that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States;
The memo goes on to base its claims on the supposed powers of the President, not of some random official. Who is such an official? Who decides whether he or she is informed? What if two of them disagree? What if he or she disagrees with the President? or the Congress? or the Supreme Court? or the U.S. public? or the United Nations? or the International Criminal Court? What then? One solution is to redefine the terms so that everyone has to agree. "Imminent" is defined in this memo to mean nothing at all. "The United States" clearly means anywhere U.S. troops may be.
2. capture is infeasible, and the United States continues to monitor whether capture becomes feasible;
And if a high-level official claims it's infeasible, who can challenge that?
3. the operation would be conducted in a manner consistent with applicable law of war principles.
When a U.S. drone strike killed Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, no one had shown either of them to meet the above qualifications.
When a U.S. drone strike targeted and killed 16-year-old Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, no one had shown him to meet the above qualifications; I don't think anyone has made such a claim to this day. And what about his cousin who died for the crime of being with him at the wrong time?
The sociopaths who wrote this memo have "legalized" the drone-killing of Americans with the exception of all the Americans known thus far to have been murdered by our government with the use of drones.
The formerly-gagged FBI translator-turned-whistleblower's new memoir is 'a masterpiece revealing corruption and unaccountability in Washington, D.C.' and 'a rotten barrel of toxic waste that will sooner or later infect us all'...
[Ed Note: The BRAD BLOG has been reporting on the remarkable story of Sibel Edmonds since the darkest days of 2005 and in nearly 100 articles since then. Once described by the ACLU as the "the most gagged person in the history of the United States of America", the Iranian-born former FBI translator fought to blow the whistle on traitorous deception and cover-up inside the FBI, blackmail inside the U.S. Congress and startling allegations of espionage and nuclear secrets sold to U.S. enemies on the foreign black market by some of our nation's highest ranking officials.
In 2007, after the Supreme Court had refused to hear her case thanks to the Bush Administration's persistent use of the so-called "State Secrets Privilege," legendary "Pentagon Papers" whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg told The BRAD BLOG her allegations were "far more explosive than the Pentagon Papers" on the heels of her exclusive announcement on these pages that she would break her gag order to tell all to any major U.S. media outlet who would allow her a platform to do so.
Even though CBS' 60 Minutes had covered her story in 2002 when she was not allowed to speak, they showed no interest once she promised to do so anyway, leading Ellsberg to guest blog here decrying the American media as "complicit in cover-up". It took the UK's Sunday Times (a Rupert Murdoch property!) to finally break some of her most explosive allegations publicly in 2008, which outed CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson would describe as "stunning".
Finally, her 3-hour long video-taped deposition, in answer to a subpoena in someone else's lawsuit in the summer of 2009, once Obama had come to power and declined to re-invoke the "State Secrets Privilege" against her, allowed the full story to begin to come out.
Now, after waiting more than 340 days for the FBI's pre-clearance review of her memoir --- they are supposed to do so within 30 days --- Edmonds has decided to release her own story, in full, without their prior approval or redactions. We've now got our own copy of her new book, Classified Woman: The Sibel Edmonds Story, but our colleague, author and activist David Swanson has happily beaten us to reading it in full and has generously offered us his own review which follows below. - BF]
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Sibel Edmonds' new book, Classified Woman, is like an FBI file on the FBI, only without the incompetence.
The experiences she recounts resemble K.'s trip to the castle, as told by Franz Kafka, only without the pleasantness and humanity.
I've read a million reviews of nonfiction books about our government that referred to them as "page-turners" and "gripping dramas," but I had never read a book that actually fit that description until now...
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN - Ramazan Bashardost finished third in 2009's openly fraudulent presidential election. When the first-place finisher, Hamid Karzai, failed to beg, borrow, or steal 50% plus one he was required to participate in a runoff. When the second-place finisher bowed out, Bashardost was entitled, under the Afghan Constitution, to be in that runoff. It never happened.
Bashardost is currently a Member of Parliament here, having previously served as Minister of Planning. Bashardost was educated in France and speaks fairly good English, as well as a number of Afghan languages. He's an opponent of war, a harsh critic of President Karzai, and someone on the inside who tries to represent the suffering people of this beat-down, kicked around country.
I interviewed Dr. Bashardost for a couple of hours in his office on April 4th, a day of some significance to US advocates of nonviolence. Bashardost is an admirer of Gandhi's model for social change. In the clip embedded below, I asked Bashardost what he would say if President Barack Obama were in the room.
Bashardost's message to Obama is that the ongoing war in Afghanistan is losing U.S. taxpayer dollars, losing U.S. soldier lives, and losing America's values.
He says that U.S. tax dollars are spent to pay U.S. soldiers to guard corrupt Afghan officials, war lords, Islamists, and criminals who rape children in fancy palaces and buy $100,000 cars. The Taliban, he says, kill U.S. soldiers even without ill-will toward the United States, because the soldiers are between them and these officials. This war, Bashardost explains, began in 1994, and American soldiers have now gotten into the middle of it.
So, who benefits? Bashardost suggests that U.S. lobbyists and President Karzai may benefit from this war, but that the people of Afghanistan do not. But, then, I suspect President Obama knew that already...
[Ed Note: I'll be guest hosting the nationally syndicated Mike Malloy Show several days this week. David Swanson will be one of my guests to discuss his new book. UPDATE: That interview with Swason, a somewhat contentious one at times, is now posted here. - BF]
I didn't write this new book, "War Is A Lie" in order to knock George W. Bush's offensive plagiarized package of lies and open criminality off the top of the book charts, but it certainly would have been worth the effort.
"War Is A Lie" was to be published on Monday, but on Sunday night word was spreading. At 3 p.m. ET the book ranked #1,845 on Amazon.com while Bush's was #1. By 4 p.m. "War Is A Lie" was #1,088; and at 5:30 p.m. #696; at 7:10 p.m. #460; at 8:10 p.m. #226, and at 9:10 p.m. #130. If people kept buying books all night, and certainly if they did so on Monday, Bush was going to be uncrowned. Check where things stand now.
The throne room that Bush made of the oval office may someday be brought back within a representative republic as well.
I've blogged about this today over at Tom Dispatch. Or, rather, I've blogged about the prospects for war and peace in the coming year with the newly elected (or not, who knows?) Congress.
It's going to be fun watching Republican committee chairs subpoena the president and people who obey him, while President Obama has adopted the Bush-Cheney position that Congress has no power over the rest of the government...
I've appreciated much of Frank Schaeffer's commentary at The BRAD BLOG but his column here this week on Obama winning was an exception. Schaeffer labels himself an "Obama supporter" and explains that Obama supporters are "sticking with our President." The language Schaeffer uses, after identifying himself as a "former religious Rightwing agitator", is helpful in illuminating a troubling pattern of thought that is widespread in our society:
"We faithful Obama supporters still trust our initial impression of him as a great, good and uniquely qualified man to lead us."
Here is faith, or at least faithfulness, explicitly entering politics through the advocacy of a recovering religious advocate. As everyone knows who has tried to recover from a pattern of thought, it is far easier to reject or reverse the specifics than it is to step outside the framework. But it is the framework that I find disturbing. I disagree with the point of view above just as much as I disagree with rightwing religious agitation, and for the same reasons. I don't want to be a faithful, trusting supporter of a uniquely great and good being...
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and the corporate "mainstream" media make quite a pair. We're hearing a very "balanced" debate over whether KSM should be tried in New York City, and whether the most insane objections to that proposal are really insane or not. But what are we not hearing?
We're not hearing that trying criminals for the crime of 9/11 ought to have been what we did years ago, rather than waging wars in response to a crime. We're not discussing the possibility that had alleged 9/11 criminals been tried years ago rather than being imprisoned and tortured together with hundreds of innocents depicted as subhuman monsters, the "war on terror" might have been replaced with simply the wars on Iraqis and Afghans and Pakistanis. What effect might that have had on Americans' willingness to surrender their Bill of Rights? We aren't hearing about that.
And that's only the tip of the iceberg about what we're not hearing...
Only in America can elected officials go on TV and confess to felonies (including torture and warrantless spying, not to mention aggressive war) and the resulting debate focus around the question of whether investigating the "possibility" of wrong-doing would be too radical. This week a coalition of dozens of human rights groups including the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Lawyers Guild, and the Society of American Law Teachers released a statement, as drafted by The Robert Jackson Steering Committee, cutting to the chase.
It reads in its entirety:
We urge Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a non-partisan independent Special Counsel to immediately commence a prosecutorial investigation into the most serious alleged crimes of former President George W. Bush, former Vice President Richard B. Cheney, the attorneys formerly employed by the Department of Justice whose memos sought to justify torture, and other former top officials of the Bush Administration.
Our laws, and treaties that under Article VI of our Constitution are the supreme law of the land, require the prosecution of crimes that strong evidence suggests these individuals have committed. Both the former president and the former vice president have confessed to authorizing a torture procedure that is illegal under our law and treaty obligations. The former president has confessed to violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
We see no need for these prosecutions to be extraordinarily lengthy or costly, and no need to wait for the recommendations of a panel or "truth" commission when substantial evidence of the crimes is already in the public domain. We believe the most effective investigation can be conducted by a prosecutor, and we believe such an investigation should begin immediately.
I wrote this statement with some helpful tweaks from colleagues and have been screaming the same basic message for about three years, but I sense more than ever right now that more ears are open to it.
While actually enforcing laws and "getting tough on crime" is now considered the radical leftist position and a "truth" commission the reasonable compromise, it is clear that a bipartisan commission would create the bipartisan bickering our elected officials are so eager to avoid. It would also, in Senator Patrick Leahy's view, investigate the complicity of Democrats as well as Republicans in the crimes of the past 8 years, thus guaranteeing that neither Democrats nor Republicans will support it.
If Congress can't take the heat and won't even enforce its own subpoenas, it should leave well enough alone. Statutes of limitations are running out fast, and we don't have time for another commission. If President Obama wants to distance himself from enforcing the law, he can do what he is supposed to do and leave the matter in the hands of Eric Holder. And if Attorney General Holder wants distance he can do what is required and appoint a truly independent prosecutor. Doing so would please the following organizations. More are signing on every hour, and both organizations and individuals can sign on at ProsecuteBushCheney.org.
In the eight months since the so-called "Downing Street Documents" have been made public, certain media elites have claimed that it is all "old and uninteresting news" thatů
1. Bush had already decided to go to war long before approaching Congress or the public or the UN about it, and had already started the attack with increased bombings;
2. Bush had already decided to lie about weapons of mass destruction and ties to 9-11;
3. The Brits were concerned by the illegality of an aggressive war, but the Bush Administration was not;
4. Going to the UN was an attempt to justify the war, and the hope was to craft an ultimatum that Saddam Hussein would reject;
5. The focus of the Bush and Blair administrations was on selling the war to the public, and not at all on trying to avoid it;
6. The Bush and Blair administrations were aware that Iraq was no threat, and were willing to attack Iraq precisely because it posed no serious threat of fighting back.
Of course, those who care about the world we live in do not find any of this "uninteresting." As well, given the shameful dearth of proper coverage by the Mainstream Media of these issues, many Americans still have yet to hear about these things. So it is hardly "old news" in any meaningful sense.
But still, some have maintained that the "Downing Street Documents", as well as all the other evidence that makes them old news in the eyes of some, are not credible. In fact, a right-wing group called Move America Forward is running television ads claiming that every Bush war lie was true, even the ones that Bush himself has admitted were "mistakes." (Yes, they even go so far as to claim in their ads that there were Weapons of Mass Destruction found in Iraq!)
Some people may be beyond the realm of rational persuasion, but wouldn't it be nice to be able to present those in doubt or poorly informed with a few pages of paper confirming the accuracy of the Downing Street Minutes and related documents, and listing other evidence that corroborates the Minutes point by point?