Thursday, April 26, 2007
By Mike Whitney
The case against Jose Padilla would be funny if a man’s life hadn’t been ruined in the process---but it has. The Bush administration has leapt from one absurd accusation to the next completely undisturbed by the glaring inconsistencies of their case. The prosecution’s objective is the same now as it was 5 years ago when the Chicago gang-banger was first arrested at O’ Hare Airport as an alleged “dirty bomber”, that is, keep Padilla behind bars for the rest of his life.
The government has no case against Padilla and they know it. He’s merely a lab-rat in their experiment to expand presidential powers. The Washington Post even admitted this in an article earlier this week, “Few Specifics Evident as Padilla Trial Nears” 4-23-07. Padilla had no nuclear material, no plan to attack apartment buildings, and no part in any terrorist conspiracy. It’s all baloney. In 5 years, the government hasn’t produced a shred of evidence that Padilla is guilty of anything.
Nothing—zippo! In fact, according to the Washington Post, the government’s case “lacks anything about the defendant being involved in ANY particular plot in the United States OR ANYWHERE ELSE”.
So, why has this travesty been allowed to continue for so long?
Padilla has been in solitary confinement for the last 5 years. During that time he was drugged, humiliated, and tortured—all of the practices which have become commonplace under Bush. For the first 4 years he was deprived of habeas corpus and legal counsel. During that period, he was never charged with a crime. He was simply declared an “enemy combatant” and stripped of his rights. His arrest has been used to establish the precedent that Bush can arbitrarily imprison American citizens without filing charges. It is the very definition of tyranny.
But this is old news. What’s new is that the media’s coverage of Padilla has grown strangely sympathetic. The Washington Post, which has been one of the strongest backers of Bush’s foreign adventurism, has been considerably less supportive of his attack on civil liberties. The Post criticized the weakness of the government’s case and the woeful lack of evidence connecting Padilla to a crime. The prosecution even admits that the charges are “hard to particularize” and that the defendant cannot be “linked to a particular violent act or terrorist group.” This explains the skepticism of U.S. District Judge Marcia G. Cooke who said (with some irony) that the indictment “is very light on facts”.
Nevertheless, the Padilla case is going forward even though there is no evidence of a crime---just the possibility that Padilla might do something illegal in the future. The parallels to Franz Kafka’s “The Trial” have not been lost on Padilla’s defense team who characterized the government’s case as “the ethereal nature of an alleged conspiracy.”
By “ethereal” we assume they mean hogwash.
The Post does a good job of exposing the flaws in the prosecution’s case, but stops short of saying the charges are baseless and without merit. They know what Bush and his legal team are up to and what extraordinary steps they will take to reach their goal. They are trying to convict a man (and possibly send him to his death) without producing any witnesses or evidence of a crime. If they succeed, Bush will be able to ignore the law and arrest whomever he chooses. That doesn’t mean the outcome of the trial is certain. Far from it. In fact, it’ll be hard to prove Padilla’s guilt with nothing but conjecture and demagoguery.
Presently, the government is charging Padilla as a material witness in a “conspiracy to murder, kidnap and maim”. But they have no proof.
They say that he is part of a “North American support cell that’s part of a vast international movement of foot soldiers, recruiters and financiers who foment violent jihad around the globe.”
Again, there is no of this.
They say that he signed a “mujahideen data form”; an “application form that was recovered from a reputed Al Qaida base.”
Even if Padilla did sign this silly-sounding jihad application, (which is still in doubt) that's guilt by association---it doesn’t prove that he was involved in the commission of a crime.
The prosecution’s case depends on convincing jurors that Padilla was secretly preparing Al Qaida forces for another terrorist attack. They have submitted wiretapped phone conversations which (they believe) implicate him in a conspiracy. But do they? The conversations prove nothing. In fact, they're ridiculous. They are merely recordings of Padilla with some unknown person talking in code about spending “$3500 to buy zucchini”.
Is that it? Is that the government's case? Is it really worth keeping a man behind bars for 5 years and driving him mad because he talks about zucchini on the phone?
What about rhubarb?
Even the Post cannot relay the details of the “The Zucchini Prosecution” without a hint of derision. The Post’s reporter, Peter Whoriskey, mockingly notes that while the government’s case is short on “violent specifics”; it is “rich in atmospherics.”
Indeed. The entire case appears to be built on “atmospherics” rather than facts. The prosecution has no more evidence now than they did when they began this witch-hunt. Federal Prosecutor Brian Frazier admitted as much when he was asked about the vague nature of the charges.
Frazier said they were “hard to particularize” and that they revolve around an “inchoate crime…rather than any completed operation”.
So, Frazier is admitting that the alleged crime was still in its embryonic stages? That it hadn’t yet been committed!?!
Get this: Jose Padilla just spent 5 years in solitary confinement for a crime, which the government now admits, never took place.
The notion that a man can be imprisoned without proof of a crime is “preemptive justice”, which is no justice at all. It denies the “presumption of innocence” and cedes absolute power to the state.
The court needs to put an end to this nonsense and dismiss the case for lack of evidence. This fiasco has gone on long enough. No one should be caged like an animal for half a decade for talking about zucchini on the phone.
Padilla should be released.
Copyright © 2007 The American Conservative
by Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr.
Maybe the authors of the Federalist Papers were liars. Maybe they were just engaged in political propaganda in order to shove through the Constitution. In secret, perhaps, they were plotting a Leviathan state with a president who can do all that the Bush administration claims he can, which pretty much amounts to whatever Bush wants to do.
If that was the case, they knew better than to advertise it. The Constitution would never have passed. Fear of a powerful president was one of the main reasons that people were fearful of abandoning the Articles of Confederation, which had no executive to speak of.
Recall that the founders had long tangled with the king in England. The entire Declaration of Independence was a personal attack on him and his policies. These were the days of “personal states” in the sense that a government was still thought to be the private property of a monarch. The bad aspect of this system was that the king could become a tyrant. The good aspect was that people knew whom to target to end the tyranny or, in the case of the founders, whom to denounce in the course of a political separation.
As an alternative to the personal executive state, the founders (perhaps naïvely) believed that they could create a Roman-style republic with a twist. There would be a head of state, but he would be controlled by a legislature. In fact, controlling the president would be the main job of the legislature. The founders went this one better by refusing to invest much power in the central government. Instead, the powers were decentralized and belonged to the member states.
The anti-federalists were skeptical. How can you create a presidency and not expect it to become corrupt? Alexander Hamilton was absolutely reassuring in Federalist 69. He said that the president bears no resemblance at all “to the Grand Seignior, to the khan of Tartary, to the Man of the Seven Mountains, or to the governor of New York.” He concedes that the president has some resemblance to the king of Britain, but there are important and critical differences. He would only be president for four years, which is too little time “for establishing a dangerous influence in a single State.”
He raises a point that was very much central to the minds of that generation. A king cannot be removed from office through peaceful means. In contrast, the president “would be liable to be impeached, tried, and, upon conviction of treason, bribery, or other high crimes or misdemeanors, removed from office; and would afterwards be liable to prosecution and punishment in the ordinary course of law.”
Yes, said Hamilton, the president is commander in chief of the military. But this power is only “occasional”: when the legislature has authorized the military for actual service. He has no power to declare war or to raise and regulate armies. All these powers “appertain to the legislature.” Finally, he reminds us, if any powers are abused—such as the power of pardon—the president can be impeached immediately.
One gathers from these passages a vision of the president as a temporary manager, doing only what the legislature approves, always under the relentless threat of impeachment. Presidents would come and go, and they would be in fear of the legislature. One misstep and they could be tossed out. Oh, and by the way, the president can’t get rid of the legislature except in one narrow case: he can adjourn them when they otherwise can’t agree on how or when to leave.
What about his powers? He can negotiate treaties and commercial agreements. He can welcome ambassadors. Everything else can only be done with the advice and consent of the Senate.
Was Hamilton a liar? He is usually presented as the advocate of presidential supremacy and certainly he went much farther than the Jeffersonians in his view of government. He was an extremist by any standard. He favored leviathan by comparison to the anti-federalists. And yet, from his own writings, the president in his vision of the Constitution is nothing more than a hired manager with few powers, and those not trivial are subject to the legislature. If he abuses power, he goes to the gallows in the republican fashion: he is impeached.
How does this contrast with the view of the Bush administration? It is opposite in every respect. Consider the claim of John Yoo, author of The Powers of War and Peace, the bible of the Bush administration’s claim of totalitarian powers in war, and the reputed author of most of the Bush administration’s torture policies. Yoo’s book is a twisted mess, an attempt to justify reading the founding period in an opposite way from its historical reality. It’s like arguing that King Lear is a comedy, that Beethoven was second rate, or that the Bible endorses Satanism. There is always someone around to make any crazy claim you want, and if you are the ruling party, intellectuals will crawl out of the woodwork to say what you want them to say.
In any case, this book by Yoo dismisses the whole of what Hamiliton says in Federalist 69 as “rhetorical excess.” And an article in the Boston Globe quotes him as saying that “Fed 69 should not be read for more than what it is worth.” Why? Because all presidents since FDR have used the imaginary war power to do their dirty tricks.
This is an interesting argument. It says that because some tyrants have violated the Constitution, all presidents should presume the right to be tyrants in the manner in which the Constitution’s framers tried to guard against. Now if some intellectuals set out to say that the Constitution is really just a myth, that our past doesn’t matter, that the founders’ intentions are irrelevant, that the rule of law is and should be a dead letter, that would be one thing. We would be back to the fundamental debate of liberty versus despotism.
Instead, keep in mind that the people arguing for executive dictatorship fashion themselves as conservatives. Contrast this with the genuine conservatism of Robert Taft, who saw the postwar period as a time to set matters right and return to first principles. He attacked Truman for his Cold War forays and stated clearly that Congress alone has authority to declare war and manage foreign policy. FDR’s attitude toward his power, Taft wrote, was inconsistent with our heritage.
To return to my original question: what if the authors of the Federalist Papers were liars? This is not as crazy a theory as it might sound. Patrick Henry believed that they were, which is why he opposed the Constitution to begin with. It was too much of a risk, he said, to create any sort of president: “If your American chief be a man of ambition and abilities, how easy is it for him to render himself absolute!”
Patrick Henry lost the debate because enough people believed that Hamilton was sincere in his promises and that the president would be restrained. So let us be clear about what the advocates of executive rule are really saying. They are saying things that if they had been said to that founding generation of Americans would have prevented the Constitution from ever being passed. But it did pass. So until we can restore the Articles, let’s live up to the Constitution, and stop the dissembling, especially in the name of “conservatism.”
Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr., is founder of the Ludwig von Mises Institute and editor of LewRockwell.com.
Apr 26, 2007
MCCain 2008? Surrender is not an option ? WTF
Get that crap advertisment off of here does daily kos really need that kind of money?
Permalink | 54 comments
Apr 26, 2007
MCCain 2008? Surrender is not an option ? WTF
Get that crap advertisment off of here does daily kos really need that kind of money?
Permalink | 54 comments
Frameshop: MCCAIN IS NOT AN OPTION (sign the petition today)
Embattled Arizona Republican Congressman Rick Renzi may resign from office in the wake of a federal investigation into his involvement in land-swap deal and an FBI raid on an Arizona insurance business owned by his wife.
Renzi told The Hill newspaper in Washington, D.C., this week that he was considering stepping down.
Democrats are looking to oust Renzi and some top Republicans in the state, who asked not be identified, are talking about the possibly of Renzi's resignation.
The Hill also reported that the federal inquiry is focused on possible nondisclosure of a $200,000 payment made to Renzi by a business partner involved in the land swap. The Wall Street Journal reports that a grand jury has been convened in Tucson to look into Renzi's actions.
Taxes and links with government contractor Mantech International also have come into question, according sources familiar with the Renzi controversy.
Renzi has hired Phoenix attorney Grant Woods as well as Washington, D.C., law firm Nixon Peabody LLP to help him in the matter.
Renzi's office has not commented on the matter since Tuesday, when the congressman issued a statement saying he was stepping down temporarily from congressional panels. Renzi has denied any wrongdoing and said press accounts and Democratic charges are inaccurate.
A number of names on both sides of the political aisle have been mentioned if Renzi's steps down and there is a special election or if he opts not to run again in 2008.
Possible Democratic contenders include former Casa Grande Mayor Bob Mitchell, real estate developer and former state Democratic Party Chairman Jim Pederson, Sedona attorney Ellen Simon, Pinal County Attorney Carter Olson and former Phoenix TV news reporter Mary Kim Titla. Simon ran against Renzi in 2006 and Bob Mitchell is the brother of Tempe/Scottsdale Congressman Harry Mitchell.
On the GOP side, former state Senate President Ken Bennett, state Sen. Tom O'Halleran and state Rep. Bill Konopnicki are possible contenders.
Renzi's district is a competitive one, including Flagstaff, Window Rock, Sedona, Casa Grande and Prescott.
The FBI raided Patriot Insurance Agency Inc. in southern Arizona earlier this month. The agency is owned by Roberta Renzi. The Renzi family also owns a vineyard and has had real estate holdings in the state. Renzi's father, Eugene Renzi, is an executive with Virginia-based Mantech.
Thursday, 26 April 2007
by Larry C Johnson
Just logged on to get some details on the Senate vote to approve funds for our troops in Iraq while setting a deadline to require the start of withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. And what is the media focused on? The "narrow" victory of 56-41 and the fact that Joe Lieberman voted with the Republicans. Take a gander at the AP and NY Times versions:
Ann Flaherty reports that The 51-46 vote was largely along party lines, and like House passage of the same bill a day earlier, fell far short of the two-thirds margin needed to overturn the president's threatened veto. Nevertheless, the legislation is the first binding challenge on the war that Democrats have managed to send to Bush since they reclaimed control of both houses of Congress in January.
NY Times reporters, Hulse and Zeleny, write--The 51-46 vote, far short of the two-thirds majority that would be needed to override Mr. Bush’s veto, came after a morning-long debate in which supporters of the bill called it a way to make the Iraqis take responsibility for their own security, while opponents called it a blueprint for defeat.
Why do they ignore the important story?
Two Republicans--Chuck Hagel and Gordon Smith--voted with the Democrats. And John McCain and Lindsey Graham were AWOL. There's the key story.
The Senate is within striking distance of overriding a Bush veto. Yet the mainstream media insists there is virtually no chance.
That is why I think they are generally completely full of shit.
Posted by Larry Johnson on Thursday, 26 April 2007 at 14:46 | Permalink
Ann Wright - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
April 26th, 2007
Ann Wright speaks at Brown University
Ann Wright speaking at Brown University on April 16, 2006 about the war with Iraq and the possibility of war with Iran. Filmed by Paul Hubbard.
Thank you Ann and Paul for sending this to us!
“War will not solve any problem we face with Iran.”
Scott Ritter, former Major of the US Marines and Chief UNSCOM Weapons Inspector in Iraq, spoke on the folly of war with Iran in the General Pershing Room of the War Memorial, Indianapolis, IN on April 18, 2007.
This is Part 1 - his presentation in the program “US Policy in the Middle East; Target Iran and the role of Congress.”
Clips from the Q and A will follow. He spoke on a two person panel with the Honorable Andy Jacobs, former Congressperson from Indiana.
The program was sponsored by Veterans for Peace, Indiana Chapter #49, Indianapolis Peace House & Plowshares, Indianapolis Peace and Justice Center, and Traprock Peace Center.
Moderator: Pierre Atlas
Political Science Professor and Director of Franciscan Center for Global Studies at Marian College
Video recorded and edited by Charles Jenks; © 2007 Traprock Peace Center; all rights reserved. Contact: email@example.com
Tomgram: Karen Greenberg, Will Gitmo Be with Us Forever?
Back in September 2006, I wrote a post, "The Facts on the Ground, Mini-Gulags, Hired Guns, Lobbyists, and a Reality Built on Fear," in which I wondered whether any new administration, any new president would ever be able to take real steps toward ridding our world of the realities created by the Bush administration -- like, for instance, our second "Defense Department," the sprawling, ill-organized, incompetent Department of Homeland Security (and the billions and billions of dollars in "security" interests that have already grown up around it), or the military's unprecedented new North American Command (Northcom). Noting that a little publicized $30-million maximum-security wing at Guantanamo was just then being completed by the U.S. Navy and that the American prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan had also just undergone an upgrade (as more recently has Camp Cropper, one of our two main prisons in Iraq), I wondered whether a future president would even be capable of shutting down Guantanamo, no less our whole secret, offshore Bermuda Triangle of injustice (and the various "extraordinary rendition" operations that go with it).
As that question refused to quit my brain, I finally asked Karen J. Greenberg, Tomdispatch regular, recent visitor to Guantanamo, co-editor of The Torture Papers, and Executive Director of the Center on Law and Security at the NYU School of Law, to give the problem some serious thought. It seemed to me that a president who couldn't, or wouldn't, shut down Guantanamo would be unlikely to do much else that really mattered in our world. Here is her measured response. Any bets on whether it happens? Tom
Can Guantanamo Be Closed?What a New President Could Do
By Karen J. Greenberg
A surprising number of Americans of note are in agreement. Guantanamo should be closed. The New York Times and the human rights community have, of course, called for it to be shut down, but so has the new Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. So has President Bush. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has given indications that she seconds Bush's call. Senator John McCain has said he would close the prison immediately upon becoming president.
On the Democratic side, while John Edwards and Bill Richardson have both called for Guantanamo's closing, the larger field of Democratic candidates has remained curiously silent on the subject. Do they know something we don't? Admittedly, one Democratic Congressman, James Moran of Virginia, has mentioned the possibility of including funds to close Guantanamo in the 2008 Defense Appropriations Bill, but the leading Democratic presidential hopefuls have as yet said very little about Guantanamo.
Perhaps they sense the Pandora's box of conundrums that would be unleashed in any genuine attempt to shut the place down. It's easy enough -- almost a no-brainer -- to say you want to close Guantanamo. After all, along with those photos from Abu Ghraib, the now-infamous extra-legal detention facility in Cuba has made the American government globally synonymous with the revocation of international law, the disregard of U.S. law, and the torture and abuse of prisoners or, as the Bush administration prefers to call them, "unlawful enemy combatants."
Actually closing Gitmo, however, is another matter entirely. The hard part is fleshing out the next thought: How exactly would you go about it? As Secretary of State Rice said recently, "The president would close Guantánamo tomorrow if someone could answer the question: And what will you do with the dangerous people who are there?" Congressman John Murtha has made a similar point: Knowing how to shut down Guantanamo -- given the set of nearly intractable legal knots the Bush administration has tied the prison complex and its detainees up in -- is "not that easy."
Perhaps those Democratic presidential candidates, realizing exactly this, are only waiting for some direction on the subject. So let's do our best to separate the wheat from the chaff and focus on what it would really take to move beyond words to action, when it comes to the most notorious prison complex on planet Earth.
First, let's get clear just what -- and who -- we're talking about. Forget those fourteen "high value" detainees, including Ramsi Binalshibh and Khaled Sheik Mohammed, whom the President suddenly transferred to Guantanamo in September 2006 -- finally, five years late, bringing the "worst of the worst" to the facility (as the administration had promised to do at its opening). These 14 are almost certain to be tried and convicted before this administration leaves office under the much-redesigned, jerry-rigged military commissions process it already has shakily in place.
Let's forget as well the nearly 100 detainees who have been cleared for transfer or release, many of them now in a new category -- "No Longer Enemy Combatants" -- and all of them waiting (and waiting and waiting) for the State Department to find countries willing enough to take them in. Nor are we talking about the 65 to 70 detainees who are considered culpable enough to be tried by some sort of military commission before January 2009.
The real problem -- the conundrum wrapped in an enigma -- comes with another group. At present, there are in Gitmo perhaps 160 detainees (as the public affairs staff at the facility told me), who will most likely never be charged, never be tried, and may nonetheless never be sent home. It's a category without a name, or really any precedent -- a category that all too conveniently defies solution and so keeps Guantanamo in operation.
For all prospective Gitmo closers, then, the question is: What are we going to do with individuals the Bush administration doesn't pretend to have sufficient evidence to try (even under its own deficient military commission process), but who, officials claim, are too full of potentially useful information to release? There are a few ideas floating around out there.
There is the suggestion that we transfer them to military prisons inside the United States. Sen. McCain suggested Fort Leavenworth in Kansas; Congressman Moran has urged military brigs in the five states within the jurisdiction of the extremely conservative 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, which might be likely to look the other way as prisoners are detained on American soil without recourse of any sort for the rest of their lives.
The other choices are stark: Return these detainees to their countries of origin; find an unlikely third country willing to accept them (possibly in return for some kind of financial quid pro quo) and not likely to torture them; or, of course, when all else fails and the obvious alternatives (each of which presents its own set of problems) seem to lead nowhere, leave them where they are -- and leave Gitmo open for business.
So let's try a little harder. How could a new president extricate us from this mess? The next occupant of the White House should start by accepting the following very American principle: Those who are not going to be charged with a crime should be returned to their home country, a third country, or the country where they were initially captured .
Behind this principle lies a reality which must also be accepted. The current Guantanamo debacle has little to do with the rule of law, the Geneva Conventions, or even, for that matter, a realistic assessment of the more pressing terrorist threats to the United States. At its heart of hearts lies a simple fear of political embarrassment.
U.S. officials have consistently held that they are guarding vital national security interests by keeping the never-to-be-charged detainees in custody. However, the sad truth is that, when it comes to most of these prisoners, what's really been at stake is the administration's need to save face by concealing its utter ineptitude. Privately, even Bush administration officials will acknowledge that the detainees were captured and sent to Gitmo capriciously. Rather than housing the "worst of the worst" (as the administration has regularly bragged), Gitmo penned up the easiest to grab, especially in Afghanistan. Often these were simply the individuals that local bounty hunters could provide or who were found on or near the battlefield. Many were put on planes to Guantanamo based on nothing but an American unwillingness to assert with confidence that they would never be a threat to the United States. Instead of masterminds, what the Bush administration netted were cooks, chauffeurs, wanderers, the mentally deranged, and -- sometimes -- children.
When an administration defiantly adverse to ever admitting error decided not to send home those who had been seized by mistake, it set itself a trap that it has been unable to escape to this day. Any presidential candidates who hope not to be similarly trapped might consider the following:
The Bush administration is already releasing the wrongly detained. Detainee by detainee, it has been quietly whittling away at its mistakes, sending home 385 detainees who look no more or less guilty than those remaining in custody.
Releasing all detainees who are not going to be charged restores judgment and the rule of law where irrational fear and a Commander-in-Chief presidency have reigned supreme. When asked to explain the threat posed by such detainees, officials and public relations officers at Guantanamo are quick to name the kind of venomous hate-speech that leaps from the mouths of people imprisoned without hope, under generally horrific conditions, for year upon year. The most notorious example of the supposed dangers posed by these detainees has been the Australian kangaroo skinner and Taliban convert David Hicks, who supposedly threatened to hurt American guards and their families if ever released. But there are undoubtedly plenty of other examples as well. Consistently, Guantanamo officials have acted as if angry words held magical powers, as if talking jihad could make it happen. Unfortunately, Gitmo is, by now, a delusional system in a non-judicial bubble, lacking any calming, rational presence, or anyone who can distinguish between something as simple as an angry rant and serious danger.
It is time to return to a system in which terrorists are tried in courts based on actual evidence. Unless this principle is accepted, Guantanamo won't be closed because there will always be U.S. prisoners who can't be tried and will never be freed.
A corollary to this that must be accepted is: There can be no absolute guarantee that some of the 160 former detainees, once freed and returned, won't commit acts of terror. But in the exponential growth of terrorist threats in recent years, particularly in the wake of the Bush administration's war in Iraq, a few of these small fry simply don't add up to a significant menace. After five years of interrogation, incarceration, and often long periods of isolation, many of them are, in any case, now deemed broken men. If any of them do prove threatening, let them be captured anew and tried for actual acts or plans on any of the many legal grounds available to law enforcement.
To shut Guantanamo, a future president would have to accede to another proposition as well: Those at Gitmo convicted of crimes should serve their sentences in U.S. military prisons on U.S. soil. Opponents insist that this would "endanger" Americans. According to Senator Jim DeMint, "To bring known terrorists, many of whom have killed Americans, to our shores risks the lives of additional Americans and encourages more attacks on our soil." Does Senator DeMint actually believe this? Does he truly consider the U.S. military incapable of keeping convicted prisoners under lock and key? How would a future president weigh such doubts against the giant sigh of relief the world at large would heave when the last door opened on the last cell in Guantanamo?
There is one additional point -- so self-evident that, to date, no one has thought to mention it -- all candidates should agree on: Bring no new prisoners to Guantanamo.
Earlier this year, I spoke with a group of burka-clad Muslim women in London who feared that friends or family members now in custody might be transferred to Guantanamo. I dismissed their comments as outdated and their fears as misplaced.
I assured them that, outside of the 14 high-value detainees, the Bush administration hasn't sent a single new prisoner to Guantanamo since late 2004. But, as it turned out, they knew something I didn't. Last month, a little story appeared in the back pages of some American newspapers. The United States had indeed moved its first new captive to Guantanamo in over two years -- and, according to the Washington buzz, more such detainees can be expected sooner or later, either from a war in Iran or some other "front" in the administration's global counterterrorism offensive.
To sum up: Separate Guantanamo from a new detention policy based on the rule of law.
It would behoove the next president -- and benefit the nation -- to close Guantanamo as a sign of starting anew. It should be the first order of global business for anyone entering the Oval Office. The next order of business should be the formation of a bipartisan commission to help settle national policy on the detention of foreign prisoners in any future anti-terror operations. The sooner this commission is formed, the better.
And here's one final piece of advice: These days it may seem un-American, but perhaps a simple, heartfelt apology to the angry innocents who were held all these years might be in order. More than anything, what Guantanamo needs is an American president with genuine guts, a man or woman who is willing to demonstrate that leadership is about making the hard choices, knowledgeably, openly, and with accountability.
Copyright 2007 Karen J. Greenberg
Remarks of Senator Barack Obama to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs
April 23, 2007
Good morning. We all know that these are not the best of times for America’s reputation in the world. We know what the war in Iraq has cost us in lives and treasure, in influence and respect. We have seen the consequences of a foreign policy based on a flawed ideology, and a belief that tough talk can replace real strength and vision.
Many around the world are disappointed with our actions. And many in our own country have come to doubt either our wisdom or our capacity to shape events beyond our borders. Some have even suggested that America’s time has passed.
But while we know what we have lost as a consequence of this tragic war, I also know what I have found in my travels over the past two years.
In an old building in Ukraine, I saw test tubes filled with anthrax and the plague lying virtually unlocked and unguarded – dangers we were told could only be secured with America’s help.
On a trip to the Middle East, I met Israelis and Palestinians who told me that peace remains a distant hope without the promise of American leadership.
At a camp along the border of Chad and Darfur, refugees begged for America to step in and help stop the genocide that has taken their mothers and fathers, sons and daughters.
And along the crowded streets of Kenya, I met throngs of children who asked if they’d ever get the chance to visit that magical place called America.
So I reject the notion that the American moment has passed. I dismiss the cynics who say that this new century cannot be another when, in the words of President Franklin Roosevelt, we lead the world in battling immediate evils and promoting the ultimate good.
I still believe that America is the last, best hope of Earth. We just have to show the world why this is so. This President may occupy the White House, but for the last six years the position of leader of the free world has remained open. And it’s time to fill that role once more.
I believe that the single most important job of any President is to protect the American people. And I am equally convinced that doing that job effectively in the 21st century will require a new vision of American leadership and a new conception of our national security – a vision that draws from the lessons of the past, but is not bound by outdated thinking.
In today’s globalized world, the security of the American people is inextricably linked to the security of all people. When narco-trafficking and corruption threaten democracy in Latin America, it’s America’s problem too. When poor villagers in Indonesia have no choice but to send chickens to market infected with avian flu, it cannot be seen as a distant concern. When religious schools in Pakistan teach hatred to young children, our children are threatened as well.
Whether it’s global terrorism or pandemic disease, dramatic climate change or the proliferation of weapons of mass annihilation, the threats we face at the dawn of the 21st century can no longer be contained by borders and boundaries.
The horrific attacks on that clear September day awakened us to this new reality. And after 9/11, millions around the world were ready to stand with us. They were willing to rally to our cause because it was their cause too – because they knew that if America led the world toward a new era of global cooperation, it would advance the security of people in our nation and all nations.
We now know how badly this Administration squandered that opportunity. In 2002, I stated my opposition to the war in Iraq, not only because it was an unnecessary diversion from the struggle against the terrorists who attacked us on September 11th, but also because it was based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the threats that 9/11 brought to light. I believed then, and believe now, that it was based on old ideologies and outdated strategies – a determination to fight a 21st century struggle with a 20th century mindset.
There is no doubt that the mistakes of the past six years have made our current task more difficult. World opinion has turned against us. And after all the lives lost and the billions of dollars spent, many Americans may find it tempting to turn inward, and cede our claim of leadership in world affairs.
I insist, however, that such an abandonment of our leadership is a mistake we must not make. America cannot meet the threats of this century alone, but the world cannot meet them without America. We must neither retreat from the world nor try to bully it into submission – we must lead the world, by deed and example.
We must lead by building a 21st century military to ensure the security of our people and advance the security of all people. We must lead by marshalling a global effort to stop the spread of the world’s most dangerous weapons. We must lead by building and strengthening the partnerships and alliances necessary to meet our common challenges and defeat our common threats.
And America must lead by reaching out to all those living disconnected lives of despair in the world’s forgotten corners – because while there will always be those who succumb to hate and strap bombs to their bodies, there are millions more who want to take another path – who want our beacon of hope to shine its light their way.
This election offers us the chance to turn the page and open a new chapter in American leadership. The disappointment that so many around the world feel toward America right now is only a testament to the high expectations they hold for us. We must meet those expectations again, not because being respected is an end in itself, but because the security of America and the wider world demands it.
This will require a new spirit – not of bluster and bombast, but of quiet confidence and sober intelligence, a spirit of care and renewed competence. It will also require a new leader. And as a candidate for President of the United States, I am asking you to entrust me with that responsibility.
There are five ways America will begin to lead again when I’m President. Five ways to let the world know that we are committed to our common security, invested in our common humanity, and still a beacon of freedom and justice for the world.
The first way America will lead is by bringing a responsible end to this war in Iraq and refocusing on the critical challenges in the broader region.
In a speech five months ago, I argued that there can be no military solution to what has become a political conflict between Sunni and Shi’a factions. And I laid out a plan that I still believe offers the best chance of pressuring these warring factions toward a political settlement – a phased withdrawal of American forces with the goal of removing all combat brigades from Iraq by March 31st, 2008.
I acknowledged at the time that there are risks involved in such an approach. That is why my plan provides for an over-the-horizon force that could prevent chaos in the wider region, and allows for a limited number of troops to remain in Iraq to fight al Qaeda and other terrorists.
But my plan also makes clear that continued U.S. commitment to Iraq depends on the Iraqi government meeting a series of well-defined benchmarks necessary to reach a political settlement. Thus far, the Iraqi government has made very little progress in meeting any of the benchmarks, in part because the President has refused time and again to tell the Iraqi government that we will not be there forever. The President’s escalation of U.S. forces may bring a temporary reduction in the violence in Baghdad, at the price of increased U.S. casualties – though the experience so far is not encouraging. But it cannot change the political dynamic in Iraq. A phased withdrawal can.
Moreover, until we change our approach in Iraq, it will be increasingly difficult to refocus our efforts on the challenges in the wider region – on the conflict in the Middle East, where Hamas and Hezbollah feel emboldened and Israel’s prospects for a secure peace seem uncertain; on Iran, which has been strengthened by the war in Iraq; and on Afghanistan, where more American forces are needed to battle al Qaeda, track down Osama bin Laden, and stop that country from backsliding toward instability.
Burdened by Iraq, our lackluster diplomatic efforts leave a huge void. Our interests are best served when people and governments from Jerusalem and Amman to Damascus and Tehran understand that America will stand with our friends, work hard to build a peaceful Middle East, and refuse to cede the future of the region to those who seek perpetual conflict and instability. Such effective diplomacy cannot be done on the cheap, nor can it be warped by an ongoing occupation of Iraq. Instead, it will require patient, sustained effort, and the personal commitment of the President of the United States. That is a commitment I intend to make.
The second way America will lead again is by building the first truly 21st century military and showing wisdom in how we deploy it.
We must maintain the strongest, best-equipped military in the world in order to defeat and deter conventional threats. But while sustaining our technological edge will always be central to our national security, the ability to put boots on the ground will be critical in eliminating the shadowy terrorist networks we now face. This is why our country’s greatest military asset is the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States.
This administration’s first Secretary of Defense proudly acknowledged that he had inherited the greatest fighting force in the nation’s history. Six years later, he handed over a force that has been stretched to the breaking point, understaffed, and struggling to repair its equipment.
Two-thirds of the Army is now rated “not ready” for combat. 88% of the National Guard is not ready to deploy overseas, and many units cannot respond to a domestic emergency.
Our men and women in uniform are performing heroically around the world in some of the most difficult conditions imaginable. But the war in Afghanistan and the ill-advised invasion of Iraq have clearly demonstrated the consequences of underestimating the number of troops required to fight two wars and defend our homeland. That’s why I strongly support the expansion of our ground forces by adding 65,000 soldiers to the Army and 27,000 Marines.
But adding troops isn’t just about meeting a quota. It’s about recruiting the best and brightest to service, and it’s about keeping them in service by providing them with the first-rate equipment, armor, training, and incentives they deserve. It’s about providing funding to enable the National Guard to achieve an adequate state of readiness again. And it’s about honoring our veterans by giving them the respect and dignity they deserve and the care and benefits they have earned.
A 21st century military will also require us to invest in our men and women’s ability to succeed in today’s complicated conflicts. We know that on the streets of Baghdad, a little bit of Arabic can actually provide security to our soldiers. Yet, just a year ago, less than 1% of the American military could speak a language such as Arabic, Mandarin, Hindi, Urdu, or Korean. It’s time we recognize these as critical skills for our military, and it’s time we recruit and train for them.
Former Secretary Rumsfeld said, “You go to war with the Army you have, not the one you want.” I say that if the need arises when I’m President, the Army we have will be the Army we need.
Of course, how we use our armed forces matters just as much as how they are prepared.
No President should ever hesitate to use force – unilaterally if necessary – to protect ourselves and our vital interests when we are attacked or imminently threatened. But when we use force in situations other than self-defense, we should make every effort to garner the clear support and participation of others – the kind of burden-sharing and support President George H.W. Bush mustered before he launched Operation Desert Storm.
And when we do send our men and women into harm’s way, we must also clearly define the mission, prescribe concrete political and military objectives, seek out advice of our military commanders, evaluate the intelligence, plan accordingly, and ensure that our troops have the resources, support, and equipment they need to protect themselves and fulfill their mission.
We must take these steps with the knowledge that while sometimes necessary, force is the costliest weapon in the arsenal of American power in terms of lives and treasure. And it’s far from the only measure of our strength.
In order to advance our national security and our common security, we must call on the full arsenal of American power and ingenuity. To constrain rogue nations, we must use effective diplomacy and muscular alliances. To penetrate terrorist networks, we need a nimble intelligence community – with strong leadership that forces agencies to share information, and invests in the tools, technologies and human intelligence that can get the job done. To maintain our influence in the world economy, we need to get our fiscal house in order. And to weaken the hand of hostile dictators, we must free ourselves from our oil addiction. None of these expressions of power can supplant the need for a strong military. Instead, they complement our military, and help ensure that the use of force is not our sole available option.
The third way America must lead again is by marshalling a global effort to meet a threat that rises above all others in urgency – securing, destroying, and stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
As leaders from Henry Kissinger to George Shultz to Bill Perry to Sam Nunn have all warned, the actions we are taking today on this issue are simply not adequate to the danger.
There are still about 50 tons of highly enriched uranium – some of it poorly secured – at civilian nuclear facilities in over forty countries around the world. In the former Soviet Union, there are still about 15,000 to 16,000 nuclear weapons and stockpiles of uranium and plutonium capable of making another 40,000 weapons scattered across 11 time zones. And people have already been caught trying to smuggle nuclear materials to sell them on the black market.
We can do something about this. As President, I will lead a global effort to secure all nuclear weapons and material at vulnerable sites within four years – the most effective way to prevent terrorists from acquiring a bomb.
We know that Russia is neither our enemy nor close ally right now, and we shouldn’t shy away from pushing for more democracy, transparency, and accountability in that country. But we also know that we can and must work with Russia to make sure every one of its nuclear weapons and every cache of nuclear material is secured. And we should fully implement the law I passed with Senator Dick Lugar that would help the United States and our allies detect and stop the smuggling of weapons of mass destruction throughout the world.
While we work to secure existing stockpiles of nuclear material, we should also negotiate a verifiable global ban on the production of new nuclear weapons material.
As starting points, the world must prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and work to eliminate North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. If America does not lead, these two nations could trigger regional arms races that could accelerate nuclear proliferation on a global scale and create dangerous nuclear flashpoints. In pursuit of this goal, we must never take the military option off the table. But our first line of offense here must be sustained, direct and aggressive diplomacy. For North Korea, that means ensuring the full implementation of the recent agreement. For Iran, it means getting the UN Security Council, Europe, and the Gulf States to join with us in ratcheting up the economic pressure.
We must also dissuade other countries from joining the nuclear club. Just the other day, it was reported that nearly a dozen countries in and around the Middle East –including Syria and Saudi Arabia – are interested in pursuing nuclear power.
Countries should not be able to build a weapons program under the auspices of developing peaceful nuclear power. That’s why we should create an international fuel bank to back up commercial fuel supplies so there’s an assured supply and no more excuses for nations like Iran to build their own enrichment plants. It’s encouraging that the Nuclear Threat Initiative, backed by Warren Buffett, has already offered funding for this fuel bank, if matched two to one. But on an issue of this importance, the United States should not leave the solution to private philanthropies. It should be a central component of our national security, and that’s why we should provide $50 million to get this fuel bank started and urge other nations, starting with Russia, to join us.
Finally, if we want the world to deemphasize the role of nuclear weapons, the United States and Russia must lead by example. President Bush once said, “The United States should remove as many weapons as possible from high-alert, hair-trigger status – another unnecessary vestige of Cold War confrontation.” Six years later, President Bush has not acted on this promise. I will. We cannot and should not accept the threat of accidental or unauthorized nuclear launch. We can maintain a strong nuclear deterrent to protect our security without rushing to produce a new generation of warheads.
The danger of nuclear proliferation reminds us of how critical global cooperation will be in the 21st century. That’s why the fourth way America must lead is to rebuild and construct the alliances and partnerships necessary to meet common challenges and confront common threats.
In the wake of the Second World War, it was America that largely built a system of international institutions that carried us through the Cold War. Leaders like Harry Truman and George Marshall knew that instead of constraining our power, these institutions magnified it.
Today it’s become fashionable to disparage the United Nations, the World Bank, and other international organizations. In fact, reform of these bodies is urgently needed if they are to keep pace with the fast-moving threats we face. Such real reform will not come, however, by dismissing the value of these institutions, or by bullying other countries to ratify changes we have drafted in isolation. Real reform will come because we convince others that they too have a stake in change – that such reforms will make their world, and not just ours, more secure.
Our alliances also require constant management and revision if they are to remain effective and relevant. For example, over the last 15 years, NATO has made tremendous strides in transforming from a Cold War security structure to a dynamic partnership for peace.
Today, NATO’s challenge in Afghanistan has become a test case, in the words of Dick Lugar, of whether the alliance can “overcome the growing discrepancy between NATO’s expanding missions and its lagging capabilities.”
We must close this gap, rallying members to contribute troops to collective security operations, urging them to invest more in reconstruction and stabilization, streamlining decision-making processes, and giving commanders in the field more flexibility.
And as we strengthen NATO, we should also seek to build new alliances and relationships in other regions important to our interests in the 21st century. In Asia, the emergence of an economically vibrant, more politically active China offers new opportunities for prosperity and cooperation, but also poses new challenges for the United States and our partners in the region. It is time for the United States to take a more active role here – to build on our strong bilateral relations and informal arrangements like the Six Party talks. As President, I intend to forge a more effective regional framework in Asia that will promote stability, prosperity and help us confront common transnational threats such as tracking down terrorists and responding to global health problems like avian flu.
In this way, the security alliances and relationships we build in the 21st century will serve a broader purpose than preventing the invasion of one country by another. They can help us meet challenges that the world can only confront together, like the unprecedented threat of global climate change.
This is a crisis that cannot be contained to one corner of the globe. Studies show that with each degree of warming, rice yields – the world’s most significant crop – fall by 10%. By 2050 famine could displace more than 250 million people worldwide. That means people competing for food and water in the next fifty years in the very places that have known horrific violence in the last fifty: Africa, the Middle East, South Asia.
As the world’s largest producers of greenhouse gases, America has the greatest responsibility to lead here. We must enact a cap and trade system that will dramatically reduce our carbon emissions. And we must finally free ourselves from our dependence on foreign oil by raising our fuel standards and harnessing the power of biofuels.
Such steps are not just environmental priorities, they are critical to our security. America must take decisive action in order to more plausibly demand the same effort from others. We should push for binding and enforceable commitments to reduce emissions by the nations which pollute the most – the United States, the European Union, Russia, China, and India together account for nearly two-thirds of current emissions. And we should help ensure that growth in developing countries is fueled by low-carbon energy – the market for which could grow to $500 billion by 2050 and spur the next wave of American entrepreneurship.
The fifth way America will lead again is to invest in our common humanity – to ensure that those who live in fear and want today can live with dignity and opportunity tomorrow.
A recent report detailed Al Qaeda’s progress in recruiting a new generation of leaders to replace the ones we have captured or killed. The new recruits come from a broader range of countries than the old leadership – from Afghanistan to Chechnya, from Britain to Germany, from Algeria to Pakistan. Most of these recruits are in their early thirties.
They operate freely in the disaffected communities and disconnected corners of our interconnected world – the impoverished, weak and ungoverned states that have become the most fertile breeding grounds for transnational threats like terror and pandemic disease and the smuggling of deadly weapons.
Some of these terrorist recruits may have always been destined to take the path they did – accepting a tragically warped view of their religion in which God rewards the killing of innocents. But millions of young men and women have not.
Last summer I visited the Horn of Africa’s Combined Joint Task Force, which was headquartered at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti. It’s a U.S. base that was set up four years ago, originally as a place to launch counter-terrorism operations. But recently, a major focus of the Task Force has been working with our diplomats and aid workers on operations to win hearts and minds. While I was there, I also took a helicopter ride with Admiral Hunt, the commander of the Task Force, to Dire Dawa, where the U.S. was helping provide food and water to Ethiopians who had been devastated by flooding.
One of the Navy captains who helps run the base recently told a reporter, “Our mission is at least 95 percent civil affairs. It's trying to get at the root causes of why people want to take on the U.S.'' The Admiral now in charge of the Task Force suggested that if they can provide dignity and opportunity to the people in that region, then, “the chance of extremism being welcomed greatly, if not completely, diminishes.”
We have heard much over the last six years about how America’s larger purpose in the world is to promote the spread of freedom – that it is the yearning of all who live in the shadow of tyranny and despair.
I agree. But this yearning is not satisfied by simply deposing a dictator and setting up a ballot box. The true desire of all mankind is not only to live free lives, but lives marked by dignity and opportunity; by security and simple justice.
Delivering on these universal aspirations requires basic sustenance like food and clean water; medicine and shelter. It also requires a society that is supported by the pillars of a sustainable democracy – a strong legislature, an independent judiciary, the rule of law, a vibrant civil society, a free press, and an honest police force. It requires building the capacity of the world’s weakest states and providing them what they need to reduce poverty, build healthy and educated communities, develop markets, and generate wealth. And it requires states that have the capacity to fight terrorism, halt the proliferation of deadly weapons, and build the health care infrastructure needed to prevent and treat such deadly diseases as HIV/AIDS and malaria.
As President, I will double our annual investments in meeting these challenges to $50 billion by 2012 and ensure that those new resources are directed towards these strategic goals.
For the last twenty years, U.S. foreign aid funding has done little more than keep pace with inflation. Doubling our foreign assistance spending by 2012 will help meet the challenge laid out by Tony Blair at the 2005 G-8 conference at Gleneagles, and it will help push the rest of the developed world to invest in security and opportunity. As we have seen recently with large increases in funding for our AIDS programs, we have the capacity to make sure this funding makes a real difference.
Part of this new funding will also establish a two billion dollar Global Education Fund that calls on the world to join together in eliminating the global education deficit, similar to what the 9/11 commission proposed. Because we cannot hope to shape a world where opportunity outweighs danger unless we ensure that every child, everywhere, is taught to build and not to destroy.
I know that many Americans are skeptical about the value of foreign aid today. But as the U.S. military made clear in Camp Lemonier, a relatively small investment in these fragile states up front can be one of the most effective ways to prevent the terror and strife that is far more costly – both in lives and treasure – down the road. In this way, $50 billion a year in foreign aid – which is less than one-half of one percent of our GDP – doesn’t sound as costly when you consider that last year, the Pentagon spent nearly double that amount in Iraq alone.
Finally, while America can help others build more secure societies, we must never forget that only the citizens of these nations can sustain them. The corruption I heard about while visiting parts of Africa has been around for decades, but the hunger to eliminate such corruption is a growing and powerful force among people there. And so in these places where fear and want still thrive, we must couple our aid with an insistent call for reform.
We must do so not in the spirit of a patron, but the spirit of a partner – a partner that is mindful of its own imperfections. Extending an outstretched hand to these states must ultimately be more than just a matter of expedience or even charity. It must be about recognizing the inherent equality and worth of all people. And it’s about showing the world that America stands for something – that we can still lead.
These are the ways we will answer the challenge that arrived on our shores that September morning more than five years ago. A 21st century military to stay on the offense, from Djibouti to Kandahar. Global efforts to keep the world’s deadliest weapons out of the world’s most dangerous hands. Stronger alliances to share information, pool resources, and break up terrorist networks that operate in more than eighty countries. And a stronger push to defeat the terrorists’ message of hate with an agenda for hope around the world.
It’s time we had a President who can do this again – who can speak directly to the world, and send a message to all those men and women beyond our shores who long for lives of dignity and security that says “You matter to us. Your future is our future. And our moment is now.”
It’s time, as well, for a President who can build a consensus at home for this ambitious but necessary course. For in the end, no foreign policy can succeed unless the American people understand it and feel a stake in its success – and unless they trust that their government hears their more immediate concerns as well. After all, we will not be able to increase foreign aid if we fail to invest in security and opportunity for our own people. We cannot negotiate trade agreements to help spur development in poor countries so long as we provide no meaningful help to working Americans burdened by the dislocations of a global economy. We cannot expect Americans to support placing our men and women in harm’s way if we cannot prove that we will use force wisely and judiciously.
But if the next President can restore the American people’s trust – if they know that he or she is acting with their best interests at heart, with prudence and wisdom and some measure of humility – then I believe the American people will be ready to see America lead again.
They will be ready to show the world that we are not a country that ships prisoners in the dead of night to be tortured in far off countries. That we are not a country that runs prisons which lock people away without ever telling them why they are there or what they are charged with. That we are not a country which preaches compassion and justice to others while we allow bodies to float down the streets of a major American city.
That is not who we are.
America is the country that helped liberate a continent from the march of a madman. We are the country that told the brave people of a divided city that we were Berliners too. We sent generations of young people to serve as ambassadors for peace in countries all over the world. And we’re the country that rushed aid throughout Asia for the victims of a devastating tsunami.
Now it’s our moment to lead – our generation’s time to tell another great American story. So someday we can tell our children that this was the time when we helped forge peace in the Middle East. That this was the time when we confronted climate change and secured the weapons that could destroy the human race. This was the time when we brought opportunity to those forgotten corners of the world. And this was the time when we renewed the America that has led generations of weary travelers from all over the world to find opportunity, and liberty, and hope on our doorstep.
One of these travelers was my father. I barely knew him, but when, after his death, I finally took my first trip to his tiny village in Kenya and asked my grandmother if there was anything left from him, she opened a trunk and took out a stack of letters, which she handed to me.
There were more than thirty of them, all handwritten by my father, all addressed to colleges and universities across America, all filled with the hope of a young man who dreamed of more for his life.
It is because someone in this country answered that prayer that I stand before you today with faith in our future, confidence in our story, and a determination to do my part in writing our country’s next great chapter.
The American moment has not passed. The American moment is here. And like generations before us, we will seize that moment, and begin the world anew. Thank you.
The Bill Moyers documentary on our failed and barren press
When Bill Moyers returned to PBS on Wednesday, I tried to recall this week what I'd said when I appeared on his show in early April 2003 -- as U.S. troops were about to topple Saddam. Did I make a fool myself? A transcript soon told all.
By Greg Mitchell
(April 25, 2007) -- Bill Moyers Journal returned to PBS on Wednesday night with a powerful indictment of the media for its failures in the run-up to the Iraq war. Last week, in previewing "Buying the War," I tried to recall exactly when I was a guest on Moyers' previous PBS series, NOW. It was right around the time our invasion of Iraq in late-March 2003, but was it just before or after the war started?
And what did we mainly talk about? I guessed it had to do with the mixed editorial views of newspapers. Did I say anything I'd now regret, such as predicting that we'd surely be hailed as liberators by the Iraqis?
How time flies when you're tearing another country, and your own, apart.
Curiosity finally got the best of me, and I managed to find a transcript of the chat on the Web. Turns out it took place on April 4, 2003, just a few days before the American forces took Baghdad. By then, it was clear the U.S. was headed for a quick (apparent) victory. Indeed, the interview concluded with Moyers asking, "Do you have a sense that when the battle is over, this story's only begun?"
Apparently I replied: "I don't think most Americans understand that this is going to be something that's with us for years and decades, and I'm not sure we get a sense of that from the coverage which seems to be oriented towards next week or next month, when the battle will be over. The boys will start to come home, and it will be a glorious episode in our past rather than something that's just the beginning of this story.
"We're really at the beginning of the story of the US and Iraq and the 21st century."
Here are a few other comments on still-relevant war and press issues from back then.
MOYERS: Do you think the public knows that the reporters who are embedded had to sign a contract with the Pentagon in order to be accepted for this role? That they had to agree to play by the rules?
MITCHELL: Well, it's a good question whether they know but also whether they care. I think, as we found in polls over the years, that the American people... believe that there should be all sorts of restrictions. And, of course, everyone agrees that in war time there should be more restrictions. But the question is, to what degree? And we've seen in our interviews with editors in the past couple weeks, many cases of editors getting a lot of mail from readers who are upset about their coverage. And it shows that the people have a really different view about what the rights and the responsibilities of the press are.
MOYERS: I saw your story about USA TODAY the other day... the editor of USA TODAY got in trouble for this photograph, didn't he?
MITCHELL: Well, they ran a photograph of some dead Iraqi soldiers on the front page. And a large number of readers, they told us, complained because on the same day they ran a photo inside of a U.S. soldier surrounded by happy Iraqi children. And so these people were saying, "Why wasn't that photo on the front page instead of the dead Iraqi soldiers?"
And the executive editor of USA TODAY told us that, yeah, the reason was simple. It was a day of great bloodshed. One of those days of great pessimism. And he thought it would have been inappropriate and misleading to show this happy photo on the front page. So he went with the more grim photo.
Another example I'll give you, the DALLAS MORNING NEWS editor told us that they've gotten a lot of complaints for showing dead civilians or damaged civilians of Iraqis on the on the front page. And he says that it's viewed by the readers as an anti-war statement... showing the casualties on the other side is an anti-war statement. And that really goes against all the principles of press coverage that we believe in which is, you know, showing what is happening. And letting the people deal with it as they can.
MOYERS: Do you think that journalists can be objective about what they're reporting when they are alongside the troops who are protecting them as they move forward?
MITCHELL: Well, I think that's one of the problems. These reporters have been living with these troops. Reporting with them, getting to know them. And, of course, that's all terrific. You know, no one could really be against that.
But in practice it could modify or adjust what they report about the actions....One of the problems in this whole campaign has been that originally we were told that the embedded reporters would only make up maybe half of the reporters who would be covering the conflict. The rest would be independent. But what's happened is because of the dangers over there-- almost all the reporters are the embedded reporters. So there's very few free-roaming reporters who can report without any restrictions whatsoever.
But the problem is that the commentators on TV have almost from the beginning adopted a "we" attitude. They now are reporting, "We are advancing. We are taking fire. We are taking prisoners."
So all objectivity has been dropped. And, as human beings, I think we could agree it's understandable in this situation. But, as journalists, it's not the best situation where commentators, anchormen-- reporters in the field -- are talking about this as a "we" rather than a U.S. mission or the U.S. soldiers.
MOYERS: Fox News has become the cheerleader for the government. What does it do to other news organizations when Fox proves that jingoism is more popular than journalism?
MITCHELL: I think the problem with that is that a lot of the other-- particularly the cable news networks have-- felt that they have to keep up with that. I think there's a certain competition to show that they're not soft on the war, that they don't have any less patriotism than Fox. And we've seen it just this morning. I saw an interview on CNN with an Australian woman who had been in Baghdad and had just left. And the woman kept saying that, you know, she was amazed how much the Iraqi people, although they may not like Saddam Hussein, were very angry about the bombings.
Many of their children had been injured or killed....And the person who was the interviewer back in the U.S. asked her one aggressive question after another. After he finished talking to her, he then sort of editorialized on the air, saying-- "Well, we've talked to countless people who say that the Iraqi civilians will welcome with open arms the American soldiers."
Now that may or may not be true. But the point is that even after one of the rare kind of dissenting or contrary opinions was expressed, the anchor felt he had to then jump in and editorialize, saying, "You can disregard what this woman said. You know, we have other information."
The press should report straight down the line. You know, let the people see all sides. Let the people get all the information as quickly as they can. And let the chips fall where they may....
MOYERS: What concerns you about what's not being covered?
MITCHELL: My complaint is with the cable news networks that are on 24/7 and yet have found virtually no time to interview psychologists and theologians and other observers who could talk about what this is doing to us what this is doing to us as a country.
MOYERS: Do you see as much cheerleading in the print press as you do on television?
MITCHELL: No, I think the print press has played it more straight down the line. They've had a more variety of stories. They have had reports from Baghdad itself. More reports on what people are saying around the world. More reports on protests pro and con about the war. More range of editorial opinions. So I think the print press and newspapers have done a much better job, a more reflective job.
MOYERS: What do you think is stake for democracy and how we journalists cover this war?
MITCHELL: Edward R. Murrow had a quote on his wall in his office from Thoreau in which he said something like, "To speak the truth, you need two people. One to speak it and one to hear it."
And I think that sums up the relationship not only between the military and the press but the press and the American people. You know, the press often is reporting factual matters. And the public sometimes turns away from it. We entered this war, with upwards of half the people in the country believing that Saddam Hussein was behind the 9/11 attack.
Now, how did that happen? Was that the media's fault? Was it the government's fault for putting out the stories? Or is the public sometimes not receptive, and the public wants to believe what the public wants to believe?
MOYERS: Last question. Do you have a sense that when the battle is over, this story's only begun?
MITCHELL: "I don't think most Americans understand that this is going to be something that's with us for years and decades, and I'm not sure we get a sense of that from the coverage which seems to be oriented towards next week or next month, when the battle will be over. The boys will start to come home, and it will be a glorious episode in our past rather than something that's just the beginning of this story.
"We're really at the beginning of the story of the US and Iraq and the 21st century."
Greg Mitchell (firstname.lastname@example.org) is editor.
Thursday April 26, 2007
Islamic insurgents fire on Ethiopian positions in Mogadishu. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
The war that we worried about has not only started but has taken a turn we never thought was possible. The latest fighting has been going on for nine days. It seems the shelling never stops. On Saturday night it was raining and we could not make out what was thunder and what was artillery. Both sides are firing indiscriminately. Even the normally quiet areas are under attack. From my house in K4 I can see branches falling where the bullets are hitting.
In other areas it is far worse. There are burned bodies in burned-out houses. People are being buried by the roadside in shallow graves.
There are so many wounded people; from babies to 90-year-olds. They are brought to the hospitals near my house in wheelbarrows and donkey carts, bleeding, missing limbs.
The smells and sounds are unbearable. I find myself crying. I need to go to the hospitals to chronicle what is happening. But it is getting too hard emotionally. As a reporter for Reuters I am an observer, but I am also a human being.
I grew up in Mogadishu and returned to the city last July with my young son Liban, who is 10. He was born in North America but I wanted him to live among his relatives and to learn to speak proper Somali.
We came because we had heard that the warlords had been defeated and that we did not need to move around with bodyguards. The beaches were open and safe.
My 64-year-old mother, who was living in Canada but struggling in the cold winters also returned to Mogadishu. So did two of my brothers who had been living abroad. For a few months we were all happy.
Even when the war with Ethiopia started we decided to stay because the Islamists said they would not fight for Mogadishu in order to spare the city from the mayhem we are seeing today.
Now I am the only one in my family left. My son and my brothers are in North America and my mother is in Kenya with my nephews and nieces.
At my home near the airport I now have five other journalists staying with me because their houses are in areas that are being heavily shelled. They joke and call themselves Internally Displaced Journalists.
We often report from the roof of my house because it is too dangerous to move around the city. We must walk a very fine line. Not only are we afraid of getting killed in fighting as innocent bystanders, but by reporting the reality you quickly create enemies.
My sons phone everyday from Toronto to ask why I am still here and doing this to them. Even local people here ask why I am staying when I could get out. I tell them that I want to show the world what is going on. But they say that the world doesn't care or this would not be happening to us.
By Carla Binion
Online Journal Associate Editor
Apr 26, 2007, 00:44
It’s astonishing that members of Congress are either unaware George W. Bush and Dick Cheney lied the nation into war with Iraq, or they are aware of the fact and don’t care. A Congress grounded in reality would have unequivocally acknowledged the administration’s lies long ago and taken appropriate action -- almost certainly impeachment.
If we say the pre-war lies don’t matter and the country should sweep them under the rug and only focus on the best way out of Iraq, what we’re really saying is that the truth itself doesn’t matter. If we say we should look away from the fact that thousands of U.S. soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died for a lie, we’re saying the lost lives don’t matter, the war-injured and maimed don’t matter, America’s honor and integrity don’t matter.
The logic-free anti-impeachment excuse is that the nation can’t handle running the country and impeachment simultaneously. John Nichols wrote in The Nation recently, “[House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi fears that impeachment would distract from the Democratic legislative agenda and provoke an electoral backlash.”
However, the bottom line is the country can’t afford to let Bush and Cheney get away with deceiving us into a costly and bloody war. Decisions on a matter of this weight shouldn’t be based on fear, whether fear of an impeded agenda or threat of backlash.
According to Nichols, such fears are unwarranted. He mentions the Watergate Congress was able to carry out a complex agenda in addition to conducting impeachment proceedings against Nixon. Nichols also points out that “Democrats had one of their best years ever at the polls after pressuring Nixon out of office.”
The public would likely reward congressional Democrats for their courage if they impeached Bush and Cheney. Impeachment proceedings will shed additional light on the administration’s malfeasance, and the increased exposure would likely cause the country to support the Democrats’ efforts.
Though Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) filed articles of impeachment against Cheney on April 25, he hasn’t gained support from certain members of Congress. According to an article by the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer declined to support Kucinich’s efforts. Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the House Democratic caucus, said, “Dennis can do what he wants; I’m not going to support it.”
It’s ironic that Kucinich is dismissed while Hoyer and Emanuel are actually the ones with the frivolous position. What could be more superficial and feckless than Hoyer’s and Emanuel’s writing off the idea of impeachment without first examining the abundant evidence for it?
The case for impeaching Bush and Cheney has already been made by prominent public figures, including former Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman. In a January 2006 article for The Nation, Holtzman says, “A President can commit no more serious crime against our democracy than lying to Congress and the American people to get them to support a military action or war.”
Holtzman continues, “Given that the consequences can be death for hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands of people -- as well as the diversion of vast sums of money to the war effort -- the fraud cannot be tolerated.” Members of Congress should read the entire Holtzman article.
Impeachment opponents say Bush and Cheney haven’t committed documented impeachable offenses. However, Michael Schudson writes in Watergate In American Memory, “A president can be impeached not only for directly engaging in criminal acts but for failing to fulfill his oath of office, failing to see in good faith that the laws of the land are executed. There is no legal ‘bar’ to interpreting impeachment in this light.”
Any member of Congress who doubts the Bush administration lied and fixed the intelligence around the Iraq policy should read the many books and articles which detail the deceptions. In Worse Than Watergate, John Dean, former counsel to President Richard Nixon says, “The evidence is overwhelming, certainly sufficient for a prima facie case, that George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney have engaged in deceit and deception over going to war in Iraq. This is an impeachable offense.”
Dean states, “Bush deliberately violated the very authorization he sought from Congress, which was not merely a serious breach of faith with a trusting Congress, but a statutory and constitutional crime.” He reminds us that Bush lied to Congress at a classified briefing when he claimed Saddam Hussein had biological and chemical weapons and was able to use them, via unmanned drone aircraft, against the United States.
According to Dean, at a congressional leadership meeting on October 3, 2002, Bush falsely claimed Saddam’s regime had the ability and materials needed to build nuclear weapons. Dean also notes that Bush deceived Congress in his January 28, 2003, State of the Union address when he falsely claimed Iraq had sought uranium from Niger.
Peter Eisner is a veteran foreign correspondent and is currently an editor at the Washington Post. Recently he discussed his book, The Italian Letter: How the Bush Administration Used a Fake Letter to Build the Case for War in Iraq, in a Democracy Now broadcast with interviewer Amy Goodman.
Goodman asked about the CIA’s role regarding the misleading Niger claim. Eisner said, “The CIA actually had attempted to block the statement . . . There was quite an argument between lower CIA officials and White House staff . . . Finally, George Tenet, the head of the CIA, had to intercede on October 7 and demand that the White House remove the sentence describing uranium purchases in Niger.”
However, Bush did include the sentence in his address. He omitted any mention of U.S. intelligence reports, saying only that the information came from British intelligence. During the interview with Eisner, Amy Goodman aired a portion of her earlier Democracy Now interview with former Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Well before the State of the Union, Wilson had told the CIA the British reports weren’t reliable.
Wilson said Bush referred to British intelligence and left out reference to U.S. intelligence, because the CIA had refuted the claim. He adds, “So there was real deception there. This was not just an accident. This was not a slip of the tongue. These were people who wanted to put something in there that was actually deceptive to the U.S. Congress and to the American people.”
Goodman returned to the discussion with Eisner and asked whether Congress might later consider impeachment. He responded, “What do we know that President Bush himself knew about this, and what do we know the Vice President knew . . . Of all people, Vice President Cheney is not just some latter-day vice president that had no relationship to the intelligence community.”
Eisner added, “[Cheney] was considered one of the most minute analysts of information that was coming in. He knew more than many other people that Italian military intelligence was providing this information, and he also knew there were highly placed doubts about all of the information . . . So there’s a lot of investigation to be done, subpoenas to be issued, before I would know enough to talk about impeachment.”
The investigation and subpoenas should go forward, and Congress shouldn’t let administration officials get away with evading the subpoenas or whitewashing and covering up the facts. Given the vast amount of evidence on public record and easily available to Congress, it’s likely that any honest, rigorous investigation would lead to impeachment.
Though impeachment isn’t the focus of his book, David Corn lists dozens of Bush’s and Cheney’s serious deceptions in The Lies of George W. Bush. The information in this book alone would give any member of Congress ample reason to issue subpoenas and follow up with impeachment proceedings.
Corn makes it clear the Bush administration exaggerated the threat from Iraq and lied about and fixed the intelligence. He describes how Bush, in his 2003 State of the Union Address, falsely implied that U.N. inspectors believed Iraq had large amounts of WMD.
Instead, U.N. inspectors expressed doubt, stating they had dismantled Iraq’s key weapons-making facilities and destroyed most existing WMD. Corn refers to a September 2002 report by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). The document said: “There is no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing or stockpiling chemical weapons, or whether Iraq has -- or will -- establish its chemical warfare production facilities.”
In conclusion, Corn says it was obvious Bush had “misinformed -- if not misled -- his own country and the world. It was undeniable that he had launched a war on the basis of false assertions . . . George W. Bush had also provided the entire world with good reason to doubt the word of America. And that was unlikely to make the nation safer.”
Many Americans act as if we’re aware the administration deceived us into invading Iraq, while others, including some in Congress, operate as if they fail to see that reality. Those who don’t or won’t see and respond to what actually happened are living in a make-believe state of mind, a form of denial that resembles a psychotic break with reality.
Burying the pre-war lies under the rug harms this country on many levels. The national pretending is disturbing, because Bush’s and Cheney’s pre-war fabrications aren’t just any lies; they’re lies that led to, and continue to cause, widespread loss of life and limb, not only for Americans, but also for soldiers of other nationalities and for Iraqi civilians.
Congress’s failure to confront the untruths that led to the death and bloodshed dishonors those who suffered and died for the lies. When people acknowledge on some occasions that Bush and Cheney lied us into war, yet at other times act as if the lies never happened, they have one foot in reality and the other in a world of make-believe.
Many members of Congress, the media and the American public float along day to day, pretending the administration has been truthful, behaving as if nothing can be done to set right the fact that we were lied into war. How did we get to the point where vast numbers of citizens turn a blind eye by choice?
Imagine American streets filled with the blood of the war’s victims, citizens moving forward doggedly, smiling vacantly, with self-centered plans and agendas, oblivious to the wet red substance. This is America today, sloshing through knee-deep blood in the land of make-believe, living in heart crushing denial about gravely significant events.
A nation that doesn’t care enough about the truth to investigate tenaciously and impeach Bush and Cheney if the probe warrants, is a nation divorced from reality and conscience. No fear-based or politically expedient excuse could possibly justify Congress’s hesitating to pursue this issue in a sober, principled and timely manner.