OBAMA TO END NATIONAL HEALTHCARE CRISIS WITH EMERGENCY EXECUTIVE ORDER
Now there would the headline of the decade, and it is a possibility.
A Merciful End To The Insanity On The Right.
A Merciful End To The Insanity On The Right.
“When future historians ask how the United States came not only to practice torture but to celebrate it and treat torturers as heroes, a special place in hell among the journalists who embraced and justified it should be reserved for Chris Wallace.”
Given The Healthcare mess the Republicans have so artfully crafted; the President should leak the following plan, which should this not move the Congress, he should go on national TV and sign the Executive order for every voter in America to witness.
President Obama should give the Congress until their next recess to put a real reform package on his desk for signing, and if it’s not there…
He should leak his intention to do the following: ( that would be easy…a simple conversation between Rahm and George Stephanopoulos any morning.)
President Obama should declare the dysfunctional corrupted and industry-polluted health reform plans in Congress dead and simply announce that by executive order, he is lowering the age for Medicare to 55, and is switching all Medicaid patients in the country over to Medicare (with the intention of lowering that age by five years every year until all Americans are covered), and shutting down the Medicaid program.
He should then submit a bill to Congress establishing a temporary government-owned insurance company, open to all, with no restrictions on its ability to set pricing and reimbursement rates or to negotiate discounts from hospitals, doctors and pharmacy companies. Or alternatively, the bill could enable anyone to simply buy into Medicare.
He should tell Democrats and Republicans alike that any member of Congress who votes against that bill will not see any bill with her or his name on it get his signature in his remaining years in office. The government company would be phased out once Medicare covered everyone.
Congress could be expected to howl at the use of an executive order to expand Medicare, but the president could (SHOULD) declare a national health emergency as justification, saying the recession had thrown too many people off of health insurance, and that as well, states are in dire fiscal shape and laying off workers because of the increased Medicaid burden.
Removing older workers from employers' health insurance plans would be a huge shot in the arm for struggling companies, as they are the biggest users of health care. Lifting the $400 billion cost of Medicare from state governments would free up money to prevent the layoff of state and local employees, which is threatening to stifle economic recovery.
Just watch the Democrats come together and run over the Republicans like tall weeds under an industrial mower!
And while he’s at it he should silence the pundit puke that is attempting to paint him as the second coming of Jimmy Carter and as disengaged from the process with the following announcements and pronouncements.
(1) That he is sickened by the information he has received about the prior administration's torture program, and that he is encouraging his attorney general to fully investigate it, and to prosecute to the full extent of the law anyone, no matter how high up in the military or in government, who authorized torture or who covered it up.
(2) That any requests for action and investigation of War Crimes made by the UN will be honored and any citizen initiative to prosecute further at The Hague will be supported.
(3) That any further stimulus funding deemed necessary will not be extended to the two, still troubled auto makers unless 2/3 of any new such funds extended to them is devoted to R&D resulting in the production of a true pure unplugged, self recharging automobile.
(4) Such funds for said research, development and production will be extended to any University, Battery maker or technology enterprise resulting in same.
(5) That any further state stimulus monies will be supplied in Grant form and that submitted requests must generate jobs and employment, and in the instances of infra structure improvement, ie., new bridges and highways, electric rail system, that only American made materials will be employed…principally steel.
(6) That a new GI Bill will be sent to Congress along with a total revision of Federal Student Loans Program that is rational.
(7) That no further troops will be authorized for Afghanistan and that a new battlefield strategy of enemy location, isolation and destruction technology based will be employed and accompanied by a program of job creation in that nation to sap the Taliban pool of recruitment and destruction of poppy fields and there conversion into productive agriculture.
(8) That the US will begin a UN initiative to establish an all nation peace keeping supervisory force to stabilize the Middle East.
"Dominatrix" Bachmann on Health Care: "Slit Our Wrists And Become Blood Brothers
The Crazy Lady Is At It Again!
By ERNEST LUNING 8/31/09 9:49 PM
U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachmann, a Minnesota Republican, chats with a supporter at an Independence Institute fundraiser in Denver on Aug. 31. (Photo/Ernest Luning)
DENVER — In a fiery speech that had her conservative Colorado audience cheering, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann railed against the dangers of health care reform and other Democratic initiatives, warning the proposals “have the strength to destroy this country forever.”
“This cannot pass,” the Minnesota Republican told a crowd at a Denver gathering sponsored by the Independence Institute. “What we have to do today is make a covenant, to slit our wrists, be blood brothers on this thing. This will not pass. We will do whatever it takes to make sure this doesn’t pass.”
“Something is way crazy out there,”Bachmann said in her remarks, billed as a “personal legislative briefing” by the Golden-based Independence Institute, which bills itself as a “free market think tank.”
“This is slavery,” Bachmann said after claiming many Americans pay half their income to taxes. “It’s nothing more than slavery.”
In a speech filled with urgent and violent rhetoric, Bachmann — who proudly acknowledges she is the country’s “second-most hated Republican woman,” behind only former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin – drew a clear line on health care reform.
“You’re either for us or against us on this issue,” she said after deriding U.S. Rep. Betsy Markey, a Fort Collins Democrat, for “[sitting] on the fence” about health care proposals at recent town halls.
Bachmann earlier this month joined former U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, the Republican ousted from office last year by Markey, in a telephone town hall where she told abortion opponents the health care “battle will be won – on our knees in prayer and fasting.”
At times, Bachmann’s legislative briefing sounded more like the plot of a slasher movie.
“Right now, we are looking at reaching down the throat and ripping the guts out of freedom,” she said. “And we may never be able to restore it if we don’t man up and take this one on.”
While Bachmann didn’t ask this audience to “rise up” against President Barack Obama’s tyrannical rule, they stood anyway and applauded when she announced she was No. 1 on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s list of “top targets.”
Despite health care reform proponents recently facing “the summer of discontent for Democrats,” Bachmann predicted Pelosi has the muscle to keep the legislation on a fast track.
“[Pelosi] will slam this through in the month of September,” Bachmann said, even if she has to “break the arms of the Blue Dogs.” Then it comes down to the Senate, where Bachmann said “the lobbyists and special interests only have to hover around 15 senators,” with a bill expected by the end of the year.
Bachmann urged those opposed to Democratic plans for health care reform to keep applying pressure.
“This has to be defeated,” she said. “Cap and Trade has to be defeated. Those two alone have the strength to destroy this country forever, so we have to defeat them.”
Rather than hand over the health care industry’s “18 percent” of the economy to control by the federal government, which Bachmann warned would create “a critical mass [where] you are no longer a free-market economy,” she offered her own set of proposals to fix the system:
• “Erase the boundaries around every single state when it comes to health care,” enabling consumers to purchase insurance across state lines;
• increase the use of health savings accounts and allow everyone to “take full deductibility of all medical expenses,” including insurance premiums;
• and throw in tort reform.
“Do a few other tweaks and you’re there,” Bachmann said. “Your whole crisis is gone.”
Bachmann closed by urging the audience at the nonpartisan group’s fundraiser to defeat Democrats at the ballot box.
“You can win these seats back,” she urged the audience. “Hey, I got elected in Franken country!”
Noting that she heard plenty of carping about Markey over the weekend when she spoke at a conference in Steamboat Springs, Bachmann zeroed in on a vulnerability the freshman Democrat might face.
Even though professional organizers packed Markey’s recent town halls with reform advocates “all paid to be there,” Bachmann claimed, “regular normal Americans were allowed in too.” This left Markey no choice but to straddle the issue, her colleague suggested.
“She sat on the fence,” Bachmann said. “She didn’t say she’d support Obama-care or not. That’s her Achilles heel, that’s where you go after her. Because this is so clear, you’re either for us or against us on this issue.”
“When future historians ask how the United States came not only to practice torture but to celebrate it and treat torturers as heroes, a special place in hell among the journalists who embraced and justified it should be reserved for Chris Wallace.”
Alan Colmes' Liberaland » Gun Toter At Obama Event Supports Hate ...
This is so damn sick! Send in the Secret Service to send this man straight to hell. I actually did not have a strong liking to Bush, but never wanted him dead. Impeached along with Cheney, but dead no… We are better than that. ...
Alan Colmes' Liberaland - http://www.alan.com/
What the hell gives Cheney the right to decide whether or not he is going to cooperate with a Special prosecutor? Last week after it was announced there would be an investigation we wondered Who will take the fall and will it go to the top like it should? Cut it off at the head doesn't only apply to killing snakes! All right this is a good start but I thought appointing special prosecutors is a waste of time and money but believe Holder will do this right for once. We now know veteran prosecutor John Durham has been appointed to the task of holding a so called limited investigation "narrow in scope" of the CIA and"illegal" torture techniques.
We saw narrow in scope when Clinton was investigated for Whitewater and we ended up with Monica Lewinsky and Impeachment under Ken Starr? We are now hearing of CIA threats to kill suspects kids. One terrorist suspect was told his Mother would be sexually assaulted in front of him. One was told his family would be killed.Waving a handgun next to a prisoners head, revving a power drill next to his head while shackled and hand cuffed' whether you agree with it or not this is torture!
Bush Lawyers who okayed this torture and Cheney, Rummy, and Rice, who gave the go ahead should be prosecuted period. Cheney, Rummy, Rice, the Attorney General, they are the ones who should all be held accountable. They were the lying underhanded enablers in all the Bush misadministration injustice. They should not get away scot free but I expect they will. I think it is great that officially the White House is staying out of this and they must. I am sure Bush pundits made a deal with him that there would be no prosecutions by him of higher ups.
I think it is not only calculated but great that the White House is staying out of this. This is perfect because Eric Holder will take charge. The special prosecutors will start with the interrogators and go right to the top. As you know I think the interrogators thought they were protected so should be disciplined but keep their jobs. However when they do get to the top heads should roll and holder is the man to see it through!
by Jeremy Scahill, September 01, 2009
Some parts of Blackwater’s clandestine work for the CIA have begun to leak out from behind the iron curtain of secrecy. The company’s role in the secret assassination program and its continued involvement in the CIA drone attacks that occur regularly in Afghanistan and Pakistan have become front-page material in the Washington Post and New York Times. There is much more to this story than has been reported publicly, and details will continue to emerge, particularly about Blackwater’s aviation division(s).
Now we learn (unsurprisingly) that Blackwater offered "foreign" operatives to work on the CIA assassination program. Blackwater told the CIA that it "could put people on the ground to provide the surveillance and support – all of the things you need to conduct an operation," a former senior CIA official familiar with the secret program told the Associated Press. If that’s true, those foreign individuals would appear to have been privy to information that vice president Cheney and other U.S. officials deemed not appropriate for congressional ears, not to mention oversight.
In light of all of these developments, it is important to remember how Erik Prince essentially hired George W. Bush’s top people from the CIA’s directorate of operations to create his own private CIA, Total Intelligence Solutions. He also offered Alvin "Buzzy" Krongard, the former number-three man at the CIA, a paid position on Blackwater’s board. Buzzy was the guy who got Blackwater its first known CIA contract back in 2002 in Afghanistan. Buzzy is also the one whining about the CIA’s "morale" problem, in light of the recent scandals, in theWashington Post. "Morale at the agency is down to minus 50," hetold the paper.
When you hear reports that a "private" company was hired to do clandestine work, remember that this particular "private" company, Blackwater, is, in part, being run by Agency veterans, including several of the top people running the torture and assassination programs under Bush. At the end of the day, using Blackwater and/or other companies represents taking covert, lethal operations even further away from anything vaguely resembling oversight by the Congress.
By using ex-Agency people instead of "current" Agency personnel, yet another barrier is thrown up and the case for "plausible deniability" becomes stronger. When you are dealing with a billionaire like Erik Prince who apparently viewed himself as a crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and Islam globally, as has been alleged by a former Blackwater official, it is not difficult to imagine how all of this could remain – at least in part – off the books. Would it be a great shock if we learn that Prince volunteered some of his men or his company’s time to lethal missions for the CIA free of charge? "I’m not a financially driven guy," Prince told Congress in October 2007. Take that with a grain of salt, but it is probably not flat out false. He was a believer in the crusade.
That is why it is essential that Congress dig deep into all aspects of the CIA assassination program and Blackwater’s total involvement. But it is important to remember that it is so much bigger than this one company and certainly bigger than one clandestine program.
Also, it is very important to remember this: Blackwater is hardly alone. Salon.com’s Tim Shorrock obtained documents in 2007 from the office of the Directorate of National Intelligence (DNI) showing that Washington spends some $42 billion annually on private intelligence contractors, up from $17.5 billion in 2000. That means 70 percent of the U.S. intelligence budget is going to private companies. "This is the magnet now. Everything is being attracted to these private companies in terms of individuals and expertise and functions that were normally done by the intelligence community," former CIA division chief and senior analyst Melvin Goodman told me a year ago. "My major concern is the lack of accountability, the lack of responsibility. The entire industry is essentially out of control. It’s outrageous."
Attorney General Eric Holder should appoint a special prosecutor just to examine the role that Blackwater and other "private contractors" have played – from the jump – in the torture program, the extraordinary rendition program and the assassination program to name a few. And it should not be just about the operatives in the field. Who hired Erik Prince’s men? Who authorized these contracts? Who "managed" their operations in the field? What exactly did they do? At Guantanamo, there were contractors involved with torture. Same at Abu Ghraib. Same at Bagram. This all needs to be dismantled and investigated.
Blackwater’s Private Spies: A Bush-Era CIA Who’s Who
As for Blackwater’s role, I wrote about Prince’s private CIA last summer for The Nation in a piece called "Blackwater’s Private Spies," but thought it would be relevant to repost some of what I laid out then because it is extremely relevant to what is happening right now. (One note: Robert Richer recently left Prince’s employ.) Excerpt:
Total Intelligence, which opened for business in February 2007, is a fusion of three entities bought up by Prince: the Terrorism Research Center, Technical Defense and The Black Group – Blackwater vice chair Cofer Black’s consulting agency. The company’s leadership reads like a Who’s Who of the CIA’s "war on terror" operations after 9/11. In addition to the 28-year CIA veteran Black, who is chair of Total Intelligence, the company’s executives include CEO Robert Richer, the former associate deputy director of the agency’s Directorate of Operations and the second-ranking official in charge of clandestine operations. From 1999 to 2004, Richer was head of the CIA’s Near East and South Asia Division, where he ran clandestine operations throughout the Middle East and South Asia. As part of his duties, he was the CIA liaison with Jordan’s King Abdullah, a key U.S. ally and Blackwater client, and briefed George W. Bush on the burgeoning Iraqi resistance in its early stages.
Total Intelligence’s chief operating officer is Enrique "Ric" Prado, a 24-year CIA veteran and former senior executive officer in the Directorate of Operations. He spent more than a decade working in the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center and 10 years with the CIA’s "paramilitary" Special Operations Group. Prado and Black worked closely at the CIA. Prado also served in Latin America with José Rodriguez, who gained infamy late last year after it was revealed that as director of the National Clandestine Service at the CIA he was allegedly responsible for destroying videotapes of interrogations of prisoners, during which "enhanced interrogation techniques," including waterboarding, were reportedly used. Richer told the New York Times he recalled many conversations with Rodriguez about the tapes. "He would always say, ‘I’m not going to let my people get nailed for something they were ordered to do,’" Richer said of his former boss. Before the scandal, there were reports that Blackwater had been "aggressively recruiting" Rodriguez. He has since retired from the CIA.
The leadership of Total Intelligence also includes Craig Johnson, a 27-year CIA officer who specialized in Central and South America, and Caleb "Cal" Temple, who joined the company straight out of the Defense Intelligence Agency, where he served from 2004 to ‘06 as chief of the Office of Intelligence Operations in the Joint Intelligence Task Force – Combating Terrorism. According to his Total Intelligence bio, Temple directed the "DIA’s 24/7 analytic terrorism target development and other counterterrorism intelligence activities in support of military operations worldwide. He also oversaw 24/7 global counterterrorism indications and warning analysis for the U.S. Defense Department." The company also boasts officials drawn from the Drug Enforcement Agency and the FBI.
Total Intelligence is run out of an office on the ninth floor of a building in the Ballston area of Arlington, Va. Its "Global Fusion Center," complete with large-screen TVs broadcasting international news channels and computer stations staffed by analysts surfing the Web, "operates around the clock every day of the year" and is modeled after the CIA’s counterterrorist center, once run by Black. The firm employs at least 65 full-time staff – some estimates say it’s closer to 100. "Total Intel brings the … skills traditionally honed by CIA operatives directly to the board room," Black said when the company launched. "With a service like this, CEOs and their security personnel will be able to respond to threats quickly and confidently – whether it’s determining which city is safest to open a new plant in or working to keep employees out of harm’s way after a terrorist attack."
Black insists, "This is a completely legal enterprise. We break no laws. We don’t go anywhere near breaking laws. We don’t have to." But what services Total Intelligence is providing, and to whom, is shrouded in secrecy. It is clear, though, that the company is leveraging the reputations and inside connections of its executives. "Cofer can open doors," Richer told the Washington Post in 2007. "I can open doors. We can generally get in to see who we need to see. We don’t help pay bribes. We do everything within the law, but we can deal with the right minister or person." Black told the paper he and Richer spend a lot of their time traveling. "I am discreet in where I go and who I see. I spend most of my time dealing with senior people in governments, making connections." But it is clear that the existing connections from the former spooks’ time at the agency have brought business to Total Intelligence.
Take the case of Jordan. For years, Richer worked closely with King Abdullah, as his CIA liaison. As journalist Ken Silverstein reported, "The CIA has lavishly subsidized Jordan’s intelligence service, and has sent millions of dollars in recent years for intelligence training. After Richer retired, sources say, he helped Blackwater land a lucrative deal with the Jordanian government to provide the same sort of training offered by the CIA. Millions of dollars that the CIA ‘invested’ in Jordan walked out the door with Richer – if this were a movie, it would be a cross between Jerry Maguireand Syriana. ‘People [at the agency] are pissed off,’ said one source. ‘Abdullah still speaks with Richer regularly, and he thinks that’s the same thing as talking to us. He thinks Richer is still the man.’ Except in this case it’s Richer, not his client, yelling ’show me the money.’"
In a 2007 interview on the cable business network CNBC, Black was brought on as an analyst to discuss "investing in Jordan." At no point in the interview was Black identified as working for the Jordanian government. Total Intelligence was described as "a corporate consulting firm that includes investment strategy," while "Ambassador Black" was introduced as "a 28-year veteran of the CIA," the "top counterterror guy," and "a key planner for the breathtakingly rapid victory of American forces that toppled the Taliban in Afghanistan." Black heaped lavish praise on Jordan and its monarchy. "You have leadership, King Abdullah, His Majesty King Abdullah, who is certainly kind toward investors, very protective," Black said. "Jordan is, in our view, a very good investment. There are some exceptional values there." He said Jordan is in a region where there are "numerous commodities that are being produced and doing well."
With no hint of the brutality behind the exodus, Black argued that the flood of Iraqi refugees fleeing the violence of the U.S. occupation was good for potential investors in Jordan. "We get something like 600, 700,000 Iraqis that have moved from Iraq into Jordan that require cement, furniture, housing, and the like. So it is a – it is an island of growth and potential, certainly in that immediate area. So it looks good," he said. "There are opportunities for investment. It is not all bad. Sometimes Americans need to watch a little less TV…. But there is – there is opportunity in everything. That’s why you need situation awareness, and that’s one of the things that our company does. It provides the kinds of intelligence and insight to provide situational awareness so you can make the best investments."
Black and other Total Intelligence executives have turned their CIA careers, reputations, contacts, and connections into business opportunities. What they once did for the U.S. government, they now do for private interests. It is not difficult to imagine clients feeling as though they are essentially hiring the U.S. government to serve their own interests. In 2007 Richer told the Post that now that he is in the private sector, foreign military officials and others are more willing to give him information than they were when he was with the CIA. Richer recalled a conversation with a foreign general during which he was surprised at the potentially "classified" information the general revealed. When Richer asked why the general was giving him the information, he said the general responded, "If I tell it to an embassy official I’ve created espionage. You’re a business partner."
Read more by Jeremy Scahill
- Blackwater Founder Implicated in Murder – August 4th, 2009
- Senior Obama Official Backs Cheney and CIA – July 17th, 2009
- The Democrats’ Selective Amnesia on Assassination – July 15th, 2009
- Is Obama Continuing the Bush-Cheney Assassination Program? – July 14th, 2009
- Iraq’s ‘National Sovereignty Day’ is US-Style ‘Hallmark’ Hype – July 1st, 2009
Raw Story » Rep. Nadler: Cheney 'still fails to understand the law'
By Stephen C. Webster
Cheney added that he may dodge a conversation with the attorney general's special prosecutor on CIA torture. Cheney has admitted that he authorized many of the torture techniques applied to terror war prisoners. ...
Raw Story - http://rawstory.com/08/
Grant Lawrence--Bodhi Thunder: Blackwater Founder Accused of ...
By Grant Lawrence
"He had the intent, he provided the weapons, he provided the instructions, and they were done by his agents and they were war crimes.'' Judge T.S. Ellis III expressed deep skepticism about the claims. "Are you accusing Mr. Prince of ...
Grant Lawrence--Bodhi Thunder - http://grantlawrence.blogspot.com/
Well, frumps, there’s nothing I hate more than being sucked into a non-debate but this current non-debate about torture (i.e., Enhanced Interrogation Techniques) sucks so much that I’ve been caught in the undertow.
This past month kept us so busy with “grassroots” fun and games that we sort of ignored the major leaguers for a while (that’ll happen in the August “slump.”) With the release of more pieces of the CIA’s Report on interrogations, though, it came as no surprise when Dick Cheney came snarling back to life this weekend for a “softball” “water balloon” interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday (what? You were expecting journalism?). As Andrew Sullivan so succinctly put it, Chris Wallace was like “A Teenage Girl Interviewing The Jonas Brothers.” There, now I feel better.
Torture Is as Torture Does
Before I go any further into this I want to be clear that my personal position on the torture investigation is simple. Without any further investigation or ado, I have seen quite enough of photos, videos, documented accounts and various other souvenirs of The War on Terror to develop a firm conviction that, barring faked evidence (which no one has suggested), what occurred was shameful and sickening Torture, period.
What I saw being done to political prisoners, carried out and filmed by Americans, was indisputably morally wrong and illegal. If a foreign enemy had done any of these things to American prisoners, there would be no discussion or debate about whether or not it was torture or whether or not is was justifiable under the circumstances.
Any argument that these techniques were warranted to safeguard American lives is particularly galling coming out of the mouth of a man who had no problem sending thousands of Americans to die in his make-believe wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In my opinion, Dick Cheney should be socially shunned, excommunicated from American politics at any level and sent off to some remote spot where he will pose the least threat to the welfare of humankind. The man would be well-advised to take a page out of George Bush’s book and keep his head down and his mouth shut.
Cheney, true to form was instead anxiously and publicly awaiting the release of two magical memos from the CIA that he promised would not only exonerate him but reveal to us all, for the first time, what an inarguably heroic man our ex-Veep is. Cheney promised, more than once, that these memos would “show specifically what we gained” from the Enhanced Interrogation Program.
Are we all on the same page, here?
Well! Finally, the big day arrived and, guess what? Major Fizzle. Those memos were so collossally unhelpful that even Frances Townsend, a homeland security adviser and close confidante of Bush on terrorism, admitted on CNN that the report just doesn’t support what Cheney has said it would. Listen:
And before any Bush/Cheney apologists get cranked up, Frances Townsend is no born-again Obama fan. She’s one of yours. Townsend sounds to me like someone who really, really wanted to believe Cheney but had to own up in the end (Brava, by the way, Frances). She also still vigorously defends other aspects of the Bush Administration’s national security efforts. Most recently she came to bat for Tom Ridge who was beset with allegations that there was some political gaming going on with the National Security Threat Level during the Bush administration.
In addition there is the statement from President Obama’s National Security Advisor, General Jim Jones (Ret), that, far from Cheney’s assumption that Obama is soft on terrorists and endangering the nation, there is already ample evidence that Obama’s approach is much more effective than that of the previous administration. Here’s that interview:
Why Are We Even Having This Discussion?
Of course the whole discussion about the efficacy of torture for obtaining information can be easily dispensed with if torture is illegal, (and it is) – it’s similar to debating the efficacy of bank robbery for preventing foreclosure. Whether it works or not, it’s illegal.
The laws prohibiting the use of torture are not vague notions that float around in a cloud of Golden Rule. Torture is prohibited under international law and the domestic laws of most countries, including, of course, the United States. Signatories of the Third Geneva Convention and Fourth Geneva Convention officially agree not to torture prisoners in armed conflicts. Torture is also prohibited by the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which has been ratified by 145 states.
Despite the fact that George Bush’s Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales viewed the Geneva Conventions “quaint” relics of a bygone era, any U.S. Attorney General is sworn to investigate the perpetration of abusive interrogations regardless of the perceived value of the information obtained. Such an investigation should include both those who actually conduct interrogations and those who order or approve them.
Despite Gonzales’ position, the Supreme Court ruled (contrary also to the Bush administration’s claims) that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions applies to “war on terror” detainees and Congress specifically outlawed abusive interrogations in the Detainee Treatment Act.
Recently I’ve seen and heard squawks from the right to the effect that President Obama ordered Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor for purely political reasons. That, of course, makes about as much sense as anything else coming from that quarter lately.
Obviously these folks have slept through a few acts. Obama has repeatedly said, sometimes to the chagrin of supporters, that his preference is to go forward while changing the way we handle the interrogation business (which he has already done and Dick Cheney has already screamed about). Also, these are the same right-wingers who have seemed quite knowledgeable about Constitutional Amendments, lately, but, oddly, don’t seem to understand that the Attorney General acts independently of the President so statements like “Obama made him do it” in reference to Holder’s announcement are just specious arguments.
Is there a Special Prosecutor in the house?
If you are like me, and you believe in your heart that this was criminal behavior that tainted the highest levels of our government, the only valid debate becomes what to do about it. It’s this stage that gets dynamic because there are a number of ways, laws not withstanding, to address or dismiss transgressions in high places.
We have several approaches going on right now, as a matter of fact. There is the ongoing Senate investigation being headed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s Intelligence Committee as well as Eric Holder’s recent decision to appoint a special prosecutor to carry out a “limited” investigation (whatever that means).
Cheney fired back immediately on the Holder announcement calling it offensive partisan politicking and all of the things that Cheney might be expected to say. He has actually gone so far as to say that he “might not cooperate” with a special prosecutor if called upon to do so – a puzzling position for a man who is so hellbent to prove that he’s done nothing wrong. In the meantime, Dianne Feinstein was not best pleased, either, saying that Holder’s timing was “not good.”
I may surprise a few readers with my take on how things should proceed on the legal front. First, I think that Obama is playing this one very well, he’s holding back, but not obstructing Holder from doing his job. I think that if we really want to know everything that happened in the Bush administration around CIA interrogations utilising Enhanced Techniques, we should not interfere with the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation. I think that Obama and Holder know that and that is why Holder’s announcement was so unsatisfying to some. The reason lies in the nature and purpose of the two parallel investigations.
We’ve probably all seen enough episodes of Law and Order or CSI: New York to know that a prosecutor’s job is to find irrefutable proof that a crime has been committed and to ignore everything else that pops up that does not support the allegations being made (no matter how juicy those pop-ups are).
Holder’s investigation, by it’s nature, will be more focused and particular; and evidence discovered, no matter how damning, might never come to light if it is not relevant to the charges to be prosecuted. Moreover, the special prosecutor could investigate over a long period of time, uncover all kinds of wrongdoing and, in the end, disclose nothing at all because none of the evidence discovered would rise to the level of supporting a successful prosecution.
On the other hand, Dianne Feinstein’s committee has the potential for uncovering quite a bit, but since it’s the Intelligence Committee, a lot of that information could be shielded from the public in the name of national security.
Sen. Patrick Leahy has been pushing for what he calls a “Truth Commission” for ages but it appears he’s being viewed as a “crank,” for whatever reason and hasn’t gotten a lot of vocal support. Without a strong push from the White House and Democratic leadership, we probably won’t see an independent or congressional investigative commission.
Keep Health Care Reform Front And Center
Some folks think that it would be better to hold off on any kind of “torture” investigation until health care reform has been settled. I am of the opinion that the most recent announcements regarding torture and Bush administration culpability are an unusual but interesting political move. If having the discussion dilutes the health care debate, it does so on both sides of the aisle.
Republicans, lately, have an odd heady reaction to any slippage of Obama’s approval rating regardless of where their own political stock is headed. Republicans have also been mounting an all-out offensive on health care reform. It could be a shrewd move to take some of the wind out of those sails by putting the GOP back on the defensive. Maybe it’s not such a bad move to remind the American people where they were coming from when they decided to vote for Change.
Meanwhile, statements like Rep. Joe Barton’s (R-Texas) promise to repeal any health care reform enacted when Republicans “regain majority” is political puffery meant to appease constituents but it also signals, to me at least, that the GOP probably feels the tide turning on the health care debate. They know they can’t really effectively stop it and they’ve gotten as much political mileage as they can probably get out of opposing it.
Actually, I wish Barton et al. good luck with the repeal idea, because I have a feeling that Americans of any party will have a “to know it is to love it” feeling about any substantial reform package that is enacted. By the time the GOP has pulled itself together enough to stage a comeback, they will most likely be looking for ways to take credit for the 2009 Health Care Reform Bill.
Here are the tough and penetrating questions asked by Chris Wallace of a man whose critics accuse of war crimes, and whose administration presided over the death of over a hundred prisoners in interrogation, who authorized torture techniques once trade-marked by the Khmer Rouge:
Why are you so concerned about the idea of one administration reviewing, investigating the actions of another one?
Do you think this was a political move not a law enforcement move?
The attorney general says this is a preliminary review, not a criminal investigation. It is just about CIA officers who went beyond their legal authorization. Why don't you think it's going to stop there?
The inspector general's report which was just released from 2004 details some specific interrogations -- mock executions, one of the detainees threatened with a handgun and with an electric drill, waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times. First of all, did you know that was going on?
So even these cases where they went beyond the specific legal authorization, you're OK with it?
President Obama has also decided to move interrogations from the CIA to the FBI that's under the supervision of the National Security Council, and the FBI will have to act within the boundaries of the Army Field Manual.
What do you think that does for the nation's security? And will we now have the tools if we catch another high-value target?
Republicans have made the charge before, do you think Democrats are soft on National Security?
Do you think that it was a mistake, while you were in power, while your administration was in power, not to go after the nuclear infrastructure of Iran?
Was it a mistake for Bill Clinton, with the blessing of the Administration, to go to North Korea to bring back those two reporters?
Now look: there are softball interviews; and then there are interviews like this. It cannot be described as journalism in any fashion. Even as propaganda, which is its point, it doesn't work - because it's far too cloying and supportive of Cheney to be convincing to anyone outside the true-believers. When it comes to Cheney, one of the most incompetent vice-presidents in the country's history, with a record of two grotesquely botched wars, war crimes and a crippling debt, Chris Wallace sounds like a teenage girl interviewing the Jonas Brothers.
My two favorite moments:
CHENEY: I am going to -- if I address that, I will address it in my book, Chris.
WALLACE: It is going to be a hell of a book.
CHENEY: It is going to be a great book.
And then the apology for asking the questions Cheney wanted asked:
WALLACE: Well, we want to thank you for talking with us and including in your private life putting up with an interview from the likes of me.
CHENEY: It's all right. I enjoy your show, Chris.
WALLACE: Thank you very much, and all the best sir.
When future historians ask how the United States came not only to practice torture but to celebrate it and treat torturers as heroes, a special place in hell among the journalists who embraced and justified it should be reserved for Chris Wallace.
Published on Tuesday, September 1, 2009 by The Boston Globe
by Derrick Z. Jackson
The more Dick Cheney defends torture, the more we Americans must end our tortured ambivalence. Either we are above using the same interrogation practices that police states use, or we are are not.
This past weekend, the former vice president said he knew about waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques used by CIA personnel on terror suspects and even defended officers who went beyond authorized methods. He said they were “absolutely essential in saving thousands of American lives and preventing further attacks against the United States.’’
Going further, he said it “offends the hell out of me’’ that the Obama administration has decided to investigate prisoner abuse by the CIA. He called it an “outrageous political act’’ that will demoralize the intelligence community to the point where “nobody’s going to sign up for those kinds of missions.’’
It would be easy at this juncture to demonize Cheney, who was so wrong so often in his eight years in office, most notably about the nonexistent weapons of mass destruction that he and President Bush used to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq. That war has cost the lives of more than 4,300 American soldiers, with another 31,400 wounded, and about 100,000 documented deaths of Iraqi civilians, according to Iraqbodycount.org.
But Cheney’s role is an old, if still developing story. After all, he warned us five days after Sept. 11 that our government would work on the “dark side.’’ He told the late Tim Russert, “We’ve got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies.’’ A majority of Americans thought Cheney was right. Despite the false pretenses for war and Abu Ghraib prisoner abuses that were exposed in the spring of 2004, Bush and Cheney were reelected.
Now, as Cheney continues to defend the dark side - even without conclusive proof that waterboarding coughed up critical intelligence - he is daring Americans to come out of the shadows to demand a bright light on interrogation and prisoner-treatment practices that render us hypocrites on human rights. To some degree, Attorney General Eric Holder is attempting this with his probe. But it appears that the inquiry will be limited to any CIA officers who went beyond legally authorized methods.
That is not enough. President Obama has sought to avoid controversy - and avoid demoralizing the CIA - by saying he wants to look forward, not backward. But these last eight years have revealed too many brutal abuses to write them off as only the actions of a few rogues.
We are at the point where nothing less than full congressional hearings, or a full Justice Department investigation, will let us know how high the rot started and how deep it went.
The rot in our national morality is evident in a June poll by the Associated Press, which found that 52 percent of Americans said torture was sometimes or often justified to obtain information from terror suspects. An April CNN poll found that even though 60 percent of Americans thought harsh techniques including waterboarding constituted torture, 50 percent approved of them. A Washington Post/ABC News Poll was almost evenly split between Americans who say we should never use torture (49 percent) and should use torture in some cases (48 percent).
Whether it is because of the politics of fear that defined the Bush-Cheney years, the recession engulfing the Obama administration, or simply an indifference to foreigners languishing in jail, Americans have displayed scant curiosity about the dark side. A May McClatchy poll found Americans to be almost evenly split on having a “bipartisan blue-chip commission’’ on interrogations, and the CNN poll found nearly two-thirds disapproving of either a congressional investigation or independent panel.
This is a level of apathy, even civic debasement that makes it no wonder Cheney can spout off despite leaving America in a disgraceful place. He feels empowered to defend the dark side, because we have yet to shine a light.
McCain: CIA Abuse Probe "Serious Mistake"
Actually, I sleep better since Bush and Cheney's terms ended! Knowing, or at least believing for now, that Obama doesn't spend every minute of his day ...