The Price Of 9/11: Coup Feared In Obama Team: 'Sons of Bitches' vs. 'Mother of all Wars'
Tens of millions of people will soon observe the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks. In New York City, the names of the nearly 3,000 people who died on that day will be read out loud and Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama will join the families of the victims to unveil a new memorial. Obama will also visit the Pentagon, and both he and Vice President Joe Biden will visit the Pennsylvania site where a jetliner crashed after passengers overpowered terrorist hijackers. There will be television specials, opportunities to volunteer, speeches by politicians and more.
The 9/11 attacks shattered my sense of security. When I lived in New York City, I walked through the basement of the twin towers of the World Trade Center nearly every day on my way to work. I was living in Washington, DC when the attacks happened. I can remember joining hundreds of other people looking toward the skies as if we could somehow see the airplane that we all heard was heading our way.
On this anniversary I'll stand with friends in New York City, reading out the names of people who died that day. I'll also be mourning the tens of thousands of others around the world who have died since then in the wars Washington launched in response to the 9/11 attacks. As a country, I hope we can do better than that.
On the 10th anniversary of those attacks, we need to ask if the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the kidnappings on foreign soil that violate international law, and the torture allegedly carried out by the CIA and U.S. government contractors in the name of a broad global war on terror have made our country safer. I believe that they have undermined our security instead.
A decade after 9/11, I don't know anyone who is confident that the current U.S. war strategy in Afghanistan will produce a stable nation. In Iraq, after agreeing to leave by the end of 2011, the U.S. military is now arguing that maybe they need to stay a little longer. And in the other countries such as Yemen and Somalia where the United States is waging an undeclared war, our military actions are helping extremists recruit new fighters.
Finally, as the world knows today, the man behind the 9/11 attacks wasn't found in any of the countries the United States has invaded. Eventually, U.S. forces located and killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. The Saudi-born terrorist lived his final years in reasonable comfort in a large house near the capital city of one of the closest U.S. allies in the region.
Washington's reaction to 9/11 damaged our country as much as the attacks themselves. Today, our nation is waging a permanent war that's taking the lives of our soldiers and draining our treasury. Ten years later, our leaders need the courage to change course. We know that this war without end won't provide comfort to those of us who experienced 9/11. And, it won't make our country safer.
So what should we do?
One place to begin would be for Congress to repeal the authorizations for the use of military force that were used to launch the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and has served as the justification for torture, kidnappings on foreign soil, and covert wars in Yemen and other countries.
Another step would be to insist that the United States complete the withdrawal of U.S. military troops from Iraq and articulate a strategy that will lead to the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Congress should pass three bills from Rep. Barbara Lee. The California Democrat has sponsored legislation that would cut off all funding for the war in Afghanistan except that needed to pull out U.S. troops. She has introduced a bill that would require the last U.S. soldier to leave Iraq on schedule by December 31, 2011. Last year, she also introduced a bill to repeal the authorization for the use of military force.
September 11 will be a solemn day. It should also be a turning point toward a new U.S. foreign policy.
Joseph E. Stiglitz, Project Syndicate: "The September 11, 2001, terror attacks by Al Qaeda were meant to harm the United States, and they did, but in ways that Osama bin Laden probably never imagined. President George W. Bush's response to the attacks compromised America's basic principles, undermined its economy, and weakened its security. The attack on Afghanistan that followed the 9/11 attacks was understandable, but the subsequent invasion of Iraq was entirely unconnected to Al Qaeda - as much as Bush tried to establish a link. That war of choice quickly became very expensive - orders of magnitude beyond the $60 billion claimed at the beginning - as colossal incompetence met dishonest misrepresentation."
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President-Elect Obama's advisers feared in 2008 that authorities would oust him in a coup and that Republicans would block his policy agenda if he prosecuted Bush-era war crimes, according to a law school dean who served as one of Obama's top transition advisers.
University of California at Berkeley Law School Dean Christopher Edley, Jr., above, the sixth highest-ranking member of the 2008 post-election transition team preparing Obama's administration, revealed the team's thinking on Sept. 2 in moderating a forum on 9/11 held by his law school (also known as Boalt Hall). Edley was seeking to explain Obama's "look forward" policy on suspected Bush-era law-breaking that the president-elect announced on a TV talk show in January 2009.
But Edley's rationale implies that Obama, or at least his team, feared the military/national security forces that the president is supposed be commanding -- and that Republicans have intimidated him right from the start of his presidency even after voters in 2008 rejected Republicans by the largest combined presidential-congressional mandate in recent U.S. history.
Edley responded to my request for additional information by providing a description of the transition team's fears. Edley said that transition officials, not Obama, agreed that he faced the possibility of a coup.
I'm grateful, of course, that this eminent scholar took time on short notice to describe such important decision-making. But I have two blunt reactions that frame the details below:
First, this doesn't look like presidential leadership, no matter what the rationales. Voters "hired" the Obama team to lead the country, not fret about possible retaliation. No one wants to see an assassination or coup. But the kids fighting Mideast wars, like those in wars before them, have no guarantees -- or even Secret Service protection.
Our country has a long history that the President is the boss, not the military or the covert agencies. President Eisenhower stood up for this principle time and again, including in his Farewell Address in 1961 warning of the dangers of the "military-industrial complex." So did President Truman when he fired the popular General MacArthur over different strategies for the Korean War. As for Republicans, the Democratic President Johnson knew enough not to treat them any better than his friends -- whom he treated terribly many times.
Second, shouldn't such an important matter have been revealed long ago? The mainstream news organizations, courts and Congress are supposed to be ferreting out this kind of information.
Here, it took an anti-war activist asking the right question during Q&A at a law school forum to bring the tale to light. I suppose that's inspirational in a sense: Perhaps it's like a destitute blind person stumbling on a bag of money and finally, with the help of kind strangers, being able to afford an eye operation. But is this really the best procedure?
You be the judge.
First, we summarize below what happened. Those interested in more historical background and related controversies can find them on the longer version of this column cross-posted today on the website of the Justice Integrity Project, the non-partisan legal reform group I lead.
Longtime peace advocate Susan Harman, a Californian, elicited Edley's opinions during Q&A at the Boalt Hall forum, which was organized by the school's Miller Institute for Global Challenges and the Law. Boalt Hall's faculty includes Professor John C. Yoo, above, a former Justice Department attorney with stellar career credentials but a notorious reputation for his legal justifications for waterboarding terror suspects and similar Executive Branch abuses.
Harman shared her observations Friday by email and Google Groups with our Justice Integrity Project and others. David Swanson, the prominent antiwar activist, wrote a blog noting that accountability under the law was a top concern of Obama supporters, as illustrated by the incoming administration's own 2008 poll of supporter suggestions.
Around that time, I published my first blogs in a series of Huffington Post and OpEd News columns. The first chronicled my fond hopes for Obama, with a scoop about "Why the President "Stepped Out' During His Inaugural Parade." Next was a call for the new administration to "Probe the Past to Protect the Future." Finally, and more ominously, came my reports on the huge scandals involving the Bush Justice Department's frame-up of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, his state's most important Democrat. His persecution, like those of many other Bush-Rove political victims, continues under the Obama Justice Department.
With this context, last Friday's Boalt Hall forum provides vital new insight on why the White House and Justice Department have been so disappointing in responding to public demands for accountability for injustices, particularly for clear-cut cases during the Bush administration that carry fingerprints of malefactors such as Rove and Yoo.
Let's start with Harman's account below of her comments during the audience Q&A segment at Boalt Hall's forum Sept. 2:
I said I was overwhelmed by the surreality of Yoo being on the law faculty . . . when he was singlehandedly responsible for the three worst policies of the Bush Administration. They all burbled about academic freedom and the McCarthy era, and said it isn't their job to prosecute him. Duh.
Dean Chris Edley volunteered that he'd been party to very high level discussions during Obama's transition about prosecuting the criminals. He said they decided against it. I asked why. Two reasons: 1) it was thought that the CIA, NSA, and military would revolt, and 2) it was thought the Repugnants would retaliate by blocking every piece of legislation they tried to move (which, of course, they've done anyhow).
Harman says that she approached Edley privately after the forum closed and said she appreciated that Obama might have been in danger but felt that he "bent over backwards" to protect lawbreakers within the Bush administration. According to her account: "He shrugged and said they will never be prosecuted, and that sometimes politics trumps rule of law."
I wrote Edley to confirm Harman's quotations, which he did. Edley, dean of the law school since 2004, also sent me links to his statements on the Yoo appointment here and earlier here. And, he amplified with six bulletin-points, primarily about the Obama transition process and academic freedom for professors.
Regarding the transition, he wrote:
I never discussed these matters with the President Elect; the summary offered by one of the senior national security folks was, "We don't want to engage in a witch hunt," to which I replied, "Neither do I, but I also care about the Rule of Law and, whether or not there ultimately are prosecutions, the question of whether laws were broken and where the lines should be drawn deserve to be aired"; that discussion as a whole was brief.
My point about politics is simple and non-controversial to people trained in law. I was not referring to politics trumping Law in the sense of President Nixon thinking he could do anything he wanted with respect to the Watergate scandal. I was referring to what every first year law student learns about prosecutorial discretion and the political accountability of prosecutors, which the "system" assumes will be a check on prosecutorial abuses more often than a source of them.
Regarding Yoo's invitation to return to Boalt Hall as a faculty member after his work in the Bush Justice
Department, Edley wrote:
A frustrating thing to me about these discussions is that non-academics don't seem particularly to appreciate the fragility and importance of academic freedom. A university isn't equipped or competent to do a factual investigation of what took place at DOJ or in secret White House meetings. Nor should it make judgments about what faculty do outside of their professorial duties when there is no evident impermissible impact on their teaching. (For Professor Yoo, there is none.) The right forum investigating and punishing alleged crimes is in the criminal justice system, not a research university. Our job is already tough enough.
Finally, another frustrating thing is that advocates are often fierce in their belief that they know what the law is, and they know when someone else's view is extreme. Your typical law professor is, I think, far more humble. We tend to see multiple sides to important issues, and lots of gray. Even if we are convinced of something, we work hard to understand the counterarguments, just to be sure. If there aren't any, then MAYBE one could characterize the other position as extreme. My guess is that Professor Yoo's constitutional theories and statutory interpretation would win at least three votes among current justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. I don't like it, but that's my reading of the case law. Does 3 out of 9 make it extreme? If so, then a lot of my heroes are or were "extreme."
Much as I appreciate his efforts to provide these expert, behind-the-scenes insights, I'm afraid I'm more comfortable with a few basic rules:
First, the U.S. president should be a fearless leader who enforces our laws with a passion for justice, to the best of his ability. Many in the justice system -- both intrepid government agents and taxpayer-protecting whistleblowers alike -- are risking their health, money and even lives on a frequent basis. Why shouldn't those at the top?
Second, as one who works a block from the site on Pennsylvania Avenue where Lincoln's assassins planned their crime (where the Newseum is now located), I'd suggest that any conspirators against today's elected leadership should be prepared to pay a similar and rapid price to the hangman; Third, academic freedom is a fine goal, but so is freedom from torture and freedom from being falsely imprisoned for political reasons.
Knowing the law constitutes the basic tool of every lawyer. But working for what the lawshould be is an even higher calling for our lawyers and top office-holders. And in a democracy, I'm not the first to stress that our highest office does not go by the title Senator, Justice or even President. Instead, it's "Citizen."
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Prosecute Official Corruption Bush-Era Lawbreakers
Andrew Kreig is executive director of the Justice Integrity Project, a Washington, DC-based non-profit organization focused on reforming abusive federal investigative procedures. He is an attorney, non-profit executive and investigative (more...)
Have you ever experienced that feeling just before a massive storm hits, as the skies darken, and there is this eerie silence; when you know it's going to be a bad one but you don't know exactly when it's going to erupt? The American people, though greatly stressed and frustrated remain passive, submissive and largely silent. But is this, in reality, merely the calm before the storm?
As Warren Buffett put it way back in 2006, "There's class warfare, all right, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning." But the Right's feigned outrage is rendered even more ridiculous thanks to a new report by Brad Friedman over at Mother Jones magazine who obtained an audio tape of a secret meeting of billionaires back in June in the mountains of Colorado….
As Warren Buffett put it way back in 2006, "There's class warfare, all right, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning." But the Right's feigned outrage is rendered even more ridiculous thanks to a new report by Brad Friedman over at Mother Jones magazine who obtained an audio tape of a secret meeting of billionaires back in June in the mountains of Colorado. What you're about to hear is billionaire oil baron Charles Koch - the same guy who funds right-wing thinktanks and AstroTurf Tea Party groups - rally HIS soldiers - our nation's oligarchs - behind a "mother of all wars" to be waged against President Obama - who Koch refers to as Saddam Hussein. Again - that was billionaire Charles Koch calling President Obama "Saddam Hussein" - and urging his rich buddies to prepare for the "mother of all wars." Later - Koch goes on to tell his troops to shell out a millions bucks toward that war effort - pocket change to most of the oligarchs in the room. What Charles Koch is referring to is the billionaire's war against working people.
And it's this very same war - that James Hoffa spoke of yesterday and on my radio show today.....The battle-lines are being drawn - the billionaires are arming up - and Hoffa was urging working people to wake up and realize it. It's a war against the New Deal - against the contract that our government made with all of us after World War 2 - that if we all work hard and live honorable lives - then we can achieve the American Dream of a comfortable life - we get the house - the car - the family - the vacations - the free education - and a comfortable retirement at a reasonable age. This contract held strong for 40 years - from the 1930's to the 1970's - and the middle-class thrived.
But the wealthiest among us felt threatened. As the workplace and the marketplace was opened more and more to minorities and women in the middle of the 20th century - and more and more Americans wanted in on this deal of a good middle class life - the billionaires saw their piece of the wealth pie leveling out.They saw their massive fortunes growing - but not as fast as they'd like - as workers demanded better pay and benefits. If they wanted to see their empires grow, they had to renegotiate FDR's New Deal with the American people. They needed to realign the American economy away from the middle-class where FDR and Republicans like Dwight Eisenhower positioned it - and give it back to the oligarchs.They started this 30 years ago when Ronald Reagan busted up PATCO - the air traffic controllers union - and triggered generation-long battle against labor unions.
Today - labor unions - of which one in three Americans USED to belong to during the 1950's - have largely disappeared with only one in ten Americans enjoying the protections of organized labor. And as labor unions went into decline over the past few decades - so, too, did the middle class's share of wealth - dropping from close to 30% in the 1960's to about 10% today - as the billionaires gobbled up more and more money - so much so that just 400 families now have more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans combined. With Reagan, they were subtle about it. They said they liked Social Security and Medicare, and even unions - they just wanted them protected. But after 30 years of successfully drilling holes in the New Deal, now they are just openly bragging that FDRs New Deal is dead.
The new New Deal - Paul Ryan's New Deal - is pretty easily summed up in four words, that Republicans are constantly pushing in various forms of code using words like "personal responsibility" and "freedom." Those four words are, "You're on your own." Paul Ryan's budget - what he calls the "Roadmap" - is the new contract that billionaires want to impose on the American people - a contract that renders the American dream obsolete and no longer rewards hard work with a good middle class lifestyle. No Social Security - no Medicare - no labor unions - no free education - no healthcare - no vacations - no retirement until you're dead - and no home and no car - nothing - unless you're willing to go in debt up to your eyeballs. Why? Because the billionaires don't want to pay their share to make sure the rest of us have any semblance of economic security.
It's that simple. If Republicans win the election of 2012, get used to the lifestyle of the working poor. Luckily - so far Republicans only control the House of Representatives - and not the Senate or the White House - so Paul Ryan's and the billionaires' vision for American can't be fully realized...at least. Which is exactly why Charles Koch is asking his cabal of billionaires to cough up at least a million dollars each to prepare for "the mother of all wars" - the billionaires' quest to take over Congress and the White House next year. The billionaires are just one election cycle - just one election - away from finishing off once and for all their 30-year-war against working people started by Ronald Reagan. Just one election away from killing off FDR's New Deal - and replacing it with Paul Ryan's New Deal for billionaires. James Hoffa knows what we're up against - he knows that Charles Koch isn't afraid to shell out millions of bucks to win this war.
So with Charles Koch and the oligarchs fully committed to this struggle - it's time for the rest of us to wake up - and decide who's side we're on"the billionaires - or the rest of America.
Why is the post office - which was created by Ben Franklin more than 200 years ago - on the verge of shuttering it's doors today? While the media story line is that the Post Office is dealing with the problem of trying to remain profitable in a world of decreasing paper mail - the real cause is actually something much, much different.
Editor's note: also see this article by Chuck Zlatkin
This article describes our emerging operating system, World 5.0. It is intended to restore community and ecology by reconstituting government.
America's Sick Economy
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The Secret To The Right Wing Noise Machine's Success
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The End of Japan's China Optimism
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Campaign Finance/Fair Elections
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Jon Kyl Lowers Supercommittee Expectations
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Debt Commission Members Rake In Health Money
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Donors To Senate GOP Super Committee Members Seek Tax Cuts, Tax Breaks
The headline says it all!
Dave Camp Will Raise Money With Lobbyists Hours Before Looking At Their Clients In The Supercommittee
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Buddy Roemer On The Daily Show
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Rick Perry Will Mine California Donors On Debate Trip
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Vote Out The Entire Congress? You Bet.
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Our View: Rise Above Partisan Politics
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On Some Timely Campaign Contributions By Delta Air Lines
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In The Land Of Denial
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Super PAC Plans Major Primary Campaign For Perry
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Berkley Pushes Back On Report Challenging Her Ethics
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McCaul, Issa Top List Of Wealthiest Members Of Congress
Lots of rich people in Congress.
A follow up to yesterday's story about the California campaign treasurer arrested by the FBI for embezzlement. "That point is: if campaigns were businesses, they would be the type of businesses that would be easy to rob."
Supreme Court Hears Campaign Finance Case
"Justices heard arguments Tuesday in a case brought forward by a number of groups, who argue the rule that requires third party groups running ads that advocate for or against a candidate for elected office to report their funding."