Posts Tagged ‘Bush’
Via The New York Times, President Obama has just ordered a “broad expansion of clandestine military operations” in an attempt to “disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al Qaeda”. The ‘covert operations’ will likely include anything from target assassinations, ‘drone’ attacks in Pakistan, secret bombing campaigns, money transfers to client states (a la Karzai and Maliki), and many things in-between. This is a significant move for a variety of reasons, not least of which stands the utter lack of public consultation for such a policy.
Mr. Greenwald has a timely essay on why Mr. Obama can undertake such extreme actions in the absence not only of opposition to his imperial policy, but indeed, any discussion whatsoever. Our major news outlets have reported the order in classic ‘objective’ style, assigning as little controversy to it as possible and treating it instead as a run-of-the-mill executive action. But it is interesting to examine why, in this year 2010, after nine continuous years of war, public opinion is such that a unilateral expansion of our secret military complex can occur with as little discussion as imaginable.
First, Mr. Greenwald notes, because this military expansion is taking place under a “Democratic” President, it creates the illusion of so-called ‘bipartisan support’. Back when President Bush was carrying out covert operations in Yemen, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, etc., they were painted as the actions of an ‘extremist’ administration, one which regards the opposition with disdain and made a point of treating international law with utter contempt. However, after 18 months of military escalation, these wars are as much Mr. Obama’s (that is, “Democratic” wars), as they were Mr. Bush’s. As such, the number of “Democrats” willing to risk their political futures by opposing military action has dropped precipitously, as have the number of war-opposers in the general population. Specifically, the subset of people for whom Mr.Obama can do no wrong will automatically agree with his war policy – or if they disagree, put forth some excuse as to how Mr. Obama ‘has no choice’.
The biggest reason Mr. Greenwald identifies, however, is the complete lack of documented impact these wars have on our livelihood. It has been often mentioned that, unlike in Vietnam, very few Americans have had to go to war against their will. Our press is largely censored as to the true cost of our warfare not only on the beleaguered people of Iraq and Afghanistan, but even our own soldiers. Recall the recent dust-up when our Secretary of War, Robert Gates, “harshly condemned” the media’s display of a flag-draped coffin. And that was just one soldier, who had admittedly died in combat, but whose grisly death we had been totally shielded from. As much as possible, we citizens are encouraged not to think about our military “commitments” abroad, and instead to simply carry on with our daily lives, a few dollars shorter than the day before, a little more ragged perhaps, but still inestimably “proud” of our “commitment” to “democracy in the Middle East”. One wonders just how far that pride would take us if more than 1% of the US population was involved in our military escapades, as the statistic stands now.
But beyond that, what Mr. Greenwald hints at but never explicitly states, is the psychology of powerlessness to which we citizens are routinely subjected. We literally have no say in what our government does abroad, and we have less and less of a say in even its domestic policies. In the 2008 elections, both candidates were unabashedly pro-war, Mr. Obama more so than even his most fervent supporters might have dreamt. For whom are we to vote if we wish to exit Iraq and Afghanistan immediately? Which Congressman, which Senator would even entertain such a possibility? To whom do we donate that we can be sure our paltry $50 will not be rendered irrelevant by the millions of dollars industry interests donate in order to keep these wars going? It is an implacable question, one made all the more urgent by President Obama’s dramatic escalation of our already over-stretched ‘commitments’.
The feeling of powerlessness can lead to apathy, but also to fear. When one recalls the brutality to which previous “anti-war protesters” have been subjected in the US, including savage beatings with nightsticks, water-cannons, ear-splitting sound emitters, tear gas and rubber bullets, it is not hard to imagine from whence this fear of dissent arises. Recall, also, that since the Homegrown Terrorism Act of 2007 passed, civil disobedience – the mere act of peaceful protest – has been defined as ‘terrorism’. And once you are accused of ‘terrorism’, citizen or no, you are immediately stripped of every right you think you have.
This latest move towards military hegemony is particularly insidious, and I suppose it follows that Mr. Obama merely announced his policy, in true decree style, with little or no discussion. With one stroke of a pen, Mr. Obama has resserved the right to carry out military operations anywhere around the globe, from “surgical strikes”, bombing campaigns, ground incursions, assassinations, or, indeed, anything his enigmatic mind may wish. It is worth remembering at this point that Mr. Obama also reserves the right to assassinate US citizens in their beds (that is, far from a battlefield), and ‘render’ accused terrorists to a global prison complex where no defense attorney dares enter. There, they can be beaten, tortured, or even murdered, far from the watchful eye of the Red Cross.
It is easy to imagine this latest move on the part of Mr. Obama is merely a continuation of Mr. Bush’s odious policies. It is that, of course, but its implications go far deeper. Mr. Bush’s covert actions were largely piecemeal: an assassination here, a few ‘drone’ attacks there, maybe some ‘cash assistance’ to some friendly dictator or another for spice. In contrast, Mr. Obama’s new ‘national security strategy‘ systematizes these covert acts of aggression, and sets up, in essence, a new governmental body, with no congressional or popular oversight, to carry out his murderous will around the globe. It is difficult to overstate the significance of this ‘overhaul’, yet it is even more difficult to convince anyone of that significance.
Mr. Hitler once coined the term for the Germans as a ‘sleep-walking people’, but the same could easily be said of Americans (or, for that matter, anyone else). We face, in our generation, a confluence of crises of which we are only just beginning to see the magnitude, and unfortunately the first step to solving a crisis is to realize it exists, something for which, at least with regards to our present constitutional crisis, we still have quite some ways to go.
We had been routinely subjected to pronouncements from the Bush Administration that those held in Guantanamo were the “worst of the worst” for some time, and many wondered whether any of them were aware that most of the detainees were totally innocent – that is, tortured for no reason.
Well, wonder no more. (Via Harper’s), the Times of London reports today that senior Bush officials, including, presumably, President Bush himself, were well aware that a majority of the 743 inmates of Guantanamo Bay were there for no reason other than bad luck, but that it would be “politically impossible” to release them.
George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld covered up that hundreds of innocent men were sent to the Guantánamo Bay prison camp because they feared that releasing them would harm the push for war in Iraq and the broader War on Terror, according to a new document obtained by The Times.
The accusations were made by Lawrence Wilkerson, a top aide to Colin Powell, the former Republican Secretary of State, in a signed declaration to support a lawsuit filed by a Guantánamo detainee. It is the first time that such allegations have been made by a senior member of the Bush Administration.
Colonel Wilkerson, who was General Powell’s chief of staff when he ran the State Department, was most critical of Mr Cheney and Mr Rumsfeld. He claimed that the former Vice-President and Defence Secretary knew that the majority of the initial 742 detainees sent to Guantánamo in 2002 were innocent but believed that it was “politically impossible to release them”.
This is outstanding work from The Times of London, and yet further evidence in favor of war crimes prosecution for senior Bush administration officials, including, one hopes, President Bush himself. These guys knew as far back as 2002 (the year Guantanamo opened) that they were torturing and imprisoning people for no reason, yet they continued to spout for almost a decade that the inmates of Guantanamo were all hardened terrorists, “the worst of the worst”, etc., etc.
As Scott Horton notes, this would explain why Dick Cheney has been running a massive propaganda campaign to harden American public opinion against an investigation into the previous administration’s conduct at Guantanamo. If any official inquiry got a hold of the documents The Times of London describes in its article, then Mr. Cheney would necessarily have to appear for questioning, and would likely end up in jail.
And how ironic that even if he were sent to jail, he wouldn’t be tortured.
Yet another blow to the Bush-Obama warrantless surveillance scheme.
Update: Not that it matters or anything, but Glenn Greenwald was kind enough to point out that according to this judgment, President Bush (and whoever else complied with this program) is liable to spend time in jail. Specifically, the law provides that anyone who violates it shall be subject to 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine for each offense. This means that President Bush, Vice President Cheney, CIA Director Michael Hayden and several others are all fugitives. Anyone up for a citizen’s arrest?
PBS Frontline, in 2001, ran a frankly prophetic documentary on what were then cutting-edge techniques in brand marketing. It’s interesting to note how quickly these trends proliferated until now, nine years later, they seem frightfully commonplace. The transcript can be found here.
The piece begins by remarking that the “teen generation” of 2001, the one to which I belonged, had been the largest and most sought-after generation to date – even larger than the baby boomers. It collectively spent $100 billion dollars per year on itself, and induced its parents to spend an additional $50 billion. It had more disposable cash then ever before, and economic freedom to spend it. And so finding the best way to appeal to that generation became a pressing concern for the Madison Street advertising firms – and a lucrative one.
Early research quickly focused upon that implacable question – What is ‘cool’?How does one become cool? A species known in the marketing business as “Cool Hunters” made its niche to find that answer. As Malcolm Gladwell says in the piece:
“Cool hunting” is structured around, really, a search for a certain kind of personality and a certain kind of player in a given social network. For years and years on Madison Avenue, if you knew where the money was and where the power was and where the big houses were, then you knew what was going to happen next. And cool hunting was all about a kind of revolution that sets that earlier paradigm aside and says, in fact, it has to do with the influence held by those who have the respect and admiration and trust of their friends.
PBS takes us briefly through the life of a corporate spy:
A correspondent is a person who’s been trained by us to be able to find a certain kind of kid, a kid that we call a trendsetter or an early adopter. This is a kid who’s very forward in their thinking, who looks outside their own backyard for inspiration, who is a leader within their own group.These kids are really difficult to find. So what this correspondent does is they go out and they, like, find and identify these trend-setting kids. They interview them. They get them interested in what we do. They send all that stuff in. We look at it. We compile it. We look for trends or themes that are happening through all the information, and that’s the stuff that we put on our Web site.
But there was a problem. The process essentially cannibalizes itself. As it turns out, a big part of being “cool” is having nothing to do with avaricious marketers with an intent to exploit. As soon as a certain trend becomes blatantly marketed, kids move on to the next thing. Trying to pin down “cool” is an infinite game of whack-a-mole, a perpetual cycle.
The piece details how Sprite improbably became the symbol of hip-hop by sponsoring DJs and MC’s to promote their drink. By the way, this is the reason contemporary music is awful:
[Advertising Executive] PINA SCIARRA: Hip-hop for us became the sort vehicle, or the lens, for us to get to teens and talk to them in a credible way. And the way we did that was to develop relationships with artists.
And it worked. Sprite’s sales skyrocketed, and in 2001, when the piece was done, had attained supremacy in the youth market.
The reporter, Douglas Rushkoff, intones chillingly:
DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF: Is it nostalgic to think that when we were young it was any different, that the thing we called “youth culture” wasn’t something that was just being sold to us, it was something that came from us, an act of expression, not just of consumption? Has that boundary been completely erased?
Today five enormous companies are responsible for selling nearly all of youth culture. These are the true merchants of cool: Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp, Disney, Viacom, Universal Vivendi, and AOL/Time Warner.
Those companies own all of the networks. All advertising must go through them. And MTV, one of our primary outlets of branded youth culture, became a virtual laboratory, where the results of thousands of focus groups, undercover fact-finding missions, and interviews got to be tested on real consumers. Viacom, MTV’s parent, happened to be the ‘coolest’ conglomerate when this piece was made, and I have no doubt it still is. After all, they still own Jon Stewart, the White House court jester, who is authentically popular with the 18-24 demographic.
Exploring Viacom’s success, PBS examines how it gained popularity with the male demographic with several case studies, all centered around the idea of a “mook”, an advertising term that translates roughly to “boor”. In males, the “mook” takes its manifest in the lowbrow comedy acts like Howard Stern, Tom Green, the phenomena of professional wrestling, The Man Show and the Jackass franchise. The impulse there is always not to think, not to worry about anything in particular; just embrace your “manhood” – your penchant for slapstick comedy and outrageous statements – and above all, keep buying things.
The female counterpart to the “mook” emphasized overt sexuality, typified by Britney Spears. As the piece remarks of Ms. Spears:
She hit the scene at 16 with “Baby, One More Time,” as a naughty Catholic schoolgirl bursting out of her uniform. When it came time for a spread in Rolling Stone, the 17-year-old self-professed virgin Britney struck the classic nymphet pose. And at the Video Music Awards last year, when Britney finally and famously came out of her clothes, she wasn’t just pleasing eager young boys, she was delivering a powerful missive to girls: Your body is your best asset. Flaunt your sexuality even if you don’t understand it. And that’s the message that matters most because Britney’s most loyal fans are teenage girls.
PBS takes us through several other case studies, and the trend of anti-intellectualism pervades throughout. Through endless focus groups and iterations of the cool chase, our marketers have programmed us to be unthinking, unfeeling, buying machines. It would be easy to dismiss these techniques as rather severe examples of the sort of anti-intellectualism that prevailed around the time President Bush was elected; that they were a small part of an overall scheme to make a purely corporate candidate electable for office. Perhaps, many would argue, President Obama, the university intellectual, repudiated that culture.
However, to those detractors I would offer this last bit of evidence: the lyrics to a song entitled “Blah Blah Blah” by our newest musical sensation, 22-year-old “Ke$ha”, who has just released a best-selling record, one year into Obama’s presidency.
Coming out your mouth with your blah blah blah
Just zip your lips like a padlock
And meet me at the back with the jack and the jukebox
I don’t really care where you live at
Just turn around boy and let me hit that
Don’t be a little bitch with your chit chat
Just show me where your dick’s at
Listen hot stuff
I’m in love
With this song
So just hush
Baby shut up
Stop ta-ta-talking that
Blah blah blah
Think you’ll be getting this
Nah nah nah
Not in the back of my
If you keep talking that
Blah blah blah blah blah
Boy come on get your rocks off
Come put a little love in my glove box
I wanna dance with no pants on
Meet me in the back with the jack and the jukebox
So cut to the chase kid
‘Cause I know you don’t care what my middle name is
I wanna be naked
But your wasted
For anyone who would like to know how these lyrics came to be, and still wonders how the machinery of political suppression is exercised, I highly recommend PBS Frontline’s investigation.
Update: You can watch the documentary online here.
You may remember the so-called anthrax attacks in 2001, which were widely cited as a reason to attack Iraq. The lasting image in the run-up to the war is of Colin Powell sitting in front of the UN, shaking a vial of anthrax and saying “We know this came from Saddam”. Of course it didn’t. And for years afterward, no one quite knew who the mysterious “anthrax attacker” was.
Then, in 2008, the FBI came out with its decision that the anthrax attacker was one Bruce Ivins, an apparently disgruntled Army biodefense expert who committed suicide just days before the justice department planned to formally charge him. Since Mr. Ivins was dead, the FBI saw no need to gather any additional evidence or reveal what evidence they had already gathered. Case Closed!
Not quite. Glenn Greenwald and several other bloggers have cast deep aspersions on the FBI’s investigation, stopping just short of calling it a fraud. In his sublime article, Greenwald noted several unresolved questions in the FBI’s investigation – questions which, it would now seem, will never be solved. Also see this, this, and this.
Greenwald isn’t the only one with questions. Last Thursday, Rep. Steve Holt called on Congress to begin a new investigation. As he wrote in a letter to Congress:
To date, there has been no comprehensive examination of the FBI’s conduct in this investigation, and a number of important questions remain unanswered.
We don’t know why the FBI jumped so quickly to the conclusion that the source of the material used in the attacks could only have come from a domestic lab, in this case, Ft. Dietrick. We don’t know why they focused for so long, so intently, and so mistakenly on Dr. Hatfill.
We don’t know whether the FBI’s assertions about Dr. Ivins’ activities and behavior are accurate. We don’t know if the FBI’s explanation for the presence of silica in the anthrax spores is truly scientifically valid. We don’t know whether scientists at other government and private labs who assisted the FBI in the investigation actually concur with the FBI’s investigative findings and conclusions.
We don’t know whether the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Postal Service have learned the right lessons from these attacks and have implemented measures to prevent or mitigate future such bioterror attacks.
You can read the full letter here. Rep. Holt joins Senator Pat Leahy, Sen. Chuck Grassley, Sen. Arlen Specter, and several others in expressing deep skepticism on the FBI’s narrative. What would cause all these senators and representatives, from both sides of the aisle, to question the FBI’s findings?
And on top of it all, President Obama has threatened to veto an intelligence budget bill (a move which I would normally be all for), because it carries a provision to investigate the FBI’s handling of the anthrax case. Why would he do this?
Well, according to him, an investigation “would undermine public confidence in a Federal Bureau of Investigation probe of the attacks and unfairly cast doubt on its conclusions,”. To tell you the truth, that statement did far more to undermine my confidence in the FBI than any investigation would have.
This whole thing stinks of a cover-up. At this point I think it extremely likely that the anthrax scare was deliberately put on by the Bush Administration (at the cost of five lives) in order to drum up support for the Iraq War. It was just too convenient! Think of how many speeches in which President Bush or one of his flunkies accused Saddam of manufacturing anthrax. The only thing that made those threats credible was the anthrax attack that already happened in the US.
So the FBI, under immense public pressure to find someone responsible decides upon Bruce Ivins. But they know if the case went to court, their fraud would be exposed. So they “arrange” for him to commit suicide, thus precluding the possibility of a trial but still closing the case once and for all.
Then President Obama uses his muscle to make sure the case stays closed, by threatening his first veto over the matter. It’s all too easy.
Also, see this. Dr. Meryl Nass is an expert in the subject, and was intimately involved with Bruce Ivins’s research. She rounds up 16 major holes in the FBI’s case against Bruce Ivins, including the fact that no autopsy was performed on Ivin’s body (so we’re supposed to just take their word that it was a suicide).
Remember, without these anthrax attacks, President Bush would have had a far more difficult time convincing the country to go to war with Iraq, and many think he could not have done it. The FBI’s case is full of holes and begs for a more thorough investigation. Ask yourself: why is President Obama so intent on letting sleeping dogs lie? What does he think this investigation will reveal? Why is he willing to veto a major intelligence bill to make sure that Bruce Ivins remains the sole anthrax perpetrator?
The Times continues its faux-reporting over the “controversy” that has erupted over whether we should act like tyrants and keep “terror suspects” in cages indefinitely without trial, or act like decent adults and follow the rule of law. Previously, The Times came out in support of the former option, happily announcing that “Detainees will be Held, but not Tried” – but as the political winds shift, so do does the leading newspaper, which now plumps for the worst aspects of both, much like President Obama. They even invoked the mysterious “experts”, who, apparently, do not include the Supreme Court.
As Jane Mayer expertly analyzed in a recent New Yorker, the Justice Department is now in a state of civil war. One one side, Attorney General Eric Holder, who advocates that “terror suspects” be vetted in a court of law to determine what, if anything, they’re guilty of. He is joined by a majority of our Supreme Court, human-rights activists, and other so-called sympathizers of terrorism. Opposing him stands Rahm Emanuel, the President’s chief of staff, who contends these “enemy combatants” deserve no quarter and should be tried, without evidence, before a “military tribunal” after being held indefinitely (after an interrogation by torture). Joining Mr. Emanual, ironically, is the Tea Party faction, along with “Republicans” in general, all of whom claim that allowing suspects of terrorism a fair trial stands tantamount to treason.
President Obama, as is his wont, has opted for a “middle path”, as The Times reports today. Some detainees, specifically those whom he is sure to convict, will be publicly tried, and the rest will just be held indefinitely because it’s impossible to convict anyone you’ve tortured a confession out of without looking like a butcher.
Granting civilian trials to some “terrorists” and secretly sentencing the others creates a multi-tiered justice system wherein only the suspects for whom conviction is assured will be allowed to go to trial. This is pre-judgment and worse. It it is a system that does away with even the pretense of caring whether or not these detainees are actually guilty. The government clearly seeks a few nefarious-looking Terrorists to be convicted by a civilian jury – thus proving that “the system works” – and then machinery to convict the rest of the suspects who could not be tried by jury because they were interrogated by torture and their cases would be thrown out (as, indeed, many have already).
It’s worth remembering that a vast majority of Guantanamo detainees were guilty of nothing more than bad luck. An ex-Bush official is on record saying that most of the people we held there were totally innocent.
But beyond this, The Times completely neglects to mention that these military commissions are illegal. The Supreme court has ruled, in numerous landmark cases, that the whole military commissions process is unconstitutional. Hamdan v. Rumsfeld effectively nullifies the necessary sections of the Military Commissions Act, and Hamdi v. Rumsfeld restored Habeas Corpus and Sixth Amendment rights (the right to a speedy trial) to detainees.
In fact, the majority opinion of Hamdan states that all detainees be given a “regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples“, and clearly states that the commissions system set up in Guantanamo does not fit that requirement.
Any article discussing discussing military commissions has the duty to mention these cases, but since they’re inconvenient to the prevailing narrative, they become “non-newsworthy”. I’m sure the “experts” they quote (nearly all Bush flunkies) know better.
One hears often from opponents of civil liberties that it’s “borderline criminal” to read a terrorism suspect his rights, that such actions provide “comfort to the enemy”, or as Ms. Palin thundered in her memorable Tea Party speech, that we’re allowing Terrorists who “hate our freedoms” to “lawyer up”. As Scott Brown, Massachusetts Senator and Tea Party darling once remarked: “Some people believe our Constitution exists to grant rights to terrorists who want to harm us. I disagree.”
But of course it is not for this charlatan to decide, but for the Supreme Court, who, unfortunately for Mr. Brown, has consistently ruled in favor of detainee rights. And for the record, the Constitution prescribes the relevant clauses to protect the rights of people who have been accused of a crime but not yet found guilty, much like these so-called “terrorists”. Until convicted in a court of law, these people are, by definition, guilty of nothing.
The reasoning employed by the Palin-Brown faction makes the dangerous assumption that anyone the government accuses of terrorism magically becomes a terrorist. In the warped mind of a Tea Partier, suspicion is proof. This works fine for most people, so long as it’s only brown Arabs with weird squiggly writing whom we lock up in cages with no trial, but the danger of promoting totalitarian practices is that you never quite know against whom they’ll be used next.
It’s also worth mentioning that every other country that has had problems with terrorism – India, Greece, Spain, etc. – have all found ways to deal with it within their already existing legal structures. They saw no need to create new levels of “justice” wherein some suspects get trials and others simply go to jail forever.
And, of course, the US media can’t be bothered to give this story any more than a couple perfunctory paragraphs. The Times and The Post fail to mention it whatsoever, Reuters gives it a lukewarm 300-word summary, and no one else even tried.
Let’s not forget the serious evidence of systemic abuses within the Patriot Act’s framework. The act has no mechanisms for oversight and no way for anyone to know what the FBI is doing with the massive information to which they now have access.
So in short, President Obama believes in:
– Depriving habeas corpus to anyone he deems a “terrorist”, effectively allowing for indefinite detention, interrogation by torture, and “rendition” to any part of the globe. Also, they don’t get to see a lawyer.