George W. Bush inconvenienced

Dubya in jail

The problem for the ex-Decider, current fine arts painter is legal in nature:

Will George W. Bush set foot in Europe again in his lifetime?

A planned trip by Bush to speak at the Switzerland-based United Israel Appeal later this week has been canceled after several human rights groups called for Swiss authorities to arrest Bush and investigate him for authorizing torture. Bush has traveled widely since leaving office, but not to Europe, where there is a strong tradition of international prosecutions.

The Swiss group and Bush’s spokesman claim that it was threats of protest, not of legal action, that prompted the cancellation. But facing protests is nothing new for Bush. What was different about this trip was that groups including Amnesty International and the Center for Constitutional Rights argued that Switzerland, as a party to the UN Convention against Torture, is obligated to investigate Bush for potential prosecution.

Is it unsurprising that a Bush spokesman has a truth-telling problem? No, of course not. The word “Bush” could become a synonym for “liar.” Nor is it surprising that George W. Bush wants to avoid the legal problems generated by his criminal actions. There is nothing here which is at all surprising because he has evaded responsibility for his worst acts his whole life.

It just pleases me greatly that The Decider must avoid traveling to and around Europe lest he risk finding himself in prison for the rest of his life for the decisions he made while president! It would please me even more if he were to spend the rest of his life in prison for his crimes.

From a young Nazi to a tacit collaborator with the Argentinean Junta

emblem of the Papacy: Triple tiara and keys Fr...

It appears the one Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church cannot produce a Pope with clean hands, with hands unsullied by inquisitions, mass terror and murder. As Annette Langer of Der Spiegel has recently reported, not every Argentinean celebrated Jorge Mario Bergoglio‘s election, and with good cause:

“I can’t believe it. I’m so distressed and full of anger that I don’t know what to do,” wrote the sister of deceased priest and torture victim Orlando Yorio in an e-mail to the journalist Horacio Berbitsky. “Now he’s achieved what he wanted.”

“He,” for Graciela Yorio, refers to a power-hungry man who betrayed her brother and the Hungarian Jesuit Franz Jalics to Argentina’s mililtary dictatorshop (sic). A man who did nothing to stop the two faithful from being locked up in prison for five months and tortured. “He” is Pope Francis, then still known as Jorge Mario Bergoglio, provincial of the Argentine Jesuits.

The two liberation theologists were kidnapped on May 23, 1976 in a slum where they were doing ministry and social work. “Many people politically associated with the extreme right viewed our presence in the poor districts with suspicion,” recalled Jalics later in his writings. “They interprested (sic) the fact that we lived there as support of the guerrillas, and they denounced us as terrorists.”

The regime’s henchmen brought the two Jesuits to the Escuela de Mecánica de la Armada (ESMA), a detention center notorious for torture. After five months they were thrown out onto a field half-naked and pumped full of drugs. The priests complained of Bergoglio to Superior General Pedro Arrupe in Rome. But they had already been expelled from the Jesuit order, allegedly due to contact with woman and “conflicts of obedience.”

Bergolio dismissed the two priests before their arrest, a fact that, when considered along with Bergolio’s conservatism, compromises and, perhaps, undermines the post facto defense of the new Pope.

Quote of the day

The state of the world today is in such a condition that a Nobel Peace Prize winner affirms permanent war and political murder. As Glenn Greenwald reports:

The Washington Post has a crucial and disturbing story this morning by Greg Miller about the concerted efforts by the Obama administration to fully institutionalize – to
Seal of the Office of the Director of National...make officially permanent – the most extremist powers it has exercised in the name of the war on terror.

Based on interviews with “current and former officials from the White House and the Pentagon, as well as intelligence and counterterrorism agencies”, Miller reports that as “the United States‘ conventional wars are winding down”, the Obama administration “expects to continue adding names to kill or capture lists for years” (the “capture” part of that list is little more than symbolic, as the US focus is overwhelmingly on the “kill” part). Specifically, “among senior Obama administration officials, there is broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade.” As Miller puts it: “That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism.”

In pursuit of this goal, “White House counterterrorism adviser John O Brennan is seeking to codify the administration’s approach to generating capture/kill lists, part of a broader effort to guide future administrations through the counterterrorism processes that Obama has embraced.” All of this, writes Miller, demonstrates “the extent to which Obama has institutionalized the highly classified practice of targeted killing, transforming ad-hoc elements into a counterterrorism infrastructure capable of sustaining a seemingly permanent war.”

Greenwald continues by noting that the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), which reports to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and which generates the “kill lists” for the President, has access to the extensive and diverse information collected at home and abroad, information nominally meant to provide a resource for deterring terrorists but information which also includes every American who has left a digital record from his or her life. Thus the federal institution charged with generating (unconstitutional) “kill lists” also surveys the behavior of and accumulates data on every American. Americans watch other Americans. They collect data on them — themselves! — and generate profiles which allegedly encapsulate the lives of those they study.
Greenwald summarizes his argument:

What has been created here — permanently institutionalized —is a highly secretive executive branch agency that simultaneously engages in two functions: (1) it collects and analyzes massive amounts of surveillance data about all Americans without any judicial review let alone search warrants, and (2) creates and implements a “matrix” that determines the “disposition” of suspects, up to and including execution, without a whiff of due process or oversight. It is simultaneously a surveillance state and a secretive, unaccountable judicial body that analyzes who you are and then decrees what should be done with you, how you should be “disposed” of, beyond the reach of any minimal accountability or transparency.

The upshot: What Greenwald depicts is the institutionalization and exercise of prerogative powers by the de facto sovereign of the United States. These powers are, by definition, extra-legal. The President with access to these powers governs unencumbered by the rule of law.

Yet, as Miller reports, “For an administration that is the first to embrace targeted killing on a wide scale, officials seem confident that they have devised an approach that is so bureaucratically, legally and morally sound that future administrations will follow suit.”

These administration officials and permanent government apparatchiks they work with are, in a word, deluded.

Update

Chris Floyd has this (among other things) to say about Barack Obama’s newly instituted system of murder:

Like last year’s NY Times piece that first detailed the murder racket being run directly out of the White House, the new Washington Post story is replete with quotes from “senior Administration officials” who have obviously been authorized to speak. Once again, this is a story that Obama and his team WANT to tell. They want you to know about the murder program and their strenuous exertions to make it permanent; they are proud of this, they think it makes them look good. They want it to be part of their legacy, something they can pass on to future generations: arbitrary, lawless, systematic murder.

Perhaps this fact should be borne in mind by all those anguished progressives out there who keep telling themselves that Obama will “be different, that he will “turn to the left,” if we can only get him a second term. No; the legacy of arbitrary, lawless, systematic murder is the legacy he wants. It is the legacy he has been building, with remarkable energy and meticulous attention to detail, day after day, week after week, for the past four years. This is what he cares about. And it is this — not jobs, not peace, not the environment, not equal rights for women and ethnic and sexual minorities, not the poor, not the middle class, not education, not infrastructure, not science, not diplomacy — that he will apply himself to in a second term. (Along with his only other political passion: forging a “grand bargain” with Big Money to gut the remaining shreds of the New Deal.)

Floyd had previously addressed this topic:

It is, I confess, beyond all my imagining that a national leader so deeply immersed in murdering people would trumpet his atrocity so openly, so gleefully — and so deliberately, sending his top aides out to collude in a major story in the nation’s leading newspaper, to ensure maximum exposure of his killing spree. Although many leaders have wielded such powers, they almost always seek to hide or obscure the reality of the operation. Even the Nazis took enormous pains to hide the true nature of their murder programs from the public. And one can scarcely conceive of Stalin inviting reporters from Pravda into the Politburo meetings where he and Molotov and Beria debated the lists of counterrevolutionary “terrorists” given to them by the KGB and ticked off those who would live and those who would die. Of course, those lists too were based on “intelligence reports,” often gathered through “strenuous interrogation techniques” or the reports of informers. No doubt these reports were every bit as credible as the PowerPoint presentations reviewed each week by Obama and his team.

And no doubt Stalin and his team were just as sincerely concerned about “national security” as the Aquinas acolyte in the White House today — and just as determined to do “whatever it takes” to preserve that security. As Stalin liked to say of the innocent people caught up in his national security efforts: “When wood is chopped, chips fly.”

Barack Obama has been a “system politician.” He will remain a system politician as long as he is President. Mitt Romney is a system politician. He will remain a system politician if he is elected President. The reforms Americans need to implement will not be the product of system politicians, especially those politicians who embrace death squads, murder by drone strikes and, to be sure, empire.

Another click of the ratchet

The role the police play in a modern society ought to be straightforward and well-known. The police broadly considered ought to act with certain goals in mind, namely — to implement the laws of the land while ensuring these laws are observed and bringing to the courts those individuals and institutions which fail to obey those laws. (At one time, the police were also charged with maintaining the general welfare of the people.) The police are empowered by law to meet these goals. Since the United States is a constitutional republic, policing in America must be performed in such a way that the police habitually observe constitutional norms while fulfilling their duties. When the police are considered in this way, it is clear that they are agents of the Constitution and are meant to create a constitutionally ordered society.

Once again, the role of the police in a modern society should be both simple and clear to all.

Given the role assigned to the police and given the nature and content of the Bill of Rights, what are we to make of a recent report by David Graeber?

A few weeks ago I was with a few companions from Occupy Wall Street in Union Square when an old friend — I’ll call her Eileen — passed through, her hand in a cast.

“What happened to you?” I asked.

“Oh, this?” she held it up. “I was in Liberty Park on the 17th [the Six Month Anniversary of the Occupation]. When the cops were pushing us out the park, one of them yanked at my breast.”

“Again?” someone said.

We had all been hearing stories like this. In fact, there had been continual reports of police officers groping women during the nightly evictions from Union Square itself over the previous two weeks.

“Yeah so I screamed at the guy, I said, ‘you grabbed my boob! what are you, some kind of fucking pervert?’ So they took me behind the lines and broke my wrists.”

Actually, she quickly clarified, only one wrist was literally broken. She proceeded to launch into a careful, well-nigh clinical blow-by-blow description of what had happened. An experienced activist, she knew to go limp when police seized her, and how to do nothing that could possibly be described as resisting arrest. Police dragged her, partly by the hair, behind their lines and threw her to the ground, periodically shouting “stop resisting!” as she shouted back “I’m not resisting!” At one point though, she said, she did tell them her glasses had fallen to the sidewalk next to her, and announced she was going to reach over to retrieve them. That apparently gave them all the excuse they needed. One seized her right arm and bent her wrist backwards in what she said appeared to be some kind of marshal-arts move, leaving it not broken, but seriously damaged. “I don’t know exactly what they did to my left wrist—at that point I was too busy screaming at the top of my lungs in pain. But they broke it. After that they put me in plastic cuffs, as tightly as they possibly could, and wouldn’t loosen them for at least an hour no matter how loud I screamed or how much the other prisoners begged them to help me. For a while everyone in the arrest van was chanting ‘take them off, take them off’ but they just ignored them…”

The author continues by noting the obvious:

Arbitrary violence is nothing new. The apparently systematic use of sexual assault against women protestors is new. I’m not aware of any reports of police intentionally grabbing women’s breasts before March 17, but on March 17 there were numerous reported cases, and in later nightly evictions from Union Square, the practice became so systematic that at least one woman told me her breasts were grabbed by five different police officers on a single night (in one case, while another one was blowing kisses.) The tactic appeared so abruptly, is so obviously a violation of any sort of police protocol or standard of legality, that it is hard to imagine it is anything but an intentional policy.

From the rape squads around the world (that made mass rape a weapon of war) to the dirty-handed goon squads of the NYPD (who have added sexual assault to the weapons locker of a terrorist state), the goals thus pursued are held constant across time, space and culture: Terrorize the weak, especially women, demoralize the opposition, and the rule of law be damned.

What do I make of this report? The crimes committed by the New York Police Department reported by David Graeber should be considered signs. What do these signs signify? They point to the fact that the United States continues its slide into a state of barbarism.

Once this was a day on which Germany and Italy committed an infamous crime

Once a day on which Germany committed an infamous crime

Quote of the day

Glenn Greenwald drew this conclusion from his discussion of the Federal government’s fear- and terror-mongering:

The central linchpin of Endless War and civil liberties erosions is keeping fear levels high. Foreign Al Qaeda villains once served that role, and Homegrown Terrorists have now replaced them. That they are, in fact, a “miniscule threat to public safety” seems to have no force in even slowing down, let alone grinding to a halt, the never-ending war mentality imposed on the citizenry even though we are now more than a full decade away from the last successful Terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

If I were asked to choose a government institution that best illustrates bureaucratic-monument building and excessive resource usage, I would select the security-surveillance apparatus. What is truly disturbing about the apparatus is that it is a network of related institutions which would have no reason to exist if the United States were not an empire. But it is an empire, one struggling to remain so for an indefinite future.

The rule of law in America today

Does it exist? Is the United States a Nation of Laws? It is clear that some rules do exist. But do they conform to the spirit and letter of the rule of law doctrine?

Glenn Greenwald thinks not. He recently identified four rules of American justice:

(1) If you are a high-ranking government official who commits war crimes, you will receive full-scale immunity, both civil and criminal, and will have the American President demand that all citizens Look Forward, Not Backward.

(2) If you are a low-ranking member of the military, you will receive relatively trivial punishments in order to protect higher-ranking officials and cast the appearance of accountability.

(3) If you are a victim of American war crimes, you are a non-person with no legal rights or even any entitlement to see the inside of a courtroom.

(4) If you talk publicly about any of these war crimes, you have committed the Gravest Crime — you are guilty of espionage — and will have the full weight of the American criminal justice system come crashing down upon you.

It is thus clear that some Americans are not subject to the rule of law. The rule of law makes sense only when everyone is subject to the same laws. The United States is not a country governed by laws.


Update

David Dayen of FireDogLake walks over some of the same ground as Greenwald:

The Administration has reserved some of its most punitive uses of their prosecutorial discretion for government leakers and whistleblowers. Government information gets leaked all the time, of course, often by official sources doing so on behalf of the Administration for political reasons. But no Administration has prosecuted as many government officials for leaking as this one; in fact, the six criminal cases are more than all other Presidents combined. It has unquestionably had a chilling effect on other whistleblowers. The case against former NSA official Thomas Drake, which thankfully collapsed last year, is the most celebrated of these cases. But the inadequacy of that case has not stopped the Justice Department from continuing to wage war on leakers.

Quote of the day

Paul Craig Roberts addresses the looming American attack on Iran:

In my judgment, the US government’s war preparations are driven by three factors.

One is the neoconservative ideology, adopted by the US government, that calls for the US to use its superior military and economic position to achieve world hegemony. This goal appeals to American hubris and to the power and profit that it serves.

A second factor is Israel’s desire to eliminate all support for the Palestinians and for Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. Israel’s goal is to seize all of Palestine and the water resources of southern Lebanon. Eliminating Iran removes all obstacles to Israel’s expansion.

A third factor is to deter or slow China’s rise as a military and economic power by controlling China’s access to energy. It was China’s oil investments in eastern Libya that led to the sudden move against Libya by the US and its NATO puppets, and it is China’s oil investments elsewhere in Africa that resulted in the Bush regime’s creation of the United States Africa Command, designed to counter China’s economic influence with US military influence. China has significant energy investments in Iran, and a substantial percentage of China’s oil imports are from Iran. Depriving China of independent access to oil is Washington’s way of restraining and boxing in China.

What we are witnessing is a replay of Washington’s policy toward Japan in the 1930s that provoked the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Japan’s bank balances in the West were seized, and Japan’s access to oil and raw materials was restricted. The purpose was to prevent or to slow Japan’s rise. The result was war.

A war with China — that’s truly change we can believe in….

Roberts continues by asking:

We, as Americans, need to ask ourselves what all this is about? Why is our government so provocative toward Islam, Russia, China, Iran? What purpose, whose purpose is being served? Certainly not ours.

The United States murders an American citizen

An armed drone finally killed Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen whom the Obama administration had marked for death. Mr. Awlaki’s murder becomes another milestone passed by the American political system in its effort to replace the rule of law by the rule by law.

Eyes on the NYPD

David Lindorff, a veteran journalist addressing the significance of the Occupy Wall Street protest, rightly claims that:

Probably the biggest accomplishment of the Occupy Wall Street movement to date has not been the light these courageous and indomitable young activists have shined on the gangsters of Wall Street, as important as that has been. Rather it has been how they have exposed the police of the nation’s financial capital as the centurions of the ruling class, and not the gauzy “people’s heroes” that they have been posing as since some of their number, along with many more firefighters, nobly gave their lives trying to rescue people in the doomed World Trade Center towers on 9-11.

MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, a member of the establishment, did his light-shedding part in this excellent piece:

As O’Donnell reminds his viewers, gratuitous and illegal police violence is common in America. For some Americans, the police officers they face in their lives are little more than armed thugs, authorized by the state to abuse them, protected by the legal system in which they serve. Lindorff, knowing this and knowing that the police have had an aura of legitimacy since the 9.11 attacks, closes his article by pointing out that:

Even the corporate media, which for days had tried to pretend nothing was happening in Lower Manhattan, have finally been forced to report on the despicable police abuse of these brave kids.

The farcical mythology of police as heroes in blue is over.

Sad to say for those good cops who are just trying to protect and serve, the pigs in their midst have shown the true nature of NYPD policing, and unless we start seeing good cops coming out and denouncing the violent and un-Constitutional behavior of their thuggish colleagues and especially their even more thuggish supervisors, it will be hard going forward, at least for this reporter, not to laugh when someone next refers to cops collectively as “heroes.”

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