Posts tagged Obama
Posts tagged Obama
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BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Sixty-seven years ago, as the world began to emerge from the shadows of war, the 51 founding member states of the United Nations came together to take up the new test of forging a lasting peace. In a decade scarred by genocide, the United Nations chose the hope of unity over the ease of division, boldly promising to future generations that the dignity and equality of human beings would be our common cause. Today, we commemorate United Nations Day by celebrating the founding ideals laid down in its Charter and reaffirming the commitments to peace building, human rights, and social progress that will guide us in the years to come.
Throughout its history, the United Nations Charter has reflected the belief that the world is more secure when the global community acts collectively. Dedicated to assuring “the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small,” the institution has played an essential role in addressing the conditions that make the world more just and conflict less likely — caring for children, tending to the sick, and pursuing peace in places wracked by conflict. In today’s world, this mission remains as vital as it has ever been. Across the globe, people are making their voices heard. They are insisting on their innate dignity and the right to determine their future. The United States will always stand up for these aspirations at home and abroad, and we will join our global partners in working to realize them.
Through the better part of a century, we have seen what is possible when a strong and united international community takes action to advance the interests and values we share. The founding values of the United Nations remind us that countries can resolve their differences peacefully, and that all people deserve the chance to seek their own destiny, free from fear and empowered with their most fundamental rights. As we recognize this 67th anniversary of the United Nations, let us recommit to carrying that vision forward in the years ahead.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim October 24, 2012, as United Nations Day. I urge the Governors of the 50 States, and the officials of all other areas under the flag of the United States, to observe United Nations Day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-fourth day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.
In a shocking development in the Operation Fast and Furious investigation, documents show Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents allowed grenade parts to walk in addition to guns.
The emails also show Obama administration officials acknowledging that they may lose track of grenades but would still be able to accomplish their original objective even if the grenades explode.
According to an internal email that was provided to Congress by the Department of Justice and first reported by CBS News’ Sharyl Attkisson — who’s been the media’s most dogged reporter in tracking down facts on Fast and Furious – ATF began watching accused smuggler Jean Baptiste Kingery’s AK-47 purchases in 2004. In the 2009 internal ATF email, Obama administration officials admitted they believed Kingery was “trafficking them into Mexico.”
The 2009 email shows the ATF officials had then become aware of Kingery’s alleged grenade trafficking.
The administration officials then put together a plan: They secretly intercepted Kingery’s grenade parts after he ordered them online, marked them with special paint and gave them back to him. Then, they allowed him to take those grenade parts into Mexico. ATF was going to try to find his weapons factory there — even though the U.S. government and its federal law enforcement agencies have no jurisdiction in Mexico — with the apparent goal of building a bigger case against Kingery.
ATF agents had planned to work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials — who, unlike ATF agents who ultimately report to Attorney General Eric Holder, report up the chain to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. (RELATED: Full coverage of Operation Fast and Furious)
The emails show ATF agents were aware they might lose track of Kingery while they allowed him to transport the grenade parts into Mexico. The emails also show ATF agents knew that the grenades could end up exploding and killing innocent people if they proceeded with the plan. That didn’t stop the Obama administration’s ATF from allowing the grenades to walk.
“Even in a post blast, as long as the safety lever is recovered we will be able to identify these tagged grenades,” an official wrote in one email.
In addition to those revelations, new evidence photos have emerged: More than 2,000 rounds of ammunition and scores of grenade parts and fuse assemblies are seen in evidence photos that were just turned over to Congress. According to Attkisson’s report, officials had taken Kingery into custody in 2010 — long before Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was murdered with a Fast and Furious-supplied gun — after having caught him trying to transport that ammunition and those grenade parts and fuse assemblies into Mexico hidden inside the spare tire of the SUV he was travelling in.
Attkisson said that ATF agents questioned Kingery at that point but then “inexplicably released” him.
Internally, some in the ATF objected to these practices. For instance, ATF’s Mexico attaché, Carlos Canino — who has cooperated with congressional investigators and appeared willingly before the House Oversight Committee last summer — said ATF was not supposed to allow weapons, including grenades, to walk.
“We are forbidden from doing that type of activity,” Canino wrote in one email. “If ICE is telling you they can do that, they are full of shit.”
This news comes on the heels of Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich’s decision to resign his post at the Department of Justice soon. The University of Baltimore School of Law hired him as its new dean and he starts in July. Weich was the DOJ official who provided provably false information to Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa when Grassley began investigating Fast and Furious.
On Feb. 4, 2011, Weich wrote to Congress that the idea that “ATF ‘sanctioned’ or otherwise knowingly allowed the sale of assault weapons to a straw purchaser who then transported them into Mexico … is false.”
“ATF makes every effort to interdict weapons that have been purchased illegally and prevent their transportation to Mexico,” Weich added in that letter.
The DOJ has since retracted Weich’s letter.
Not one government official has been held accountable for Operation Fast and Furious. Scores of lawmakers — 125 House members, three U.S. senators, two governors — and many major political figures, including likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, have demanded Holder’s resignation or firing over Fast and Furious.
Peter Bergen, the Director of National Security Studies at the Democratic-Party-supportive New America Foundation, has a long Op-Ed in The New York Times today glorifying President Obama as a valiant and steadfast “warrior President”; it begins this way:
THE president who won the Nobel Peace Prize less than nine months after his inauguration has turned out to be one of the most militarily aggressive American leaders in decades.
Just ponder that: not only the Democratic Party, but also its progressive faction, is wildly enamored of “one of the most militarily aggressive American leaders in decades.” That’s quite revealing on multiple levels. Bergen does note that irony: he recalls that Obama used his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech to defend the justifications for war and points out: “if those on the left were listening, they didn’t seem to care.” He adds that “the left, which had loudly condemned George W. Bush for waterboarding and due process violations at Guantánamo, was relatively quiet when the Obama administration, acting as judge and executioner, ordered more than 250 drone strikes in Pakistan since 2009, during which at least 1,400 lives were lost.”
To explain the behavior of “the left,” Bergen offers this theory: “From both the right and left, there has been a continuing, dramaticcognitive disconnect between Mr. Obama’s record and the public perception of his leadership: despite his demonstrated willingness to use force, neither side regards him as the warrior president he is.” In other words, progressives are slavishly supportive of “one of the most militarily aggressive American leaders in decades” because they have deluded themselves into denying this reality and continue to pretend he’s some sort of anti-war figure.
That’s not unreasonable speculation, but I ultimately don’t believe that’s true. Leaving aside Bergen’s over-generalization — some factions on “the left” have been quite vocal in condemning Obama’s actions in these areas — most Democrats are perfectly aware of Obama’s military aggression. They don’t support him despite that, but rather, that’s one of the things they love about him. After years of being mocked by the Right as Terrorist-coddling weaklings, Obama — strutting around touting his own strength — lets them feel strong and powerful in exactly the way that Bush and Cheney’s swaggering let conservatives prance around as tough-guy, play-acting warriors. Rather than ignore this aggression, Democratic think tanks point with beaming pride to the corpses piled up by the Democratic Commander-in-Chief to argue that he’s been such a resounding foreign policy “success,” while Democratic punditscelebrate and defend the political value of his majestic kills.
Yesterday on his MSNBC morning show, Chris Hayes conducted an excellent, two-part discussion of Obama’s escalated civilian-killing drone attacks, with a heavy emphasis on the innocent people, including numerous children, who have been killed. He showed a harrowing video clip of a Yemeni man’s anguish as he described the pregnant women and children killed by Obama’s 2009 cluster bomb strike; featured the U.S. drone killing of 16-year-old American citizen Abdulrahman Awlaki in Yemen; and interviewed human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith, who described the 16-year-old Pakistani boy he met at a meeting to discuss civilian drone deaths and who, a mere 3 days later, had his own life ended by an American drone.
Later that day, Hayes tweeted this: “A bit taken aback by the ugliness that drone conversation seems to bring out in some people.” What he meant was the avalanche of angry Twitter attacks from steadfast Obama loyalists who gleefully defended the drone program, mocked concerns over civilian deaths, and insisted that he should not be covering such matters because they may harm Obama in an election year (of course, it’s not only the President’s followers, but, as Hayes noted, the President himself who is quite adept at finding humor in his drone attacks).
Side Note: First: this is why I like Fire Dog Lake, they aren’t a bunch of Obama-worshiping morons.
Second: this is a question to all those blog sites, “news” agencies and publications who ARE Obama worshipers (I’m looking at you Mother Jones, Raw Story etc.) when was Obama’s apotheosis anyway? For these types of publications and their general contempt for religion, why have they risen Obama up to be some sort of demigod? This is quite hypocritical on their part. Why do those publications grant Obama impunity for all the heinous things he’s done?
Anyway, FDL really is ‘independent’ and those writers think with their brains - NOT with corporate dollars.
As much as I dislike Barack Obama and consider him a phony corporate tool, I’m still not totally convinced that he qualifies as “one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times,” as Darrell Issa once said and then tried to unsay. Not with Bush/Cheney so fresh in my mind, anyway. But when Issa says that we currently have “the most corrupt government in history,” he’s actually not that far off.
Of course, being a self-serving Republican shill, Issa was presumably referring only to the Obama administration, but our government has threebranches, and right now as a whole they are, if not as corrupt as they’ve ever been, at least as corrupt as they’ve been in the last 80 or 90 years.
We have a secretive executive branch that brokers sweetheart deals to protect predatory health care and mortgage industries, a legislative branch whose members are mostly wholly-owned subsidiaries of various corporate and wealthy benefactors, and a judicial branch that has been aggressively packed with right-wing, pro-business judges for 20 out of the last 32 years.
The gap between the consideration given to private interests vs. the public interest is the widest it’s been since the days of Warren Harding and the robber barons. The biggest difference between the parties is that Democrats occasionally try to find, shall we say, “campaign-donation-neutral” ways to do good, while Republicans reflexively oppose anything that isn’t guns, tax cuts, deregulation, war, or “family values.”
But as depressing as it is to think about the rotten shell our government has become, it’s positively cheery compared to the realization that until America gets serious about campaign finance reform, everygovernment from here on out will be the most corrupt government in history. If Barack Obama really is the most corrupt president in modern times, it’s only because he’s the most recent.
IRONY ALERT! IRONY ALERT!
President Barack Obama announced Monday that he has signed an executive order allowing new sanctions against companies that enable Syria and Iran to use technology such as cell phone monitoring to carry out human rights abuses.
The order is part of a broader strategy intended to strengthen the administration’s ability to prevent atrocities, including creation of an Atrocities Prevention Board, Obama said in somber remarks at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day.
“These technologies should be in place to empower citizens, not to repress them,” Obama said of the measure, which targets the Syrian and Iranian governments, as well as companies that provide them with high-tech equipment to use against their own people.
A White House statement said the executive order signed Sunday “authorizes sanctions and visa bans against those who commit or facilitate grave human rights abuses via information technology … related to Syrian and Iranian regime brutality.”
“This novel sanctions tool allows us to sanction not just those oppressive governments, but the companies that enable them with technology they use for oppression and the ‘digital guns for hire’ who create or operate systems used to monitor, track, and target citizens for killing, torture, or other grave abuses,” the White House statement said.
Obama said the new Atrocities Prevention Board will meet for the first time on Monday at the White House.
It will have members from several government departments, including State, Defense, Treasury, Justice and Homeland Security, as well as other agencies, to help the United States improve its ability to identify and respond more quickly to threats of atrocities, according to the White House statement.
“Across government, alert channels will make sure that information about unfolding crises and dissenting opinions reach decision-makers, including me,” Obama said.
Other steps include what Obama called the first-ever intelligence assessment on the risk of mass atrocities and genocide, saying the goal is to “institutionalize the focus on this issue.”
“Our Treasury Department will work more quickly to deploy its financial tools to block the flow of money to abusive regimes,” the president said. “Our military will take additional steps to incorporate the prevention of atrocities into its doctrine and its planning. The State Department will surge our diplomats and experts in a crisis.”
He received applause from the audience of Holocaust survivors and others when he said, in clear reference to the situation in Syria, that “national sovereignty is never a license to slaughter your people.”
Obama has come under heavy criticism on foreign policy issues recently from Republicans, including his certain opponent in the November election, Mitt Romney, and the president’s comments appeared aimed at defending a range of acts by his administration that he said saved “countless lives” around the world.
Calling the prevention of atrocities and genocide a “core national security interest” as well as a core American value, Obama added: “That does not mean that we intervene militarily every time there is an atrocity committed. We cannot and should not.”
Side Note: If ‘journalists’ like those at Mother Jones prefer to just do hero worship - they aren’t ‘journalists’, they are PR agents, or Propagandists. Their writing is then essentially fiction and as far as I’m concerned they can just GTFO.
President Obama’s vast escalation of drone warfare is “a declaration of war against international law, as it has evolved over the centuries.” He systematically wages war against peace, the highest international crime. More than “justanother ‘war president’ – he is a destroyer of world civilization, the terms by which humans deal with one another as states, social groupings and individuals.
“Drone warfare utterly shreds the very concept of the rule of law.”
When Barack Obama was running for president, in 2008, he vowed to increase the use of drones against al Qaida elements in Pakistan and Afghanistan. His surrogates roamed the talk shows, advocating a “smarter” and cheaper kind of robotic war, allowing the U.S. to avoid pouring more troops into the “Af-Pak” theater of conflict. Vastly increased deployment of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), the argument went, would jettison George Bush’s “dumb” approach to warfare in favor of a cheaper and more humane use of U.S. technological resources, saving both American and South Asian lives.
What the “peace” candidate was actually proposing, was a qualitative leap in the U.S. drive for “full spectrum dominance” over the planet. The U.S. would elevate to a strategic principle its self-arrogated entitlement to use whatever technical means at its disposal – mainly drones – to target and kill designated adversaries at will, anyplace on the globe, at any time, accountable only to itself. It was a declaration of war against international law, as it has evolved over the centuries.
This administration has expanded the Air Force inventory of active drones to at least 7,500. Drones have joined Special Operations forces as the “tip of the spear” of U.S. power projection in the developing world, the “front lines” of the current imperial offensive.
Virtually all of the drones’ lethal missions are, in legal terms, assassinations, with or without “collateral damage.” They are also acts of terror, certainly in the broad sense of the word, and intended to be so.
“Drone warfare requires that due process be destroyed everywhere, including within the borders of the United States.”
As Canadian political scientist David Model points out in a recent article “Assassination by Drones”: “It is clearly evident that for a State to launch an attack by a UAV is a violation of international law and those responsible for such acts becomes suspects of war crimes.” Drone warfare utterly shreds the very concept of the rule of law. In killing those “suspected” of committing or planning actions against the U.S., Washington “precludes the application of due process,” writes Model.
Therefore, in the quest to make the entire world a free-fire (and law-free) zone, drone warfare requires that due process be destroyed everywhere, including within the borders of the United States.The Obama-shaped preventive detention bill signed into law this past New Years Eve is the logical extension of the international lawlessness called forth by drone warfare, and by the larger aims of full spectrum American dominance. Barack Obama is not just another “war president” – he is a destroyer of world civilization, the terms by which humans deal with one another as states, social groupings and individuals. It is not an exaggeration to describe this leap into depravity as a war against humanity at-large, and against the human historical legacy.
“The Obama-shaped preventive detention bill is the logical extension of the international lawlessness called forth by drone warfare.”
Certainly, it is a war against peace, the highest international crime. If a state can kill individuals and designated (or alleged) organizations by fiat, without due process or any shred of accountability to any authority but the president of the superpower, that state can also “execute” other states at will. Under Obama, the U.S. has articulated an alternative notion of global legality that purports to replace the body of international law accrued over centuries and so elegantly codified after World War Two. “Humanitarian” military intervention is the fraudulent doctrine through which the U.S. seeks to justify its current, desperate offensive against all obstacles to its global dominance.
Where George Bush often spoke in unilateralist terms of a U.S. mission to “spread democracy” as justification for his regime-changing aggression in Iraq and elsewhere, Obama invokes the higher calling of “humanitarian intervention” as a universal, pseudo-legal principle of international conduct. It is a doctrine designed for a Final Conflict for American supremacy on the planet, a doomsday construct that conflates perceived U.S. (corporate) geopolitical interests with the destiny of humankind – unbounded imperial criminality posing as the highest bar of justice!
Since the Vietnam War era, the U.S. has traveled from being the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world today,” in Dr. Martin Luther King’s words, to an existential threat to world order, the rule of law, and the security of the Earth’s inhabitants – to civilization itself. The nation’s first Black President has taken us on the final descent into international barbarity with his drone offensive. It is a joy stick to Hell.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — In a rare show of unity, the government and opposition joined on Thursday to present the United States with a list of stringent demands, including an immediate end to C.I.A. drone strikes, that were cast in uncompromising words but could pave the way for a reopening of NATO supply lines through the country.
After two and a half weeks of contentious negotiations, the main parties agreed on a four-page parliamentary resolution that, in addition to the drone demand, called on the Obama administration to apologize for American airstrikes in November that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. It declared that “no overt or covert operations inside Pakistan shall be permitted” — a broad reference that could be interpreted to include all C.I.A. operations.
But on the issue of NATO supply lines, the resolution specified only that arms and ammunition cannot be transported through Pakistan, opening the door to the resumed delivery of critical Afghan war supplies like food and fuel for the first time since the November airstrikes. And in practice, arms and ammunition were rarely, if ever, transported in convoys through Pakistan.
“Today’s resolution will enrich your respect and dignity; I assure you that we will get these enforced in letter and spirit,” Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani told Parliament, although he stopped short of declaring when the supply route would reopen.
“We are a responsible nation,” he said. “We know our obligations as well as the importance of the United States.”
A spokeswoman for the State Department, Victoria Nuland, praised the “seriousness” of the Parliament’s debate and added: “We seek a relationship with Pakistan that is enduring, strategic and more clearly defined. We look forward to discussing these policy recommendations.”
At freedom’s core is protection from arbitrary police power and the right to choose one’s own medicine, as well as to express one’s opinion, however controversial.
All three of these rights have taken very troubling recent hits.
Mired in imperial war and corporate privilege, the US Supreme Court and Obama Administration have escalated their attacks on our basic rights. The results are horrifying, and a huge warning to all Americans that the foul debris of a collapsing empire is falling directly on us all.
Since 1791 US citizens have had the right to expect basic legal protection from arbitrary search and seizure by the police. A key bulwark has been the Fourth Amendment, drafted by James Madison and adopted with the Bill of Rights two years after the ratification of the Constitution.
While the Constitution was being drafted in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787, Madison argued that the new federal government didn’t need a Bill of Rights. But in the wake of a dicey ratification process, the grassroots citizenry—-mostly the armed farmers who won the Revolution against the British—-made it clear they would not accept a centralized multi-state authority without basic guarantees of liberty and human rights.
So Madison combed through the Bills of Rights of the new states (including Virginia’s, which he had largely written with Thomas Jefferson). In terms of legal guarantees of freedom, the resulting Ten Amendments constitute the most important document ever written. The Fourth reads as follows:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
The key phrases have to do with probable cause, specific descriptions, and the requirement that police convince a judge to grant a warrant before they violate an individual’s person, papers, property or privacy.
Over the 220 years since its adoption, the Fourth Amendment has been revered worldwide as a bulwark of essential human rights. When George W. Bush violated it by ordering warrantless wiretaps on millions of phone calls, a tremendous uproar ensued.
But now the 5-4 “conservative” majority on the US Supreme Court has essentially trashed the entire amendment. In a horrifying decision that would make the Founders cringe, the Roberts-Scalia-Alito-Thomas-Kennedy cabal has ruled that police can strip-search any citizen without a warrant or even a shred of evidence that such an invasion is called for under the law.
As “strict constructionism” goes, the ruling is utterly insane. It negates even the most basic procedures mandated by Madison and those who fought the arbitrary power of the British king, then took such great care to limit that of the new federal government. It essentially says that police power is now unlimited in this country, that the niceties of the Constitution no longer matter, and that the core of the Bill of Rights is no longer with us. It is the perfect companion piece not only to the Citizens United decision granting human rights to corporations, but also to President Obama’s recent assertion that he has the right to kill any American without due process.
Sometimes a step back helps to provide perspective on a matter. President Obama provided such a step with his March 16 Executive Order—National Defense Resources Preparedness. In it we see in detail how completely the government may control our lives—euphemistically called the “industrial and technological base”—if the president were to declare a national emergency. It is instructive, if tedious, reading.
President Obama claims this authority under the Constitution and, vaguely, “the laws of the United States,” but it specifically names the Defense Production Act of 1950. As Robert Higgs of the Independent Institute and a Freeman columnist observed, the government’s authority to commandeer the economy, which was “abandoned” after World War II then substantially reinstated with the Korean War,
was retained afterward in the form of statutory authority for its reinstatement whenever the president might so order under the authority of the Defense Production Act of 1950, as amended… . Under this statute, the president has lawful authority to control virtually the whole of the U.S. economy whenever he chooses to do so and states that the national defense requires such a government takeover.
No Academic Exercise
The Executive Order, which requires no additional congressional approval, details who within the executive branch has what precise authority in the event the President invokes his emergency powers. We shouldn’t assume this is merely an academic exercise or that a third world war would need to break out. In the last decade, under circumstances representing no “existential threat” to our society, the executive branch has exercised extraordinary powers.
Reading the Executive Order, I was reminded of a quotation of Leonard Read’s (HT: Gary Chartier): “[A]nyone who even presumes an interest in economic affairs cannot let the subject of war, or the moral breakdown which underlies it, go untouched. To do so would be as absurd—indeed, as dishonest—as a cleric to avoid the Commandment, ‘Thou shalt not steal’ simply because his parishioners had legalized and were practicing theft.”
In other words, if one holds that a free economy is essential to human flourishing, one must look with alarm on the comprehensive power government’s chief executive claims in the event he (or she) declares an emergency.
Is the United States in decline? You would certainly think so from the publishers’ lists, although some of the new books, written by determined neoconservatives resisting indictment for complicity in causing the decline, such as Robert Kagan, are arguing that it’s only a very little decline, and temporary, and will end in November when the teapot boils. Certainly President Barack Obama forswears declinism. Anyone who says that America is in decline, “or that our influence has waned, doesn’t know what they are talking about,” he said in his State of the Union address.
Well, actually, the only people who can really say that are those who haven’t been to Europe or the major Asian states recently, where everything works beautifully, even if Europe’s debts are not paid off. The 200 mph trains that crisscross Europe not only run on time but give you money back if they are late. The hotels in Singapore, Tokyo and the Arabian Gulf surpass all rivals. Their national airlines provide unparalleled service, and even room enough to sit comfortably in economy.
Even the American government luxuriates abroad. Have you ever been an overnight guest in the visiting officers’ apartments of any major American military base abroad? (Not in a combat zone, to be sure!) I have. It’s like Air Force One. And you can bet that everything works, every luxury and comfort provided, every wish granted and whim gratified. What great fun for the little Obama girls! The rest of us usually fly economy.
Why the decline? First: globalization and what it did to destroy the domestic American economy in which ordinary people live. Globalization was the product of an economic ideology that said removing all regulation would guarantee free markets that would automatically produce maximum economic efficiencies, and consequent profit, in every realm of human activity, except war and peace. (Other priorities governed war and peace.)
Second: mindless oversimplification plus ignorance, following from collapsing public education. The latter has a cause that it has not been politically acceptable to identify: the liberation of women. In the United States before the Second World War, teaching in public (or parochial) schools was virtually the only serious work open to university-educated women. They educated America. They now have other things to do, for which we give thanks. But the nation suffers the consequences.
Another factor, which is not trivial, is the huge and credulous audience that has been created for the political fantasies that talk radio and Fox television demagogues promulgate. A consequence of that has been the intellectual corruption of political debate and the money corruption of American political practice and government, which has placed plutocracy in the saddle, with no visible way to unseat him.
In Fiscal 2012 the Defense Department asked for $553 billion in its base budget and $118 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ever wonder how much of that you specifically might have been on the hook for?
The White House on Wednesday unveiled a new “Federal Taxpayer Receipt” tool that lets you plug in the amount you paid in taxes and shows how all of it was distributed across the federal government, from the National Soup Administration to the Bureau of Nuts. At the very top of your “receipt” is the listing “national defense.”
At 24.9 percent of the “receipt,” national defense is the biggest single piece of this pie, which the White House breaks down further by accounting for “Military personnel salaries and benefits;” “Ongoing operations, equipment and supplies;” “Research, development, weapons and construction;” “Atomic energy defense activities;” and “Defense-related FBI activities and additional national defense.”
So a hypothetical family of four — two married adults and two kids — that earned about $80,000 in 2011 paid a total of $9,110 in income and payroll taxes, according to one preset case. Of that, $1,142.91 went to “national defense,” including $266.22 for salaries and benefits; $472.77 for ongoing operations; $362.61 for weapons and construction; $32.12 for “atomic;” and $9.18 for “Defense-related FBI,” etc.
The next biggest section of the receipt is “health care,” which accounts for 23.7 percent, and then everything else falls off a cliff by comparison. “International affairs” is only 1.6 percent, for a total of $73.44, and with that you bought “Development and humanitarian assistance;” “security assistance;” and “foreign affairs, embassies and additional international affairs.” You paid 4.5 percent for “Veterans benefits,” or $206.55 for our hypothetical family.
Here’s another interesting tidbit: After defense, health care and “job and family security,” the biggest slice of this receipt, at 8.1 percent, is “net interest” — service on the national debt. That partly reflects the imbalance between the amount the federal government has been spending and the amount it takes in, with the difference made up by borrowed money. Last year’s war over the near-term solution to that dilemma is what gave us the farce of the “super committee” and now has left the Pentagon terrified that “sequestration” will take effect in January.
The White House’s spending receipt tool is transparently political — it asks if you knew that “1,470 people who made more than $1 million in 2009 paid $0 in federal income taxes” and promises President Obama’s proposed new tax would “ensure everyone pays their fair share.” Still, the budget is what it is, so there’s only so much the White House can do to sell the president beyond just presenting the numbers and percentages. The question is, what will people do after seeing a pie chart in which nearly one quarter is defense spending?
In two brief posts over the past week, Scott Horton at Harper’s gives us a harrowing sketch of the entrenchment and ever-spreading expansion of the Torture Matrix that now sits enthroned at the very heart of the American state. This entrenchment and expansion has been carried out — enthusiastically, energetically, relentlessly — by the current president of the United States: a progressive Democrat and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Horton notes the uncovering of the Zelikow Memo, written by one of the chief factotums of the Bush Administration, Philip Zelikow. While serving as a State Department lawyer in 2006, Zelikow wrote a legal brief that demolished the written-to-order “torture memos” by White House lawyers, which sanctioned the widespread use of torture techniques that were — and still are — clearly war crimes. As Horton points out, the Zelikow did not even address the most brutal tortures instigated by the Bush administration, but confined itself to the so-called ‘torture lite’ methods (many of which are still in use today). Yet even here, Zelikow clearly demonstrated “that the use of these techniques would constitute prosecutable felonies — war crimes.” The existence of the Zelikow memo proves that there was indeed official recognition throughout the highest reaches of government that war crimes were being committed at the order of the White House and the intelligence agencies. Horton goes on:
In order for a prosecution to succeed, a prosecutor would have to show that the accused understood that what he was doing was a crime. In United States v. Altstoetter, a case in which government lawyers were prosecuted for their role in, among other things, providing a legal pretext for the torture and mistreatment of prisoners, the court fashioned a similar rule, saying that the law requires “proof before conviction that the accused knew or should have known that in matters of international concern he was guilty of participation in a nationally organized system of injustice and persecution shocking to the moral sense of mankind, and that he knew or should have known that he would be subject to punishment if caught.”
The Zelikow memo satisfies both of these elements—it makes clear that the techniques the Justice Department endorsed constituted criminal conduct, and it applied the “shock the conscience” test of American constitutional law to help reach that conclusion. It could therefore be introduced as Exhibit A by prosecutors bringing future charges.
Horton also provides a succinct background to the other “torture memos” that Bush attorneys wrote in support of the criminal operation — a perpetrators’ paper trail that is actually much more extensive than is usually known.
This memo has been in the possession of the Obama Administration since its first day in office. It was in the possession of the special prosecutor that Obama’s Justice Department appointed to look into the torture system — a special prosecutor who found that there was nothing to prosecute. Horton writes:
Spencer Ackerman, whose persistence is to be credited for the publication of Zelikow’s memo, astutely pressed its author to answer this question: Why, in light of Zelikow’s findings, did the special prosecutor appointed by Eric Holder to investigate the legality of CIA interrogation techniques fail to bring charges?
“I don’t know why Mr. Durham came to the conclusions he did,” Zelikow says, referring to the Justice Department special prosecutor for the CIA torture inquiry, John Durham. “I’m not impugning them, I just literally don’t know why, because he never published any details about either the factual analysis or legal analysis that led to those conclusions.”
To reiterate: one of the chief insiders of the right-wing Republican Bush White House believes that the war crimes ordered by the Bush White House deserve prosecution. The chief insiders of the progressive Democratic Obama White House believe these war crimes should not be prosecuted.