November 6, 2012
Unfortunately for Gary, and for the rest of us humans, his vote was wasted. Not a single one of all the lofty ideals mentioned in Gary’s poem can be accomplished by voting no matter that they are all essential to our pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.
Presidential election day always makes me more deeply ashamed to be an American. Instead of being a beacon of freedom and human rights, we’re just a tired, old sham dismantling the Constitution, whose rights were the one and only thing that made the US a different, and better, country. No more. America is now a caricature of its founding ideals. [CONTINUES BELOW]
Dissident Voice: November 5, 2012
I voted today. …
I voted for peace and justice and sanity
In an insane world of violence and injustice.
I voted for clear streams, rivers, and seas;
Bright stars in a cedar-scented night-sky;
Whale-songs heard in unpolluted oceans.
Not for the lesser of two evils,
But for the greatest good for the greatest number—
For nothing less, I voted.
I voted for climate-change victims;
And for those torn apart by war;
Against the Empire, and for the planet;
For the hungry and forgotten,
For the terrified and abused–
Against the military-industrial-media complex
And for the dream of MLK–
I voted for Iraqi mothers and Afghani;
In Pakistan and around the world—
Because each of them is my mother, also,
Weeping like Rachel for her lost children.
For Kathy Kelly and Rachel Corrie,
For Cindy Sheehan and Cynthia McKinney,
Jill Stein, Helen Caldicott and Medea B.–
For standing against madness and lies,
Opportunism and exploitation—
For all of them, I voted.
For brothers in exile I voted;
For the martyred, the betrayed, the abandoned—
Ishmael, Aguinaldo, Sandino and Guevara;
Tashtunka Witco, Tecumseh, Bradley Manning—
For this council of leaders, I voted.
Against slavery and wage-slavery;
Sexploitation, television and bad food;
The corruption of Art; mis-education;
The torture of humans and animals;
Our prison-work-complex and sham democracy;
Citizens United; the Electoral College;
And every meme kicked down the road
By glutinous politicians and their corporate masters—
Against all of this, I voted.
To pass from these Dark Ages
To a Renaissance of Reason,
To a New Age of Enlightenment–
That truths may be reclaimed;
For the wisdom to discern;
That children may be honored
With cleanliness and virtue,
With books and venerable teachers;
That all may be protected
From the ravenous and greedy—
To see the planet whole;
To know our place upon it;
To nurture and restore it;
To abide in moderation,
With compassionate humility;
That the arts might consecrate us—
For the best that lies within us;
For the fortitude to harness;
For the healing grace that’s needed.
For the courage to continue–
Frankly, I was pretty amazed at the close finals between a Mormon born in Mexico and a could-be black, President Al Jolson. Do you really have nothing better to think about than this phony reality TV?
These meat puppets spent six billion dollars advertising themselves to convince you to vote for them. Think about the good a responsible govt could do for all citizens with that enormous sum. Instead, it was spent to elect just another millionaire to commit further atrocities in our name. That money could have gone to your kids’ education.
Drugs. And why? Is somebody going to break into your house and still your flatscreen? If so, you live in the w-r-o-n-g neighbourhood, homes. Millions of people, mostly poor and of colour are in prison. This means they can’t ever vote…if there’s ever anybody better to choose than these bozos.
This election day, 7,225,800 Americans are in prison or parole, mostly people of colour. This means they can’t ever vote—big loss, eh?–…if there’s ever anybody better to choose than these bozos.
Foreclosure. You bought shit you didn’t have the money to pay for. That’s supposed to be the big American dream, isn’t it? But it’s really like playing Monopoly—sometimes you lose. Take a lesson from Occupy: “You are not a loan. You are not alone.” That’s your house. If little Iceland, pop. 300K, can tell the big banks to take a hike, so can you. Don’t leave, not matter what their threats. In America, you can’t be jailed for debt…not yet.
Terrorism. Yeah, where, exactly? All the terrorism plots in the US have been instigated by our FBI. Watch out when you cross the street—it’s way more dangerous.
Frankly, if you think this election is important, I don’t have much sympathy. Meat Loaf…and Fox News do..
Universal health care, even for poor people, caring for the elderly, free education for all with no student loans. All these initiatives which are fundamental to any democratic society could be paid for tomorrow…by deleting the US military.
How, exactly, does the military make you safer in your home?
President Theodore Roosevelt’s 1909 African expedition with his son Kermit brought back to the Smithsonian 5,013 mammals, 4,453 birds, and 2,322 reptiles and amphibians, according to Theodore Roosevelt the Naturalist [!!!] by Paul R. Cutright (1956).
Presidents of today hunt humans with drones. Just like animals in Africa in 1909, there are far too many of them to matter.
Tell me again why this election was important???
It’s high time to call bullshit on this whole system because it’s only reality TV. If you buy into their system, tough luck on you, Bubba.
Break out of the puzzle palace. The USA has stopped being so special.
I don’t buy into a lot of the far-out conspiracy theory. But if you don’t think both these guys have been cloned by aliens, they’ll likely abduct you in your sleep.
Sweet dreams, America.
Freedom Against Censorship[ Thailand (FACT)
November 6, 2012
Meatheads: Barack Obameat & Meat Romney
Incredible Things: nd
Meat the Meatheads is a project by Jason Mecier for Jack Link’s Beef Jerky. It features two jerky collages of President Barack Obameat and Republican candidate Meat Romney. Each took 50 hours to produce and contains a variety of Jack Link’s Beef Jerky flavors, like Original, turkey, sweet & hot, and smokehouse. They all sound good to me! I don’t consider myself a particularly political person, but I do consider myself a particularly hungry all the time person, so this type of spin on the election is riiiiight up my alley. What can I say, I think with my stomach! In school I voted for the kid who said he’d make every day pizza day in the cafeteria if we elected him president of the 4th grade. Sure, it didn’t happen, but I still voted for him the next year when he promised the same thing. I never learn!
November 6, 2012
Gary Johnson is not the only Libertarian candidate against US wars of aggression.
In my view, he’s the only one who’s not a crackpot.
Chance of winning: ZERO. But do you really want to vote for a Bozo against worse Bozos?!?
They’re all Bozos on this bus.
The only question remains is, do you want to lose your integrity by being a Bozo, or vote your conscience.
Vote for YOURSELF!
Gore Vidal on the US presidency:
“At any given moment, public opinion is a chaos of superstition, misinformation, and prejudice. Of course George Bush and Dick Cheney have committed acts that would merit impeachment. In a proper country, they would be tried as traitors. You don’t lie to a country, get it into a war, waste a trillion dollars, kill a lot of people all because of your vanity and lust for oil and admiration for your corporate partners. If that isn’t treason, I don’t know what is.”
Et tu, Barry…
Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT)
Top Obama Adviser: Awlaki’s 16-Year-Old Son Should Have Had a More Responsible Father If He Wanted Us Not to Kill Him-AntiWar
November 6, 2012
Robert Gibbs said if US citizen Abdulrahman al-Awlaki didn’t want to be killed he “should have a far more responsible father”
AntiWar: October 24, 2012
When Robert Gibbs, former White House Press Secretary and a senior adviser to the Obama campaign, was asked why the administration killed the 16-year old son of suspected al-Qaeda member and US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki via a drone strike last year, he said it was the boy’s fault for having a father like Awlaki.
Anwar al-Awlaki was killed last year in a drone strike in Yemen ordered by the Obama administration. The killing made headlines particularly because Awlaki was an American citizen, but his constitutional rights to due process were thrown out the window in favor of simply assassinating him.
Awlaki’s 16-year old son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, was also a US citizen and was killed in a separate drone strike in Yemen weeks after his father’s death. Abdulrahman had not been accused of being a member of al-Qaeda or of any act against the United States that could conceivably motivate a US strike.
When pressed by reporters and independent journalists, Gibbs responded to questions about the Obama administration’s killing of the American boy by dismissing his life as virtually worthless and blaming his father, Anwar, for his son’s death by presidential decree.
“I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well being of their children,” Gibbs said. “I don’t think becoming an al Qaeda jihadist terrorist is the best way to go about doing your business.”
Gibbs dodged any further questioning on the issue, but in his answer defended the killing of a 16-year old American boy “not by arguing that the kid was a threat,” writes The Atlantic‘s Conor Friedersdorf, “or that killing him was an accident, but by saying that his late father irresponsibly joined al Qaeda terrorists.”
“Killing an American citizen without due process on that logic ought to be grounds for impeachment,” Friedersdorf adds.
November 6, 2012
The New York Review of Books: October 22, 2012
It’s a social policy that, many experts agree, has failed miserably since it was introduced more than forty years ago, tearing apart families and communities across the United States, consuming tens of thousands of lives abroad, and squandering huge sums of money. Yet hardly any national politician is willing to challenge it, and it’s been completely ignored during the 2012 presidential campaign.
I’m speaking of the war on drugs. Since 1971, when Richard Nixon declared drug abuse “public enemy number one” and stated his intention of waging a “new, all-out offensive” against it, the government has spent an estimated trillion dollars on the war. Much of that money has gone to street-level drug arrests, undercover raids, intelligence taskforces, highway patrols, and—most costly of all—prison beds. Of the 2.3 million people in prison in the United States today, nearly half a million are there for drug offenses, many of them of the low-level, nonviolent variety. In 2010, 1.64 million people were arrested for drug violations—80 percent of them for possession.
In Latin America, the war on drugs has sown misery across a vast swath of territory stretching from the coca fields of Peru to Mexico’s border with the United States. Billions have been spent on crop eradication, commando units, military training, unmanned surveillance drones, and helicopters. The result has been endless bloodshed, widespread corruption, and political instability. In Mexico alone, an estimated 50,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence in the nearly six years since Mexican President Felipe Calderón (encouraged by Washington) declared war on his nation’s drug cartels. One result of the crackdown has been to push traffickers into Central America, where they now terrorize Guatemalans and Hondurans. All the while, drugs continue to flow unabated into the United States. In 1981, a pure gram of cocaine cost $669 (adjusted for inflation); today, it goes for $177.
As for consumption, cocaine use has decreased considerably since its peak in the mid-1980s, and methamphetamine use has also subsided after a destructive surge in the 2000s. But the abuse of prescription drugs, especially of opioid painkillers, has grown to what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls “epidemic” levels, and the number of accidental overdose deaths from such substances has soared. This spurt underscores that the real source of our drug problem lies not in Mexico or Colombia but inside our own borders, and that arresting and locking up users is a singularly ineffective way of addressing it.
On taking office four years ago, President Obama consciously retired the war-on-drugs rhetoric, and at every opportunity Gil Kerlikowske, his director of national drug control policy, describes drug abuse as a public-health problem. Nonetheless, the administration has largely continued the policy of its predecessors, devoting around 60 percent of the federal drug budget (now about $25 billion a year) to law enforcement, interdiction, and fighting drug cartels abroad and the remainder to treatment and prevention. In two areas, the administration has shown special zeal: prosecuting medical marijuana providers and extending the drug war to a host of new countries, including not only Honduras and Guatemala but also Ghana, Nigeria, and Kenya. The US is now trying to fight drug abuse in America by sending counternarcotics teams to Accra and Lagos.
Exposing the madness of the US drug war is the aim of The House I Live In, a new documentary written and directed by Eugene Jarecki. Like Jarecki’s previous film Why We Fight, a hard-hitting critique of the military-industrial complex, The House I Live In offers a sharp indictment of its subject, in part through frank interviews with several individuals who—once key props in the system—have turned decisively against it. One is Mark Bennett, a federal judge who describes his frustration at having sentenced hundreds of people to prison for fifteen years or more under the nation’s harsh mandatory-minimum laws. Another is a Kentucky prison guard who looks like he could have been Rod Steiger’s sidekick in “In the Heat of the Night” but who bemoans that his prison is largely filled with small-time drug offenders who have no business being there.
The House I Live In is especially effective at capturing the damage the drug war has inflicted on black America. Many of those given long prison sentences are African-American, male, and poor, and the film shows the wrenching effects their incarceration has had on their families and communities. In the film, David Simon, creator of The Wire, ably explains how the lack of economic opportunities in the inner city has pushed many young blacks into drug-dealing. Michelle Alexander, the legal scholar and author of the best-selling The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, describes how the war on drugs has replicated the effects of the Jim Crow laws in the South, subjecting black men to what amounts to discriminatory treatment in the criminal justice system.
Jarecki also makes clear how the drug war has given rise to interest groups vested in its continuation. These include police officers who rack up many hours of overtime, prison guards who can count on good salaries and benefits, and private prison operators who need to keep their beds filled. For the many Americans who, lulled by the lack of debate about drug war policy in Washington, have not been paying attention to it, such revelations will no doubt prove eye-opening.
The question is, how many of them will actually see the film? Few documentaries manage to gain a wide viewership, and The House I Live In has several shortcomings that, I fear, will limit its audience. At an hour and forty-eight minutes, it feels quite long. It features an extensive cast of characters who, flitting in and out of the film, are hard to keep straight. Though the film forcefully shows the noxious effects of the drug war, it barely takes note of the toxic effects of the drugs themselves. Drugs are seen exclusively as an issue that politicians exploit to show their toughness on crime. Even the crack epidemic is dismissed as a crisis that has been manufactured to justify a crackdown on African-Americans. But that epidemic was real and did incalculable damage to the black community.
Nor is the film helped by its forced effort to liken Washington’s drug policy to Nazi Germany. After an extended look at the disproportionate impact on black America, The House I Live In suddenly pivots to show that blacks have not in fact been its only victims. As a result of the recent surge in methamphetamine abuse, many whites have gotten caught up in the criminal justice system for low-level drug-related offenses. With the Jim Crow analysis inapplicable here, the film turns to Richard Miller, a historian who compares the drug war to, of all things, the Holocaust. Images of people being arrested on America’s streets are intercut with photos of Jews being forced into ghettoes and otherwise persecuted. By engaging in such outlandish hyperbole, The House I Live In seems intent on marginalizing itself.
But the film’s most serious shortcoming is its failure to consider the alternatives to current policy. Among Latin American governments, for example, widespread disillusionment with the drug war has fed growing support for drug legalization, an approach seriously raised at this year’s hemispheric summit meeting in Cartagena. President Obama has predictably demurred: wary of opening up a new avenue of attack for the Republican Party, the administration seems to feel the need to strike a tough law-and-order stance on drugs during this election year. Politics aside, the recent surge in prescription drug abuse shows the terrible human toll that can result when addictive substances are made more widely available.
A more effective—and politically feasible—approach would be to redirect government resources from imprisonment and interdiction to treatment and prevention. Rehab centers, methadone clinics, and after-school programs have been shown to be much sounder, and cost-effective, investments than border agents, narcotics squads, and long prison terms. In an era of shrinking budgets, such money-saving approaches may be the most persuasive. In states like California and New York, the surge in spending on correctional facilities, driven in part by the ever-growing population of non-violent drug offenders, has diverted funds from areas like higher education—a trade-off that seems increasingly indefensible.
Despite the absence of discussion of the issue in Washington, the political climate may be changing: polls show growing support for legalizing marijuana, and on election day Colorado, Oregon, and Washington state will offer ballot initiatives to legalize and regulate the possession of small amounts of pot. Even more striking, Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey, in a speech in June, called the drug war “a failure.” Warehousing a prisoner for a year in his state costs $49,000, he said, compared to $24,000 for inpatient treatment. Noting that people who become addicted to drugs are “sick” and “need treatment,” Christie advocated making residential treatment mandatory for all first-time, non-violent drug offenders.
Actually, many courts dealing with drug offenses are already doing this. And making treatment mandatory for all drug offenders would be wasteful, since not all are addicts. But the governor’s recognition that many of those who abuse drugs need help, and that treatment is an effective way of providing it, represents a major step forward. As prisons and courts continue to devour government revenue, perhaps other politicians will take notice.
November 6, 2012
Obama continued George W Bush’s “war on terror” under a different name — extending Bush’s wars to Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and elsewhere while greatly expanding the war in Afghanistan.
Jack A. Smith
Counterpunch: October 16, 2012
When Sen. Barack Obama ran for the presidency in 2008 many wishful-thinking Democratic voters viewed him as a peace candidate because he opposed the Iraq war (but voted yes on the war budgets while in the Senate).
Some others assumed his foreign/military policy would be along the lines of Presidents George H. W. Bush (whom Obama admires) or Bill Clinton. Some who identified as progressives actually thought his foreign/military policy might tilt to the left.
Instead, center rightist that he is, Obama’s foreign/military policy amounted to a virtual continuation of George W. Bush’s Global War on Terrorism under a different name.
He extended Bush’s wars to Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and elsewhere while greatly expanding the war in Afghanistan, hiking the military budget, encouraging the growth of militarism in US society by repeatedly heaping excessive praise on the armed forces, and tightening the military encirclement of China.
Summing up some of his military accomplishments a few months ago, Obama declared: “We’ve succeeded in defending our nation, taking the fight to our enemies, reducing the number of Americans in harm’s way, and we’ve restored America’s global leadership. That makes us safer and it makes us stronger. And that’s an achievement that every American — especially those Americans who are proud to wear the uniform of the United States Armed Forces — should take great pride in.”
Obama actually has little to show for his war policy after nearly four years. Most importantly, Afghanistan — the war he supported with enthusiasm — is predictably blowing up in his face. A symbol of the Bush-Obama 11-year Afghan folly is the recent 2,000th death of an American soldier, not at the hands of the Taliban but a US-trained Afghan police officer, our supposed ally. The truth is that public opinion in Afghanistan has always overwhelmingly opposed the invasion, and rightly so.
Obama hopes to avoid the embarrassment of a takeover by the Taliban or another violent Afghan civil war (as happened in the 1990s) after the bulk of US troops pull out at the end of 2014. He’s made a deal with the Kabul government that allows Washington to keep thousands of American troops — Army, CIA agents with their drones, elite Special Operations forces and pilots — until 2024.
There are two reasons for this. One is to keep a US-controlled government in Kabul as long as possible. The other is to station American combatants near Afghanistan’s borders with Iran to the west and China to the east for another 10 years, a verdict hardly appreciated in Tehran and Beijing.
The Middle East is in turmoil. Israel is still threatening to attack Iran, an act that would transform turmoil into catastrophe. The Syrian regime refuses to fall, much to Washington’s chagrin. Egypt’s new government has just declared partial independence from Washington’s longstanding domination. The plight of the Palestinians has worsened during Obama’s presidency. Relations with China and Russia have declined.
Very few of Obama’s 2008 foreign/military election promises have come to fruition. He said he would initiate a “new beginning” in relations with the international Muslim community which had reached a low point under Bush. America’s popularity jumped after the president’s promising Cairo speech in 2009. But now, after repeatedly attacking Muslim countries with drone assassins, the rating is only 15% positive, lower than when Bush was in command.
Obama had promised to improve relations with Latin America, get diplomatically closer to Iran and Cuba, settle the Israel-Palestine dispute and close Guantanámo prison, among a number of unrealized intentions.
All the foreign developments the Democrats could really brag about at their convention were ending the war in Iraq “with heads held high” as our legions departed an eight-year stalemated conflict that cost Uncle Sam $4 trillion, and assassinating al-Qaeda leader Osama bin-Laden (which drew the most enthusiastic of those jingoist “USA! USA! USA!” chants from Democratic delegates).
Actually, George W Bush ended the Iraq war by signing an agreement with the Baghdad regime — before the new president took office — to pull out all US troops at the end of 2011. Obama supported the treaty but tried unsuccessfully until the last minute to coerce the Iraqis to keep many thousands of American troops in the country indefinitely. (Antiwar.com reported Oct. 2 that up to 300 US soldiers and security personnel have been training elite Iraqi security forces for months.)
Obama as warrior president discombobulated the Republicans who in past elections always benefited from portraying the Democrats as “weak on defense.” Efforts to do so this year have fallen flat after the president in effect melted down his undeserved Nobel Peace Prize to make more bullets. Obama also obtained a second dividend. He wasn’t besieged by antiwar protests as was his predecessor, because most anti-Bush “peace” Democrats would not publicly oppose Obama’s militarist policies. (This essentially destroyed the mass US antiwar movement, which has been kept going on a much smaller scale by the left and the pacifists.)
Throughout Obama’s election declarations he occasionally speaks of, and exaggerates, increasing threats and hazards confronting the American people that only he can manage. He told the convention that the “new threats and challenges” are facing the country. Romney does the same thing, in spades.
Overstating the threats confronting the US is a perennial practice for Democratic and Republican presidents and candidates. George W. Bush brought this dishonest practice to an apogee, at times sounding as though he was reciting a Halloween ghost story to gullible children — but this year’s candidates are no slackers.
Historian and academic Andrew J. Bacevich, an Army colonel in the Vietnam War and now strongly opposed to America’s wars, mentioned fear-mongering in an article published in the January-February issue of The Atlantic magazine. He writes: “This national-security state derived its raison d’être from — and vigorously promoted a belief in — the existence of looming national peril…. What worked during the Cold War [fear of the 'Communist menace' and nuclear war] still works today: to get Americans on board with your military policy, scare the hell out of them.”
The main purpose of this practice today is to frighten the public into uncomplainingly investing its tax money into the largest military/national security budget in the world — about $1.4 trillion this year (up to $700 billion for the Pentagon and an equal amount for national security).
This accomplishes two objectives for that elite ruling class that actually determines the course of empire: First, it sustains the most powerful military apparatus in history, without which the US could hardly function as world leader (yes it has the biggest economy, but look at the shape it’s in).
Second, it constitutes a huge annual infusion of government cash — a stimulus? — into the economy via the military-industrial complex without the “stigma” of being considered a welfare-like plan to create jobs or benefit the people. (This is wrongly called Military Keynesianism, a notion that was repudiated by the great liberal economist John Maynard Keynes, who helped pull the US out of the Great Depression with his plan to increase government spending to end the crisis.)
The White House and Congress talk about reductions in military spending, and there may be some cuts by eliminating obsolete defense systems — but over the decade the budget will continue to expand. Obama said to the convention, and Romney will pledge the same if elected — “As long as I am Commander-in-Chief we will sustain the strongest military in the world.”
This has been a sine qua non for election to the presidency for decades. It is so familiar and so justified by official scare stories that most Americans don’t think twice about paying an annual national fortune to maintain the most powerful military machine in the world to deal with a few thousand opponents with relatively primitive weapons many thousands of miles away.
The US military, of course, has an entirely different purpose: at a time of gradual US decline and the rise several other countries such as Brazil, India and China, among others — Washington’s military power is intended to keep the United States in charge of the world.
November 6, 2012
Obama lawyers file a breathless, angry appeal against the court ruling that invalidated the NDAA’s chilling 2011 detention law
The Guardian: September 18, 2012
In May, something extremely rare happened: a federal court applied the US constitution to impose some limits on the powers of the president. That happened when federal district court judge Katherine Forrest of the southern district of New York, an Obama appointee, preliminarily barred enforcement of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the statute enacted by Congress in December 2011 with broad bipartisan support and signed into law by President Obama (after he had threatened to veto it).
That 2011 law expressly grants the president the power to indefinitely detain in military custody not only accused terrorists, but also their supporters, all without charges or trial. It does so by empowering the president to indefinitely detain not only al-Qaida members, but also members of so-called “associated forces”, as well as anyone found to “substantially support” such forces – whatever those terms might mean. I wrote about that decision and the background to this case when it was issued.
What made Judge Forrest’s ruling particularly remarkable is that the lawsuit was brought by eight journalists and activists, such as former New York Times reporter Chris Hedges, Daniel Ellsberg, Noam Chomsky, and Birgitta Jónsdóttir, who argued that their work, which involves interactions with accused terrorists, could subject them to indefinite detention under the law’s broad and vague authority, even for US citizens on US soil. The court agreed, noting that the plaintiffs presented “evidence of concrete – non-hypothetical – ways in which the presence of the legislation has already impacted those expressive and associational activities”. The court was particularly disturbed by the Obama DOJ’s adamant refusal to say, in response to being asked multiple times, that the law could not be used to indefinitely detain the plaintiffs due to their journalistic and political activities.
Last week, Judge Forrest made her preliminary ruling permanent, issuing a 112-page decision explaining it. Noting that the plaintiffs “testified credibly to having an actual and reasonable fear that their activities will subject them to indefinite military detention”, she emphasized how dangerous this new law is given the extremely broad discretion it vests in the president to order people detained in military custody with no charges:
The court also brushed aside the Obama DOJ’s prime argument, echoing the theories of John Yoo: namely, that courts have no business “interfering” in the president’s conduct of war. After acknowledging that the president is entitled to deference in the national security realm, Judge Forrest dispensed with the Obama DOJ’s claim with this vital observation: one that should be unnecessary but, in the 9/11 era, is all too commonly ignored:
In other words: while the president is entitled to deference in his conduct of war, he’s not entitled to wield the power to order people, including American citizens, indefinitely imprisoned in military detention. Regardless of how he claims he intends to exercise this power, the mere act of vesting it in him so chills the exercise of first amendment and other protected rights that the constitution can have no meaning if courts permit it to stand.
In response to this ruling, the Obama administration not only filed an immediate appeal, but they filed an emergency motion asking the appeals court to lift the injunction pending the appeal. Obama lawyers wrote a breathless attack on the court’s ruling, denouncing it as “vastly troubling” and claiming that it “threatens tangible and dangerous consequences in the conduct of an active military conflict” and “threatens irreparable harm to national security”.
The Obama DOJ also objected that the decision “was entered against the president as commander-in-chief in his conduct of ongoing military operations, is unprecedented and exceeded the court’s authority”: how irreverent. And they argued that the broad detention power claimed by President Obama “has been endorsed by two presidents [meaning him and George W Bush], by the [rightwing] DC circuit in habeas litigation brought by Guantánamo detainees, and by the Congress in Section 1021(b)(2).”
I’ve written at length before about why indefinite detention is so dangerous, and why a statute such as the NDAA – which purposely (as the court here found) leaves open the question of whether it applies to US citizens – is one of the most pernicious laws enacted in some time. I won’t rehash that here, but I do want to make two points about the Obama administration’s new fight in defense of this law.
First, the Obama administration’s unhinged claim that Judge Forrest’s ruling imperils national security gives the lie to the central excuse for the NDAA: namely, that it does not expand the president’s detention powers beyond what is already vested by the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF). Judge Forrest’s ruling leaves the 2001 AUMF in place and did not purport to nullify any prior decisions applying it. Therefore, if the NDAA does nothing that the 2001 AUMF did not already do – as Obama defenders relentlessly claimed to justify his signing of this odious bill – then it cannot possibly be the case that Judge Forrest’s ruling harms national security, since Obama already has all the detention power he claims he needs under the 2001 AUMF.
The reality is that the NDAA did indeed wildly expand the president’s detention powers beyond what the 2001 AUMF provided. In contrast to the 2001 AUMF – which empowered the president to act against a relatively narrow category: those “he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on 11 September 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons” – the NDAA empowers him to act against a much broader range of people: not only those who perpetrated 9/11, but also “associated forces”, and not only those who are members of such groups, but those who “substantially support” them.
While the Bush and Obama DOJs have long absurdly interpreted the 2001 AUMF to apply to this broader range, and while some courts have accepted that interpretation, the law itself vested no such power. The NDAA did. That is why civil liberties groups such as the ACLU denounced Obama’s signing of it so vociferously, and it is why the Obama DOJ is so horrified, obviously, by the prospect that it will be invalidated: precisely because it so drastically expands their detention power. Both the court’s ruling and the Obama DOJ’s reaction to that ruling prove that the NDAA does indeed provide the president with significantly enhanced authority of indefinite detention.
Second, to see the sorry and wretched state of liberties in the US under President Obama, let us look to Afghanistan. The US is currently attempting to turn over to the Afghan government control of the lawless prison system the US has long maintained in Bagram and other parts of that country. But that effort is running into a serious problem: namely, the US wants the prisoners to remain there in cages without charges, but the Afghans are insisting that indefinite detention violates their belief in due process. From an Associated Press article Monday headlined “Afghans reject US-favored administrative detention”:
“An Afghan judicial panel ruled Monday that administrative detention violates Afghan law, potentially thwarting a US plan to hand over Afghan detainees that American officials believe should continue to be held without a trial.
“President Hamid Karzai’s office announced in a statement that a top-level judicial panel met earlier in the day and decided that the detention of Afghan citizens without a court trial ‘has not been foreseen in Afghan laws’ and therefore could not be used.
“The US government has long held Afghans captured in operations inside the country without trial, arguing that they are enemy combatants and therefore can be detained for as long as their release might pose a danger to the international coalition …
“A US official confirmed that the transfer of detainees had paused because of the dispute.”
Is that not amazing? On the very same day that the Obama DOJ fights vigorously in US courts for the right to imprison people without charges, the Afghan government fights just as vigorously for basic due process.
Remember: the US, we’re frequently told, is in Afghanistan to bring democracy to the Afghan people and to teach them about freedom. But the Afghan government is refusing the US demand to imprison people without charges on the ground that such lawless detention violates their conceptions of basic freedom. Maybe Afghanistan should invade the US in order to teach Americans about freedom.
This is not the first time this has happened. In 2009, the Obama administration decided that it wanted to target certain Afghan citizens for due process-free assassinations on the ground that the targets to be executed were drug “kingpins”. They were to be killed based solely on US accusations, with no trial, just as the Obama administration does with its own citizens. But again, that plan ran into a roadblock: Afghan leaders were horrified by the notion that their citizens would be extrajudicially executed based on unproven suspicions [my emphasis]:
“A US military hit list of about 50 suspected drug kingpins is drawing fierce opposition from Afghan officials, who say it could undermine their fragile justice system and trigger a backlash against foreign troops.
“The US military and Nato officials have authorized their forces to kill or capture individuals on the list, which was drafted within the past year as part of Nato’s new strategy to combat drug operations that finance the Taliban …
“General Mohammad Daud Daud, Afghanistan’s deputy interior minister for counternarcotics efforts, praised US and British special forces for their help recently in destroying drug labs and stashes of opium. But he said he worried that foreign troops would now act on their own to kill suspected drug lords, based on secret evidence, instead of handing them over for trial.
“‘They should respect our law, our constitution and our legal codes,’ Daud said. ‘We have a commitment to arrest these people on our own’ …
“There is a constitutional problem here. A person is innocent unless proven guilty,” [former Afghan interior minister Ali Ahmad Jalali] said. “If you go off to kill or capture them, how do you prove that they are really guilty in terms of legal process?”
In other words, the Obama administration has received far more resistance to its due process-free imprisonments and assassinations from Afghans than it has from its own citizens in the US. If only more Americans, including progressives, were willing to point out the most basic truths in response to these Obama power seizures, such as: “If you go off to kill or capture them, how do you prove that they are really guilty in terms of legal process?”
Instead, many Americans, particularly in the age of Obama, are content to assume that anyone whom the US government accuses of being a terrorist should, for that reason alone, be assumed to be guilty, and as a result, any punishment the president decides to dole out – indefinite imprisonment, summary execution – is warranted and just; no bothersome, obsolete procedures such as “trials” or “indictments” are necessary.
It is that mindset that will ensure that Obama’s vigorous fight to preserve the power of indefinite detention will provoke so little objection: among Americans, that is – though obviously not among Afghans, who seem to have an actual understanding of, and appreciation for, the value of due process.