Posts Tagged ‘Congress’

How Many US Progressives Please the Right-Wing Israel Lobby

May 17, 2010
Professor Ira Chernus, CommonDreams.org, May 17, 2010

I was rather baffled by many of the comments to a column I posted last week. I offered what I thought was a modest and quite harmless suggestion: You should urge your representative in Congress to sign the Kind-Delahunt letter, which calls on the president to make strong efforts to move Israelis and Palestinians toward a two-state solution.

Oh no, no, said most of the commenters. Don’t bother. Each had their own reason and their own particular way of phrasing their common conclusion, which I think I paraphrase accurately here: Any effort to pressure the U.S. government is wasted, because the U.S. will always support the policies of Israel, no matter how unjust. (Oh, and the author is a fool — or worse — some added.)

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A stark truth: Israeli arms, U.S. dollars

March 24, 2010
By Glenn Greenwald, Salon.com, March 23, 2010

One does not normally see this truth stated so starkly in places like Time Magazine — from Michael Scherer’s interesting article on AIPAC’s current strategy to “storm Congress”:

The third “ask” that AIPAC supporters will make of Congress on Tuesday is to once again pass the $3 billion in U.S. aid provided annually to Israel. “It’s a very tough ask this year,” [AIPAC lobbyist Steve] Aserkoff admitted, noting the U.S. domestic budgetary and economic challenges. Among other major purchases, the Israeli government has announced plans to replace its aging fleet of F-16 fighter jets with new, American-made F-35 fighters, a major cost that Israel hopes will be substantially born for [sic] by American taxpayers.

Those would be the same “American taxpayers” who are now being told that they have to suffer cuts in Medicare and Social Security because of budgetary constraints, who are watching as the most basic social services (the hallmark of being a developed country) are being rapidly abolished (from the 12th Grade to basic care for children, the infirm and elderly), and are burdened with a national debt so large that America’s bond ratings are being degraded by the minute.  Why should those same American taxpayers bear the enormous costs of Israel’s military purchases (as Israel enjoys booming economic growth)?  Especially if the issue is presented as cleanly and honestly as Scherer did here, and especially if Israel continues to extend its proverbial middle finger to even the most basic U.S. requests that it cease activities that harm American interests, how much longer can this absurdity be sustained?

On a related note, a new Rasmussen Poll found that only 58% of Americans now view “Israel as an ally” — down from 70% just nine months ago.  The same poll found that 49% of Americans believe Israel should be “required” to stop building settlements, with only 22% disagreeing.  That’s why the primary objective now of AIPAC and its bipartisan cast of Congressional servants is — as Scherer put it — “to pressure the Obama Administration to avoid airing disagreements publically [sic].”  Indeed:  you can’t have the American people knowing anything about the U.S./Israel relationship and the ways in which the interests of the two countries diverge.

Having these issues discussed openly and having the American citizenry be informed might shatter all sorts of vital myths, which is exactly what has happened over the last month, which has, in turn, led to this change in public opinion (that, along with the fact that the Israeli Government, by being viewed as the opponent of Obama, has incurred the wrath of large numbers of Democrats who are loyal to Obama and automatically dislike any of his critics or opponents).  That’s why their overriding goal is to hide all these differences behind a wall of secrecy — “the Administration, to the extent that it has disagreements with Israel on policy matters, should find way[s] to do so in private,” demanded Democratic Rep. Steve Israel — because an open examination of this “special relationship,” how it really functions, and the costs and benefits it entails, is what they want most to avoid.  It’s common in a democracy for government officials to openly air their differences with allies; why should this be any different?

Kucinich asks Congress to end Afghan conflict

March 2, 2010
Morning Star Online, March 1,  2010

Progressive US congressman Dennis Kucinich will bring a resolution before Congress this week to give legislators a chance to end the bloody war in Afghanistan.

The Ohio Democratic representative announced at the weekend that he would “bring a privileged resolution to this House so that Congress can claim our constitutional right to end this war and to bring our troops home.”

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U.S.: CIA Briefed Congress on Renditions

February 25, 2010

Willim Fisher, Uruknet.info,

NEW YORK, Feb 23 (IPS) – The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) briefed members of Congress from both political parties numerous times about the agency’s interrogation and detention programmes, several prominent human rights groups said Monday.

The groups – Amnesty International USA, the Centre for Constitutional Rights and the Centre for Human Rights and Global Justice at NYU School of Law – filed a lawsuit in 2007 based on their requests for information about the programme under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The FOIA requests, dating back to 2004, sought records about rendition, secret detention, and “enhanced” interrogation.

The rights groups announced receipt of several new documents in response to their FOIA litigation.

Among other new information, the documents show that while Vice President Dick Cheney’s role in authorising waterboarding and other so-called enhanced interrogation techniques has been public, a newly obtained Feb. 4, 2003, CIA memo documents the role of Counsel for the Office of the Vice President (OVP) in analysing and approving the CIA techniques.

David Addington was counsel to the vice president until he succeeded Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who was convicted of perjury in the “outing” of CIA agent Valerie Plame. Libby’s prison sentence was commuted by then President George W. Bush.

The rights groups said that, according to CIA meeting records and the Feb. 4, 2003 memo, it seems that in one of his first acts as chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Republican Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas “discontinued efforts by previous chair,” Democratic Senator Bob Graham of Florida, to implement greater oversight of these programmes, “thus abdicating the role of Congress in overseeing the CIA rendition, secret detention, and torture programmes.”

They said there are “significant questions about how clear the CIA was with Congress” – including in then-CIA Director Michael Hayden’s previously classified briefing on Apr. 12, 2007 to the Senate Intelligence Committee – about the timing, nature and results of the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, particularly prior to the Aug. 1, 2002 memo prepared by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC).

It is known that Zubaydah was subjected to waterboarding 83 times in 2002. OLC lawyers at the time, John Yoo and Jay Bybee, were the principal drafters of that memo, which has come to be known as “the torture memo”.

Chip Pitts, president of the Bill of Rights Defence Committee and former chair of Amnesty International USA, told IPS, “In order to finally achieve the transparency and accountability that is so indispensable to learning lessons and avoiding calamitous policy failures like the prior administration’s recourse to torture, the need is clearer than ever for a broad and impartial criminal investigation of all the facts surrounding the torture programme.”

He added, “No lawyer or other official, high or low, should be immune from the investigation and prosecution required by our national interest, domestic law, and the international treaty obligations the country has undertaken under the Convention Against Torture.”

Gitanjali Gutierrez, an attorney at the Centre for Constitutional Rights, said, “Members of Congress must come clean about whether they encouraged or objected to torture during these many secret meetings with CIA officials and we need a complete accounting of Cheney’s counsel, David Addington’s, role in the creation of the torture programme.”

“These new documents show that the CIA may have lied to Congress about the role of interrogation techniques in detainee deaths and key members of Congress abdicated their oversight role. This new information points even more strongly to the need for a full criminal investigation of the torture programme, up the entire chain of command,” Gutierrez said.

In a related development, after years of stonewalling, an official Polish government agency has admitted that airspace and landing facilities in that country were used by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to detain, house and transport terrorism suspects.

It was the first time Polish authorities have admitted that their country houses one of the CIA’s so-called “black sites” – part of the agency’s network of secret prisons.

The CIA kidnapped suspected al Qaeda members and transported them to the black site prisons, where they were subjected to so-called “enhanced interrogation” techniques as part of the C.I.A.’s programme of “extraordinary rendition.”

Prosecutors in Poland are now investigating the country’s participation in the programme.

The admission from the Polish Air Navigation Services Agency (PANSA) came in response to charges by two rights groups, the Open Society Justice Initiative and the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights.

PANSA confirmed that it provided the flight logs showing six flights in 2003 by two aircraft. Five of the flights reportedly originated in Kabul and one in Rabat, Morocco. They landed about 100 miles north of Warsaw, at a small airport in a town called Szymany.

It is widely known that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-styled mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, was interrogated there in 2003, but neither PANSA nor the CIA would confirm this.

Approximately 100 prisoners were detained in the black site prisons between the program’s inception in 2002 and the transfer of the remaining 14 prisoners to Guantánamo Bay in Cuba in 2006.

Maciej Rodak, vice president of PANSA confirmed to The New York Times that the agency had sent the records to the human-rights groups. He said the agency confirmed information on flight origins, planned destinations and call signs but could not provide passenger lists, which the groups also requested.

“The thing that is quite shocking is that the European investigations requested these specific flight records some four years ago,” said Darian Pavli, an attorney with the Open Society Justice Initiative, a nonprofit human-rights group in New York. “The Poles all these years said they could not locate them, the flights didn’t exist.”

Democracy in America is a useful fiction

January 26, 2010

Chris Hedges, truthdig.com,  January 24, 2010

Original: AP / Charles Dharapak

Corporate forces, long before the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, carried out a coup d’état in slow motion. The coup is over. We lost. The ruling is one more judicial effort to streamline mechanisms for corporate control. It exposes the myth of a functioning democracy and the triumph of corporate power. But it does not significantly alter the political landscape. The corporate state is firmly cemented in place.

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Entangled Giant

September 27, 2009

By Garry Wills | The New York Review of Books, Volume 56, Number 15, October 8, 2009


George W. Bush left the White House unpopular and disgraced. His successor promised change, and it was clear where change was needed. Illegal acts should cease—torture and indefinite detention, denial of habeas corpus and legal representation, unilateral canceling of treaties, defiance of Congress and the Constitution, nullification of laws by signing statements. Powers attributed to the president by the theory of the unitary executive should not be exercised. Judges who are willing to give the president any power he asks for should not be confirmed.

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Obama will bypass Congress to detain suspects indefinitely

September 25, 2009

By John Byrne, The Raw Story, Sep 24, 2009

President Barack Obama has quietly decided to bypass Congress and allow the indefinite detention of terrorist suspects without charges.

The move, which was controversial when the idea was first floated in The Washington Post in May, has sparked serious concern among civil liberties advocates. Such a decision allows the president to unilaterally hold “combatants” without habeas corpus — a legal term literally meaning “you shall have the body” — which forces prosecutors to charge a suspect with a crime to justify the suspect’s detention.

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A Case For Interrogating Dick Cheney

July 29, 2009

Sherwood Ross | MWC News, July 29, 2009

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Some in Congress are stung by charges that former Vice President Dick Cheney ran an international assassination op from the White House without telling them about it. They say he told the CIA to withhold the facts from Congress. This raises the question of how much power Cheney actually wielded—and the answer apparently is plenty.

In (Bush lawyer) John Yoo’s version of events, writes Jane Mayer in her book “The Dark Side”(Anchor) “the impetus to break out of Geneva’s strictures…came from the CIA. Many at the Agency, however, saw this differently, suggesting it was Cheney and his lawyer, (David) Addington, who pushed the Agency to take the path toward torture.” A few days after 9/11 Cheney observed the CIA had gone over “to the dark side,” but whether he starred in the role of Darth Vader needs to be established or denied.

The record appears to weight the case against him. Cheney has a long history of yeoman service to the Dark Side. To begin with, he is an unapologetic advocate of force, stating that force “makes your diplomacy more effective going forward, dealing with other problems.” When the first President Bush failed to swing Panama’s voters against General Manuel Noriega with $10 million in cash bribes, he called on Cheney, then his defense secretary, to crush Panama. Cheney did. During Christmas week of 1989, writes Tim Weiner in “Legacy of Ashes”(Anchor), “smart bombs blasted Panama City slums into rubble while Special Forces soldiers fought their way through the capital. Twenty-three Americans and hundreds of innocent Panamanian civilians died in the two weeks it took to arrest Noriega and to bring him in chains to Miami.” That was an example of Cheney’s work.

Later, as Vice President, Cheney led the charge for war on Iraq’s Saddam Hussein by asserting there was “no doubt” he had WMD. “Many of us are convinced he will acquire nuclear weapons very soon,” Cheney told the VFW in Nashville in August, 2002.

Cheney also lowered an Iron Curtain of secrecy around the Bush regime.  As John Dean writes in “Worse Than Watergate”(Warner Books),  Bush-Cheney secrecy “is extreme—not merely unjustified and excessive but obsessive.” Dean notes, “It has given us a presidency that operates on hidden agendas. To protect their secrets, Bush and Cheney dissemble as a matter of policy.”As U.S. News reported in December, 2003, the Bush-Cheney actions are “a reversal of a decades-long trend of openness in government.”

According to Weiner, six days after 9/11 President Bush issued a secret directive to the CIA ordering it to hunt down and interrogate suspects the world over. “It set no limits on what the agency could do,” Weiner wrote. “It was the foundation for a system of secret prisons where CIA officers and contractors used techniques that include torture.” And just in case the CIA questioned who skippered the ship, Cheney would call its Inspector General into his office, an unprecedented violation of that supposedly independent post.

Upon becoming Vice President, his power led many observers to see Cheney as a “co-president.” Author Dean wrote, “Dick Cheney, effectively a co-president incognito, works behind closed doors and does not answer to Congress or the public.” Noam Chomsky wrote in 2006 in his book “Failed States”(Metropolitan/Owl), “The Cheney-Rumsfeld team for which Bush is the front man has shown repeatedly that it is obsessed with authority and discipline.” That Cheney did run the show is suggested by the fact that, “with the apparent exception of Rice, it was Cheney who did the appointing (of top personnel), not Bush,” James Carroll noted in his “House of War”(Houghton Mifflin).

After 9/11, the Bush regime scrapped due process rights for captured suspects.  Cheney said his new legal approach “guarantees that we’ll have the kind of treatment of these individuals that we believe they deserve”—an incredible prejudgment as only a tiny handful of suspects ever saw the inside of a courtroom. Author Carroll asserts Cheney had no less ambitious scheme in mind than “world domination through overwhelming military superiority, with special emphasis on unfettered access to oil…” Carroll says, “Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the rest have on their hands the blood…of each young American killed, and the blood of many thousands of Iraqis—-all those who have died and will die in that misbegotten war.” Prisoners were just pawns to Cheney, not human beings.

Given this pattern of criminality, a probe into Cheney’s alleged directive to the CIA to withhold information from Congress might appear comparatively trivial. But just as Al Capone was convicted and imprisoned for tax evasion rather than his killings, examining Cheney for deceiving Congress could open the dungeon door to other dark secrets. For example, it was Cheney after 9/11 who backed an alliance with Uzbekistan, even if it tied the U.S. to President Islam Karimov’s infamous torture regime. What took place there?

And if he did give the CIA crooked advice, “he broke the law and violated his oath of office,” The Nation magazine says of Cheney in its August 3rd issue. “News reports outlined how Cheney had ordered the agency to keep the House and Senate intelligence committees in the dark,” the weekly said, adding that Attorney General Eric Holder has “signaled a new openness to investigating the Bush regime’s interrogation practices.”

“Such an inquiry would focus on abuses other than the covert CIA program, but the constant appears to be Cheney, whose office has repeatedly been linked to the previous administration’s torture fetish,” The Nation said, adding, “It is clear that inquiries should proceed on all fronts, not from a desire to ‘get Cheney’ but from recognition that accountability is necessary if we are to restore the system of checks and balances.” And the only way to prevent any repetition “is to hold him fully to account. Anything less would lend dangerous legitimacy to Cheney’s imperial project,” The Nation said. Americans need to know the truth about Cheney—and act on it.

Sherwood Ross a contributing editor to MWC News, is a Miami-based public relations consultant and columnist who formerly worked for major dailies and as a columnist for wire services. Reach him at sherwoodr1[at]yahoo.com.
Articles by Sherwood Ross at MWC News
http://mwcnews.net/SherwoodRoss

Congress should require an exit strategy from Afghanistan

June 21, 2009
by Robert Naiman | CommonDreams.org, June 21, 2009

In March, President Obama told CBS’ “60 Minutes” that the United States must have an “exit strategy” in Afghanistan.

At least eighty-eight Members of Congress agree. They’re supporting H.R. 2404, a bill introduced by Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) whose text is one sentence long: “Not later than December 31, 2009, the Secretary of Defense shall submit to Congress a report outlining the United States exit strategy for United States military forces in Afghanistan participating in Operation Enduring Freedom.”

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These Are Obama’s Wars Now

June 18, 2009
by Joshua Frank, Antiwar.com, June 18, 2009

On Monday the Democrat controlled House voted 226-202 to approve a rushed $106 billion dollar war spending bill, guaranteeing more carnage in Iraq and Afghanistan (and lately Pakistan) until September 30, 2009, which marks the end of the budget year. The Senate voted overwhelmingly in favor of the bill’s first draft last month, with the final vote on a compromised version to occur in the Senate sometime in the next couple of weeks.

The majority of opposition in the House came from Republicans who opposed an add-on to the bill that would open up a $5 billion International Monetary Fund line of credit for developing countries. This opposition in the House led Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Tuesday to quip, “It’ll be interesting to see what happens here. Are my Republican colleagues [in the Senate] going to join with us to fund the troops? I hope so.”

No longer can the blame for the turmoil in Iraq and Afghanistan rest at the feet of George W. Bush alone. This is now Obama’s War on Terror, fully funded and operated by the Democratic Party.

The bill that passed the House on Monday, once approved by the Senate, will not be part of the regular defense budget as it’s off the books entirely. Following the attacks on September 11, 2001, Congress has passed similar emergency spending bills to finance US military ventures in the Middle East. The combined “supplementals” are fast approaching $1 trillion, with 30% going to fund the war in Afghanistan.

In addition to the latest increase in war funds, Obama is also asking for an additional $130 billion to be added on to the defense budget for the new fiscal year starting on October 1. The president is upholding his campaign promise to escalate the war in Afghanistan, which also means increasing the use of remote controlled drone planes in neighboring Pakistan that are to blame for hundreds of civilian deaths since Obama took office last January.

Despite Obama’s historic (albeit rhetoric filled) speech in Cairo, the new Commander in Chief is still not about to radically change, let alone reform, the US’s long-standing role in the Middle East. A master of his craft, Obama is simply candy coating the delivery of US imperialism in the region.  Given the lack of opposition to Obama’s policies back home, it is becoming clear that he may well be more dangerous than his predecessor when it comes to the US’s motivations internationally.

Had Bush pushed for more military funds at this stage, the antiwar movement (if you can call it that) would have been organizing opposition weeks in advance, calling out the neocons for wasting our scarce tax dollars during a recession on a never-ending, directionless war. But since Obama’s a Democrat, a beloved one at that, mums the word.

Certainly a few progressive Democrats are dismayed by what the Obama administration is up to, but how many of these Democrats that are upset now will be willing to break rank and oppose their party when it matters most, like during the midterm elections coming up next year? Obama had the majority of antiwar support shored up while he ran for the presidency, with absolutely no demands put on his candidacy. And not surprisingly, antiwar progressives have little to show for their fawning support.

All this begs a few questions: If not now, when exactly will Obama’s policies be scrutinized with the same veracity that Bush’s were? When will the media end its love affair with Obama and hold his feet to the fire like they did Bush once the wheels fell off the war in Iraq? When will progressives see their issues as paramount and oppose Obama and the Democratic Party until they embrace their concerns?

If these questions are not answered soon, we are in many more years of war and bloodshed, funded by US taxpayers and approved by a Democrat controlled White House and Congress.


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