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Member since: Sun Aug 17, 2003, 11:39 PM
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DiFi's NSA transparency "reform" effort codifying worst of govt hacking makes her look a fool today

McClatchy reports— CIA employees improperly accessed computers used by the Senate Intelligence Committee to compile a report on the agency’s now defunct detention and interrogation program, an internal CIA investigation has determined.

Findings of the investigation by the CIA Inspector General’s Office “include a judgment that some CIA employees acted in a manner inconsistent with the common understanding reached between SSCI (Senate Select Committee on Intelligence) and the CIA in 2009,” CIA spokesman Dean Boyd said in a statement.

The statement represented an admission to charges by the panel’s chairwoman, Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that the CIA intruded into the computers her staff used to compile the soon-to-be released report on the agency’s use of harsh interrogation methods on suspected terrorists in secret overseas prisons during the Bush administration.

Committee staffers used computers inside a CIA facility to review documents related to the investigation, and Feinstein came to believe the CIA was monitoring their work, a belief confirmed by today's news . . .

FLASHBACK: Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin ripped into Sen. Feinstein in March:

“It is very hypocritical of Senator Feinstein to defend the NSA’s practices of mass spying and condemn Edward Snowden as a traitor, but then express outrage when it’s possible that her committee has been spied on by the CIA,” Benjamin said. “We completely agree with Edward Snowden in that this is an example of the ‘Merkel Effect’ in which ‘an elected official does not care at all that the rights of millions of ordinary citizens are violated by our spies, but suddenly it's a scandal when a politician finds out the same thing happens to them.’”

Snowden followed with a statement to NBC News:

"It's clear the CIA was trying to play 'keep away' with documents relevant to an investigation by their overseers in Congress, and that's a serious constitutional concern. But it's equally if not more concerning that we're seeing another 'Merkel Effect,' where an elected official does not care at all that the rights of millions of ordinary citizens are violated by our spies, but suddenly it's a scandal when a politician finds out the same thing happens to them."

Feinstein defended the program of routinely collecting and storing the phone records millions of Americans, in an op-ed for USA Today:

"The call-records program is not surveillance. It does not collect the content of any communication, nor do the records include names or locations. The NSA only collects the type of information found on a telephone bill: phone numbers of calls placed and received, the time of the calls and duration. The Supreme Court has held this "metadata" is not protected under the Fourth Amendment."

and in a statement in 2013 on the NSA Call Records Ruling which found the program unconstitutional:

“Those of us who support the call records program do so with a sincere belief that it, along with other programs, is constitutional and helps keep the country safe from attack.

“In upholding these convictions, Judge Miller cited Smith v. Maryland (1979) the controlling legal precedent and held the defendants had ‘no legitimate expectation of privacy’ over the type of telephone metadata acquired by the government—which is the ‘to’ and ‘from’ phone numbers of a call, its time, its date and its duration. There is no content, no names and no locational information acquired.

“Clearly we have competing decisions from those of at least three different courts (the FISA Court, the D.C. District Court and the Southern District of California). I have found the analysis by the FISA Court, the Southern District of California and the position of the Department of Justice, based on the Supreme Court decision in Smith, to be compelling."

In January, President Obama actually repudiated Feinstein's position by announcing his wish to end NSA's systematic collection of data about Americans’ calling habits. However, as the administration strained to protect its ability to conduct surveillance, it contradicted the President's fine words about our constitution and the rights of Americans:

I’ve also made it clear that the United States does not collect intelligence to suppress criticism or dissent, nor do we collect intelligence to disadvantage people on the basis of their ethnicity or race or gender or sexual orientation or religious beliefs. We do not collect intelligence to provide a competitive advantage to U.S. companies or U.S. commercial sectors.

And in terms of our bulk collection of signals intelligence, U.S. intelligence agencies will only use such data to meet specific security requirements: counterintelligence; counterterrorism; counterproliferation; cybersecurity; force protection for our troops and our allies; and combating transnational crime, including sanctions evasion.

In this directive, I have taken the unprecedented step of extending certain protections that we have for the American people to people overseas. I’ve directed the DNI, in consultation with the attorney general, to develop these safeguards, which will limit the duration that we can hold personal information while also restricting the use of this information. The bottom line is that people around the world, regardless of their nationality, should know that the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don’t threaten our national security and that we take their privacy concerns into account in our policies and procedures.

This applies to foreign leaders as well. Given the understandable attention that this issue has received, I’ve made clear to the intelligence community that unless there is a compelling national security purpose, we will not monitor the communications of heads of state and government of our close friends and allies.

Clearly, today's apology by the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan, admitting after months of denials that they had spied on Senate intelligence committee staff, is an invitation to doubt anything this administration has been asserting about its intelligence operations.

All of that said, Sen. Feinstein's complaints about the CIA spy gang working to undermine her committee's efforts to determine the extent of the CIA's rendition and torture activities during the Bush administration were certainly valid and prescient.

“The CIA’s search may also have violated the Fourth Amendment, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as Executive Order 12333, which prohibits the CIA from conducting domestic searches or surveillance,” Feinstein said during her speech on the Senate floor regarding the committee’s study on the CIA Detention and Interrogation Program which found that the agency had destroyed videotapes of some of their first interrogations using “enhanced techniques."

Per an exchange of letters in 2009, then-Vice Chairman Bond, then-Director Panetta, and I agreed in an exchange of letters that the CIA was to provide a “stand-alone computer system” with a “network drive” “segregated from CIA networks” for the committee that would only be accessed by information technology personnel at the CIA—who would “not be permitted to” “share information from the system with other personnel, except as otherwise authorized by the committee.”

It was this computer network that, notwithstanding our agreement with Director Panetta, was searched by the CIA . . .

. . . the CIA has previously withheld and destroyed information about its Detention and Interrogation Program, including its decision in 2005 to destroy interrogation videotapes over the objections of the Bush White House and the Director of National Intelligence. Based on the information described above, there was a need to preserve and protect the Internal Panetta Review in the committee’s own secure spaces.

The CIA had responded to the intelligence committee's complaints by accusing the staffers of obtaining their information through illegal means. Feinstein responds:

Shortly thereafter, on January 15, 2014, CIA Director Brennan requested an emergency meeting to inform me and Vice Chairman Chambliss that without prior notification or approval, CIA personnel had conducted a “search”—that was John Brennan’s word—of the committee computers at the offsite facility. This search involved not only a search of documents provided to the committee by the CIA, but also a search of the ”stand alone” and “walled-off” committee network drive containing the committee’s own internal work product and communications.

According to Brennan, the computer search was conducted in response to indications that some members of the committee staff might already have had access to the Internal Panetta Review. The CIA did not ask the committee or its staff if the committee had access to the Internal Review, or how we obtained it.

Instead, the CIA just went and searched the committee’s computers. The CIA has still not asked the committee any questions about how the committee acquired the Panetta Review. In place of asking any questions, the CIA’s unauthorized search of the committee computers was followed by an allegation—which we have now seen repeated anonymously in the press—that the committee staff had somehow obtained the document through unauthorized or criminal means, perhaps to include hacking into the CIA’s computer network.

As I have described, this is not true. The document was made available to the staff at the offsite facility, and it was located using a CIA-provided search tool running a query of the information provided to the committee pursuant to its investigation . . .

Feinstein correctly pointed out that, not only was there an attempt to criminalize the actions of her staff in apparent retaliation for complaining about the CIA activities, there was also a clear conflict of interest involving the very people who were working to prosecute the staff:

As I mentioned before, our staff involved in this matter have the appropriate clearances, handled this sensitive material according to established procedures and practice to protect classified information, and were provided access to the Panetta Review by the CIA itself. As a result, there is no legitimate reason to allege to the Justice Department that Senate staff may have committed a crime. I view the acting general counsel’s referral as a potential effort to intimidate this staff—and I am not taking it lightly.

I should note that for most, if not all, of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, the now acting general counsel was a lawyer in the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center—the unit within which the CIA managed and carried out this program. From mid-2004 until the official termination of the detention and interrogation program in January 2009, he was the unit’s chief lawyer. He is mentioned by name more than 1,600 times in our study.

And now this individual is sending a crimes report to the Department of Justice on the actions of congressional staff—the same congressional staff who researched and drafted a report that details how CIA officers—including the acting general counsel himself—provided inaccurate information to the Department of Justice about the program.

If nothing else happens as a result of this admission by the CIA, it should reinvigorate the effort to hold accountable those in the Bush administration who approved and executed illegal and immoral torture policies and rendition activities.

from the Guardian today:

The Obama administration has walked a delicate line over the torture report. Obama has insisted its prompt and thorough declassification – which has taken nearly four months – is a priority. Yet he appointed the CIA itself as the lead agency to determine what aspects of a report directly implicating CIA activities the public can see.

Even before he was sworn in, Obama disappointed civil-liberties supporters by indicating his disinclination to prosecuting agency and ex-Bush administration officials who ordered and implemented the torture program. In 2012, a special prosecutor ended an inquiry without bringing charges. Only one man, a former CIA contractor named David Passaro, has gone to jail in connection to the CIA’s post-9/11 torture.

Brennan’s apology also complicates a developing CIA pushback against a report that agency officials, current and former, consider shoddy. George Tenet, the former director whom Brennan served and who oversaw the brutal practices – where suspected terrorists were subjected to simulated drowning, had guns fired by their heads, were kept in undisclosed prisons for years and were sent to countries like Gadhafi’s Libya and Assad’s Syria for even more abusive treatment – is said to be developing a public strategy to attack the committee once the report is released.

The agency, consistent with a pattern that has held since 9/11, appears out of danger from criminal liability. Earlier this month, a Justice Department probe, also first reported by McClatchy, declined to pursue an investigation into Feinstein’s now-vindicated charges.

Meanwhile, the White House is responding to the CIA admission by stating that Pres. Obama has “great confidence” in Brennan, and praising the CIA director for "proactive leadership" in calling for the probe that his agency resisted with every fiber of their database.

Understandable, after all, in their defense of their winning team in covering up and protecting the former administration's most criminal operators from prosecution. It makes one wonder how much of the White House defense and approval of the CIA's obstruction efforts in the investigation of the Bush-era crimes involves shielding their own activities from accountability.

Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and CIA director John Brennan. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

NO ONE is responsible for this many attacks on innocent civilians, except the ones attacking them

It's bullshit, plain and simple to blame Hamas for Israel's direct attacks on the civilian population in Gaza. It's even more ludicrous to blame the non-combatant civilians for the attacks, as some have done. No one is responsible for those attacks, except the Israeli attackers. That's not only common sense, it's also the dictate of international laws that govern military conflict.

How can our government justify standing by, almost silent to the crimes - except to remind us that they hold Hamas responsible for Israel's actions; claiming beyond any proof offered at all, that it's Hamas putting these Palestinian victims in the way of the missile attacks? Never for a moment allowing that anyone on the Israeli side is responsible for placing civilians underneath Hamas sympathizer's rockets.

Where are the demands that Israel show any proof that the risk from their targets outweigh the risk to Palestinian civilians? There is none. Israeli citizens are protected by an 'Iron Dome' of defense; Palestinians have no such protection.

The U.S. defenders of Israel may well claim that Hamas is responsible for the violence and the killing by Israelis of men, women, and children, who are doing little more than dodging Israel's bombs and bullets. However, it's not clear at all what they expect Palestinian civilians to do to prevent combatants, on either side, from engaging in violence.

In any instance, how can anyone claim that these civilians are in any way responsible for that? Where is the risk from the children they're maiming and blowing to bits? What is the goal of Israel, outside of outright punishment for things over which they have absolutely no control?

Is it the annihilation of Palestinians that they're trying to effect, or is it some sort of punishment or coercion? Neither is within any moral boundaries that Americans assume our nation represents or stands for.

History will remember how our government stood by and allowed this violence against unarmed civilians - actively funded the Israeli military effort and even considered funding them more at the same time their 'allies' bombs were falling on homes, schools, hospitals, refuge centers where civilians huddled to escape the unending carnage. History will correctly judge our nation as criminally callous and complicit in these crimes against humanity.

History will wonder at our arrogance, and at our inability to restrain our military and its agents from pursuing ambitions far outside of the mandate of our constitution or conscience. We can scarcely hope to repair the injustice and the pain which our great and powerful nation has caused, around the world and here at home; through our greed, with our zeal, and by our neglect.


Protection of civilians during armed conflict is a cornerstone of international humanitarian law

Civilians in war

UNRWA Condemns Israeli Shelling Of Its School In Gaza As Serious Violation Of International Law

Consequences. When most of us fail to do our job or deliver there are consequences; often immediate

When the President or Congress fails, they make certain they don't suffer any consequences.

I'm thinking about the unemployment extension that legislators have been promising for months. Time and time again, Congress has taken away the money that legislators have found to fund the extension and time and time again, Congress has found a way to spend that found funding on something else.

Republicans have now taken to claiming that withholding benefits is magically FORCING people to take jobs they might not otherwise. They cynically point to the lower unemployment numbers and claim that withholding benefits is some sort of magic elixir - tough love - and they're doing us a favor by withholding an extension of benefits and forcing workers into one of the part-time sub-poverty-level jobs available, if any actually exist.

A mostly bipartisan group of legislators have committed themselves to finding funding for the extension and have gotten commitments over the past months that the extension will be attached to key funding bills, but each and every one has seen the extension stripped out.

Senator Reid told Sen. Reed and republican Sen. Heller from Nevada (unemployment in his state at 7.7%) that "there's a chance" to add the unemployment benefits extension to the emergency spending bill for the border that Pres. Obama requested. That bill appears doomed, at least before the August recess.

Reed and Heller crafted a new bill that would cost a total of $10 billion and was planned to be paid for by "pension smoothing" and "extending Customs user fees through 2024".

The new highway bill that the republican Congress passed overwhelmingly with Democratic votes, 367 to 55, stripped the bipartisan unemployment extension agreement out and just folded the money that was organized for the UE bill and swallowed it up to pay for the highway legislation.

As Sen. Reed commented afterward, "This is now the second time they've taken offsets intended to help the unemployed and used them to pay for other priorities."

President Obama was so eager to get a highway bill that he almost immediately gave his blessing to the House bill without mentioning the unemployment extension at all. Not one word about it; not one proposal from the WH about where to include the UE legislation he's used in his speeches as an example of republican heartlessness and neglect. In giving his tacit approval to the republican highway bill Pres. Obama effectively condoned their shelving of the jobless worker funding extension.

The President gave the extension lip service in a June speech: "They've said no to extending unemployment insurance for more than three million Americans who are out there looking every single day for a new job, despite the fact that we know it would be good not just for those families who are working hard to try to get back on their feet, but for the economy as a whole," he said.

Thing is, Pres. Obama has refused to threaten to veto ANY bills over the benefits extension or bothered to hold ANY republican priorities hostage to an unemployment extension.

That's what I mean by consequences. There are virtually no consequences for republicans in arrogantly refusing to extend benefits; no consequences for their arrogant expectation that inadequate employment and workers disappearing from the rolls by just giving up represents some sort of solution - out of sight, out of their minds.

As I said, the passage of the highway bill, and the President's acceptance of the republican tactic of robbing the UE funding to make that bill happen begs the question of whether the President will EVER insist on ANY consequences for ignoring and using their twisted logic in refusing this traditionally automatic extension.

When is this WH, when is this President going to hold republicans accountable and make them pay a price for their obstinacy and disregard of hurting workers around the nation who haven't benefited from the recovery other states may be experiencing?

When is he going to hold up what republicans want to force THEM to do THEIR jobs? When is he going to exact a price from the republicans? When is he going to make them pay the consequences of their refusal to do their job?

And, yes, this is personal to me. I'm not going to wear my problems on my sleeve and I'm not discussing my personal needs here at all. Period. But, this is personal to me.

Martin O'Malley: 'We Can't Send Children Back to Death' - Says 'Get Them Out Of These Kennels'

Jack Bohrer @JRBoh · 2h
Martin O'Malley: We Can't 'Send Children Back to Death' http://ti.me/W4Uyi0

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley broke publicly with President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Friday, calling for a more humane policy toward the tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors who have illegally crossed into the United States.

“It is contrary to everything we stand for to try to summarily send children back to death,” the Democratic lawmaker told reporters. O’Malley also criticized the “kennels” in which those who have been detained are being kept and calling for the children to be placed in “the least restrictive” locations, including foster homes or with family members in the U.S.

“Through all of the great world religions we are told that hospitality to strangers is an essential human dignity,” O’Malley said. “It is a belief that unites all of us. And I have watched the pictures of young kids who have traveled for thousands of miles. I can only imagine, as a father of four, the heartbreak that those parents must have felt in sending their children across a desert where they can be muled and trafficked or used or killed or tortured. But with the hope, the hope, that they would reach the United States and that their children would be protected from what they were facing at home, which was the likelihood of being recruited into gangs and dying a violent death.”

O’Malley went so far as to call the children “refugees,” a term with legal weight that would allow most of them to remain in the U.S. He called on Congress and the President to avoid modifying the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008. That measure requires that children who are not from Canada or Mexico who have crossed the border to be given an opportunity to see an immigration judge to make their case for amnesty. Lawmakers on both sides, as well as the White House, are reviewing ways to amend that law to ease deportations of the tens of thousands of migrant children, who are largely from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

O’Malley said “the whole world is watching” how the U.S. responds to the humanitarian crisis.

“We have to do right not just by these kids but by our kids and protect the children who are here, put them in the least restrictive settings, get them out of these detention centers and these kennels where they are being cooped up, and operate as the good and generous people that we have always been,” he added. “That’s what’s at stake here, as well as the lives of these kids.”

read more: http://time.com/2978026/martin-omalley-minors-immigration/

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley speaks during a general session at the California Democrats State Convention, March 8, 2014, in Los Angeles. Jae C. Hong—AP

Martin O'Malley ‏@GovernorOMalley 1h
The greatest power we have is power of our principles. We're not a country that should send children away & send them back to certain death

*listen*: https://soundcloud.com/americarising/martin-omalley-we-are-not-a-country-that-should-turn-children-away

'Afghan Democracy.exe' failed to install due to operations timing out - Do you want to try again?

Angry Staff Officer ‏@pptsapper 1h
This was stenciled on a jersey barrier in Kandahar. Someone's got a wicked sense of humor. And too much time.

Big flaw in Hobby Lobby decision is in assuming 'corporate personhoods' can hold religious belief

If you assume, as the Court does, that Hobby Lobby is a corporation - not a sole proprietorship or even a partnership - there isn't any recognized role that religion plays in such a corporate structure as defined by the Court.

The Supreme Court, in 'Citizens United' recognized rights for corporations which are associated with the individuals who form those entities for the purposes of protections of their freedom of press; or to secure their property from unreasonable searches or seizures. The Court recognized the individuals who formed the entities interest in pooling their resources to conduct financial transactions and grow their businesses.

Corporations aren't formed for religious purposes, like churches, they're formed for profit, and only recognized as such under stringent state laws. The only way to get to the religious belief of the owners of Hobby lobby would be to recognize the views of the owners as individuals; not the definition of the corporation, itself, which the Court has already described as a business entity; not a religious institution which is guaranteed those protections of belief and practice.

The corporation can't, itself, hold religious belief - not under the Logic of corporate personhood. The Court is really saying that Hobby Lobby isn't a person, after all - defying all of the logic and reasoning they've used to allow corporations 'free speech' rights to spend as much unaccountable money as they want in campaigns - and has reduced them to what they arguably are; a business made up of people.

But the Court hasn't gone all the way and recognized corporations, themselves as religious entities. As far as anyone can discern from what the Court has said corporations like Hobby Lobby represent, there isn't any religious element that supports that recognition, just rights afforded the individual owners to conduct business. Nowhere in that recognition of corporate personhood by the Court is there any understanding that there is something integral, necessary, or even predominant about religious belief to the operation of these businesses or their ability to conduct business.

That's what the recognition of the Courts of corporations as persons was all about; not a refuge for religious belief. That refuge is already afforded to churches and synagogues. For instance, you can't apply most discrimination laws in the hiring of clergy. That refuge for religiosity isn't incorporated into any understanding the Court has determined as a necessity for conducting business.

Besides, the entire rationale for recognizing corporations was to separate the businesses from the owners. Hobby Lobby and the Courts can't have it both ways. Either they are just an accountable owner and investors, or they are a corporation of interests.

A corporation can't hold or express a religious belief; they're not afforded religious liberty, so there is none to be restrained by complying with the mandate. And, remember, all rights afforded to individuals can't be reasonably applied to corporations . . . Second Amendment, Fifth . . .

Correct me where I'm wrong here, because I'm obviously no expert.

Production for Use

Production for use . . .that's what a gun's for Earl, to shoot, of course! Maybe that's why you used it -- Yes, I think you're right. That's what a gun's for isn't it? Production for use! There's nothing crazy about that is it? - Star reporter Hildy Johnson interviews convict in ' His Girl Friday', 1940

I'm reminded of this surreal scene from Howard Hawk's movie production whenever our government makes reflexive moves toward war - the scene where the newspaper's lead reporter is rationalizing responsibility away from the hapless killer and putting the finger on the gun manufacturer for responsibility for his violence.

I'm looking at the report today that President Obama plans to ask Congress to provide $500 million in direct U.S. military training and equipment to Syrian rebels. Aside from reservations about involving the U.S. materially in any of the fighting there, there's the issue of what responsibility the U.S. would assume, or should at that point, for the blowback and consequence of our government's entreaty to them to violence.

I'll attest to the apparent and relatively new attitude of restraint from the White House following the period where more troops were sacrificed in Afghanistan defending the Karsai regime by Pres. Obama than Bush lost defending 9-11; acknowledge an apparently new attitude of restraint since the height of his use of the often indiscriminate and extra-judicial targeting of weaponized drones (which he still assumes authority to launch).

In Yemen, the Sudan, Libya, and even Syria, the president has demonstrated a new doctrine of sorts which emphasizes diplomatic and international efforts - buttressed by the big stick threat of a declaration, made several times by President Obama, that he holds the power to unilaterally commit military force or forces abroad without initial congressional approval.

Throughout the facedown and resolution of the question of chemical weapons in Syria, the president has maintained that, through his own interpretation of a threat to the U.S. or our interests, he has the authority - notwithstanding his recent reluctance - to unilaterally initiate attacks and deploy troops.

It's a similar argument that he uses in 'leaving his options open' on initiating attacks in Iraq - not withstanding any stated intention of his to refrain from such action - President Obama has insisted that he has all the authority he needs to initiate airstrikes; even introduce troops, if he sees fit.

The retention of that assumed authority is a loaded gun just waiting for an excuse or reason to use it. Production for use.

What happens if our military advisers trigger a deepening or intensifying of the Iraq sectarian conflict? The introduction of that element of violence is a pretext to use it, as well as a trigger to the need for even deeper involvement. It's also a pretext for future presidents to use this commander-in-chief's justifications for war as their own.

However efficient and practical it may seem to provide only a smidge of violence in helping direct attacks in Iraq against Iraqis - however efficient and logical it may seem to give rebels weapons to carry out the political missions Americans certainly aren't willing to sacrifice lives for - there are real and tragic consequences on the ground.

Shoveling more weapons into Syria only gives the U.S. political mercenaries the illusion of clean hands, but we are the merchants of those misdeeds of Congress and the White House. Who are we arming? Who will they be killing? Where does the violence end?

One of the tragedies of 9-11 has been the degree our government's defensiveness has increased with a myriad of justifications to war - maybe not the unbridled military imperialism of the Bush-era, but threatening measures designed to frighten our adversaries away from their own military conquests; their sectarian violence fueled and inflamed by the seemingly deliberate vacuum created out of our own disruptive, self-serving military meddling.

Indeed, Barack Obama, in accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, actually used that occasion to lay down justifications for war; 'just wars' he called them. The new president wrapped his militarism in a blanket of history in his acceptance speech in Oslo. He spoke with the detachment of a professor lecturing students about a "living testimony" to the "moral force" of the teachings of King and Gandhi who just happened to be commander-in-chief over dual, bloody occupations.

War and peace, in Mr. Obama's presentation, were inseparably intertwined throughout history with America rising above it all - virtuous and correct in the flexing of our military muscle abroad in this age, because of our righteousness in the defining wars we waged with our allies against the Third Reich and Japan. That American virtue, in Mr. Obama's estimation, made evident by our leadership in setting the terms of international patronage, diplomacy, and 'just' war.

Mr. Obama began his speech by attempting to rationalize the obvious contradiction of a wartime president accepting a 'peace' prize. He downplayed the occupation in Iraq he had prolonged, distanced himself from the one he intended to redefine and escalate in Afghanistan, and declared himself responsible for, and "filled with questions" surrounding his sending of 'young Americans' to fight and die abroad.

President Obama:

. . . perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the Commander-in-Chief of a nation in the midst of two wars. One of these wars is winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not seek; one in which we are joined by 43 other countries — including Norway — in an effort to defend ourselves and all nations from further attacks.

Still, we are at war, and I am responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land. Some will kill. Some will be killed. And so I come here with an acute sense of the cost of armed conflict — filled with difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace, and our effort to replace one with the other

The president acknowledged the civil, ethnic, and sectarian conflicts around the world, which he observed are on the rise, without mention of our own nation's part in fueling, funding, and deliberately or clumsily exacerbating many of those into perpetuity.

In Iraq, the war that the president insisted at the time was 'winding down', our nation's invasion and overthrow of the sovereign government was the catalyst to the chaos and civil and sectarian unrest and violence. Our military forces' inability to stifle or eliminate the killings there, despite our "surged-up", lingering occupation was a less than ringing endorsement of some inherent wisdom behind the opportunistic exercise of our dominating, devastating military forces abroad.

The president admitted his own lack of a 'definitive solution' to it all. Absent that solution, the president said we must be prepared to act when we feel that war is 'justified'.

"A decade into a new century, this old architecture is buckling under the weight of new threats. The world may no longer shudder at the prospect of war between two nuclear superpowers, but proliferation may increase the risk of catastrophe. Terrorism has long been a tactic, but modern technology allows a few small men with outsized rage to murder innocents on a horrific scale.

Moreover, wars between nations have increasingly given way to wars within nations. The resurgence of ethnic or sectarian conflicts, the growth of secessionist movements, insurgencies and failed states have increasingly trapped civilians in unending chaos. In today's wars, many more civilians are killed than soldiers; the seeds of future conflict are sown, economies are wrecked, civil societies torn asunder, refugees amassed and children scarred.

I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war. What I do know is that meeting these challenges will require the same vision, hard work and persistence of those men and women who acted so boldly decades ago. And it will require us to think in new ways about the notions of just war and the imperatives of a just peace.

We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations — acting individually or in concert — will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified."

It's obvious what the president was alluding to. There aren't many who would question America's pursuit of justice in the wake of the 9-11 plane crashes. Chasing bin-Laden and his cohorts into Afghanistan, and the rout of his Taliban accomplices to Pakistan was a reasonable response to most looking on.

Yet, there's a question of how much of the president's militarism today in Afghanistan, or now, Iraq, can be justified as part and parcel of that original pursuit; or even integral to some defense of our national security as defined in the original authorizations to use military force.

The emerging practice from politicians in Washington is to construct mechanisms of preemptive aggression in the vain hope of keeping war at bay. Is there anything more delusional than fomenting war to prevent war? Production for use.

That 'ambivalence' to military action the president represented as universal to any conflict, is fiction; at least in America. Our nation's citizens didn't start out ambivalent to chasing bin-Laden into Afghanistan. They became ambivalent when that effort was distorted into opportunistic nation-building - all the while with the fugitive terror suspects that were at the heart and soul of the military mission left free to instigate and motivate violent resistance against our nation's strident military presence and activity across sovereign borders, mostly by the virtue of their seemingly deliberate freedom from justice.

The nation became ambivalent when those occupations, in turn, were escalated to advantage the politics behind propped-up regimes. The suspicion of America's military force abroad was born in the 'extraordinary renditions' by our military and intelligence agencies; and in the indefinite imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans without charges or counsel - many held and tortured as in Gitmo - many tortured and disappeared in 'black sites' in compliant nations. Many are just as suspicious of this president's escalation of force in Afghanistan against the Taliban.

We've been told by the administration and the military that there are relatively few individuals thought to be in Afghanistan or Iraq who are al-Qaeda. Yet the U.S. military aggression in defense of regimes we helped ascend to power in corrupt elections is directed against an entirely different 'enemy' who is operating against the U.S. 'interest' in our maintaining ethically-challenged regimes in dominance over the very people we pretend to be defending.

At the end of his address, the president quoted Martin Luther King Jr.'s remarks in his own Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech. . .

As Dr. King said at this occasion so many years ago: "I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the 'isness' of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal 'oughtness' that forever confronts him . . . We can acknowledge that oppression will always be with us, and still strive for justice. We can admit the intractability of deprivation, and still strive for dignity. We can understand that there will be war, and still strive for peace . . .

It's understandable that President Obama would want to justify his own duplicity between his stated ideals against 'dumb wars' with a declaration of a pursuit of peace behind his own exercise of military force. Yet, King's answer to the dilemma the president faces was non-violence. His own acceptance speech was a promotion of peace and love, not a litany of excuses for militarism.

"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy," King said in 1967. "Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars."

And, so it goes.

It's fine to have sympathy for President Obama in Iraq

. . . but it's not a sentiment that I'd extend to judgment of his actions right now.

The reason that he's finding himself in the position of responding with military assistance has everything to do with the way he neglected to repudiate several of the Bushian justifications for remaining militarily engaged in Iraq.

One is his insistence that there's some sort of terror war to defend the U.S. against that threatens to spring out of Iraq and attack the U.S. or our “national security” interests. I'm straining to remember where, in the decade we've been meddling militarily in Iraq, did any Iraqis come to the U.S. and attempt to attack us?

It's a ludicrous excuse for insisting that he has a military prerogative in Iraq, and its ignorant of the fact that our military presence and activity in Iraq actually fuels and fosters terrorists. It's right there in Bush's 2006 National Intelligence Report.

The intelligence estimate, completed in April 2006, was the first formal appraisal of global terrorism by U.S. intelligence agencies since the Iraq war began, and it represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled "Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States," it asserts that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread across the globe.

An opening section of the report, "Indicators of the Spread of the Global Jihadist Movement," cites the Iraq war as a reason for the diffusion of jihad ideology.

If you just take Pres. Obama's recent decision to send 300 U.S. military advisers to assist Iraqis in directing attacks against Iraqi targets, you can see the folly rising, yet again, where our military interference is just going to be a recruiting tool for whatever forces are resisting that Potemkin of democracy in Baghdad. The predictable effect will be the U.S. ownership, in Iraqis eyes, of any objectionable assault we had a hand in which kills innocent Iraqis.

The other thing the President has done is put the introduction of the military forces assisting the Iraqi army into operation well before there's even a promise from the Iraqi government we're defending to effect the political reconciliation that Bush first demanded and then completely let go.

The President himself said that no military action would be forthcoming without that political rapprochement, but here we are, advantaging just one side of the political divide with our military advisers and weaponry he deployed pointed right at regions which not only harbor the armed insurgency but is home to Maliki's political opposition - all at the same time he's calling for political reconciliation in the vain hope that Sunnis won't align their own sympathies with the armed rebellion.

The 2002 AUMF hasn't been repealed, so President Obama, by declaring some right under that AUMF to stage air attacks into Iraq if he deems it appropriate is just a U.S. gun pointed at any resisting Iraqi's head; all the while pressing for political concessions standing beside the government that has refused to accommodate that opposition politically.

It's the same type of military imperialism which had Iraqis voting for their leadership with the U.S. guns pointed directly at the Shiite-dominated regime's political opposition.

Anyone who believes that the Iraqi army can precisely target just the bad guys and leave the Iraqi population safe, hasn't been watching the Maliki regime as it prosecutes it military force against rival population centers. This isn't something that our military has any business enabling, and I don't believe the president is being realistic about the dangerous blowback to Iraqis and others that is inevitable from our military interference.

What do we do if political rapprochement fails? If there is some agreement will U.S. forces be sent back to Iraq to 'watch over' the political process again?

Accepting Bush's 'terror' rationale for remaining militarily engaged in Iraq and adopting it is the president's responsibility and he should be held accountable for that, not sympathized with.

Accepting the notion that our military can aid ANY political goal inside Iraq without proving counterproductive and provocative is Pres. Obama's responsibility and he should be held accountable for that, not sympathized with.

Progress and Successes of the Bush and Maliki Regime

. . . this the second and last article I want to post that I wrote in 2007 which covers some of the ground between President Obama's remarks on Iraq today and Bush's own use of our military to bolster and defend Maliki's regime in Iraq.

OpEdNews Op Eds 9/5/2007
Progress and Successes of the Bush and Maliki Regime
By Ron Fullwood

IRAQI Prime Minister Maliki is in deep denial over the state of his reign. Looking out at Iraq from his protected post inside of the ring of security that has cost the U.S. military over 800 soldiers' lives since Bush began his increased deployment of troops to Baghdad, Maliki has concluded that it is his fractured, unpopular government which deserves the bulk of the credit for the decrease in violence he perceives from his sheltered office, not his American defenders. In a familiar refrain which echoes the despicable attempts by the Bush White House to paint dissent of their Iraq policy as an appeasement of terrorists, Maliki told reporters that any suggestion that his regime was not ready to assume their own defenses sent a "signal" to would-be attackers that his beleaguered government was vulnerable to attack.

'Such criticism, Maliki said, sends "signals to terrorists luring them into thinking that the security situation in the country is not good. "U.S. critics," he said, don't appreciate "the big role of the Iraqi government and its achievements, such as stopping the civil and sectarian war."

Maliki must be the only person in Iraq who believes the civil and sectarian armed struggle for power, influence, and territory has stopped. Despite the reported halt of operations of Shiite leader, al-Sadr's militarized forces, the reason for the temporary cessation of violence by the anti-government forces was described by the opposition leader as a re-grouping, rather than an armistice. And, despite the assurances from the U.S. military in Iraq and their commander-in-chief that violence has been quelled in Baghdad, the bombings and assassinations continue unabated almost everywhere else in Iraq that our troops are not deployed in their increased occupation.

Thousands of Iraqis have been killed since Bush increased the protection he had been providing the Maliki regime since he initiated the increased defense of the center of government in Baghdad last year, and even more Iraqis have been killed since the start of his latest escalation this year as a result of the factional violence; and partly as a result of joint offensive operations by our troops and the Iraqi army which have killed hundreds of residents and imprisoned thousands of others who were actively resisting their colonialist advance on their territory.

Moreover, it's not clear exactly who Maliki is referring to when he touts the efforts and effects of his government. There is no functioning government in Iraq, despite Maliki's desperate attempts this month to forge a working coalition which would allow him to advance stalled legislation which the Bush WH claims would enable the warring factions to reconcile their differences and accept the manufactured authority of the new regime.

There are no Sunni members of Maliki's new coalition government which is even more autocratic than the previous, propped-up regime which has operated for most of their tenure under a 'state of emergency' and a suspended constitution. The corruption and presumptive rule of Maliki's regime was underscored by an NPR report which cited a "sensitive but unclassified" document drawn up by State. Dept. investigators at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, which concludes that Maliki's government has "withheld resources" from the Iraqi govt's anti-corruption agency. NPR reports that U.S. investigators found that, Maliki's office had "quashed corruption investigations of politicians allied with the government."

NPR Foreign Correspondent Corey Flintoff reported that, "If you believe the report, and you listen to people who work at these ministries, you get the impression that corruption is completely sapping the country's resources. ...Someone who works at the Ministry of Interior -- that's the department that supervises all of Iraq's police forces...told me that it's corrupt from top to bottom -- that officials at the top of the pile are making money from contracts to buy equipment."

Flintoff's report said that, "Some ministries, such as the Interior Ministry, are seen as untouchable because of their political connections to the government. The Ministry of Oil, which is supposed to safeguard the country's major source of wealth, has allegedly manipulated investigations against it. The report says the departments of the government routinely ignore requests for information, and that investigation teams can't go into their offices because they don't have any firepower to protect them."

If Maliki is functioning in his leadership position in Iraq as a protege of Bush, he can be partially excused for assuming that the 'democracy' Bush promised the former 21-year exile he would lord over represented anything close to the democratic process of government we all expect here in America. The example Bush has set for his Iraqi pupil is one of an imperialist warmonger bent on oppression. Iraqis, as well as the American people, are left to pick up the pieces of our own democracy that Bush so willingly hurls around the world out of his dictatorial carpetbag.

The lesson Maliki has apparently taken from his enabled ascendancy to power in Iraq is that any true exercise of democracy is secondary to his own consolidation of power. In fact, the U.S. Government Accountability Office report on Iraq released yesterday concluded that Iraq failed to meet all but two of the nine 'security' benchmarks Congress had set for them as a condition of U.S. military assistance, and had accomplished only one of eight political goals -- safeguarding minority rights in the Iraqi parliament.

Underscoring the fact that 15 of 37 cabinet ministers walked out on Maliki, nearly half of his 37-member Cabinet, including influential Sunni ministers, GAO chief Comptroller General David Walker told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, "Overall, key legislation has not been passed, violence remains high and it is unclear whether the Iraqi government will spend the $10 billion in reconstruction funds it has allocated."

Despite all of the criticism, Maliki remains convinced he's correct in every expression of his increasingly autocratic reign because he has the apparent seal of approval from our lame-duck loser in the White House. The "message" Bush sent to the Maliki regime with his surprise visit to al-Anbar yesterday, is that "there is no alternative to this government," Maliki's spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said Tuesday.

"The visit of President Bush carried a message of support to the Iraqi government after the progress it made in national reconciliation," Maliki said.

The Iraqi prime minister can be excused for his ignorance if all he has to rely on as an example of democracy in action is the reality of his U.S. benefactor's own defiance of the will of the vast majority of Americans and the majority of legislators in Congress that he end his occupation as he presses forward in defense of his junta over the almost 3800 Americans whose lives and livelihoods have already been sacrificed for Bush's imperialist ambitions for the supposedly sovereign nation.

Despite the criticism of the escalated defense of his enabled reign, Maliki is convinced that Gen. Petraeus' Sept. report on the effects of their 'surge' will reflect "positive developments" in Iraq, "for sure," and that his regime was making 'progress' toward national reconciliation and that both Crocker and Petraeus "are witnessing the progress."

Only blundering idiots (or complicit criminals) would allow Bush to turn their country into his personal fight club. We're the ones who are going to end up defending ourselves (as are Iraqis) as we defend against his blundering interference in so many other nation's affairs. Bush and Maliki's manufactured mandate to conquer Iraq is supported less by the will of their electorate than by their corrupt exercise of the awesome strength of our military and the sacrifices of those who do most of the fighting and the dying.

There is no democracy in Iraq for our troops to defend. There is only the raw struggle for power and influence in which Maliki is being allowed to satiate himself behind the sacrifices of our nation's defenders. Having achieved that position of power, Bush and Maliki are satisfied that the lives they squandered were worth every contrived effort they made to consolidate their positions of power over the rest of Iraq. Yet, in their very actions, they contradict the myth Bush is perpetuating of a White House which has been nothing but a peaceful partner in Iraq's leaderships' quest for democracy.

Maliki and Bush are both in denial over the catastrophe they have overseen in Iraq with their partisan disregard of the very principles of democracy they say they're defending behind their strident militarism. They apparently believe Americans and Iraqis should be grateful for the way they've confronted the resistant elements in Iraq they've fostered and fueled by directing our troops to fight and die on one side of the country's multi-fronted civil war.

However, most Americans are left to wonder, as Bush and Maliki are crowing about their 'successes' and 'progress' in Iraq, whether these lame-duck partners are referring to advantages they've achieved for their citizenry, or if they're just bragging on their own ability to sustain themselves in power and authority over the rest of us at our own deadly expense.

Striking Out at Bush's Phantoms in Iraq

here's an article I wrote in 2007. It covers some of the 'ground' in Iraq between President Obama's remarks at his news conference today and the situation 'on the ground' when Bush was directing the force of our military to advantage the Maliki regime:

OpEdNews Op Eds 8/13/2007
Striking Out at Bush's Phantoms in Iraq
By Ron Fullwood

Maliki's regime on verge of collapse because of Sunnis resisting Shiite rule - so our forces attack Sunnis . . .

Bush has launched a 'major assault' in Iraq today against 'extremists' in, mainly, Sunni communities which, he claims, harbor al-Qaeda. Those assaults, dubbed 'Operation Phantom Strike,' are being conducted by U.S. forces aligned with Sunnis who've been spending part of their time (until very recently) engaged in attacks against the Maliki regime and its U.S. defenders.

The other pretext for the new assaults on Iraqis is the administration's escalated campaign against Iran. Despite their admission that as many as 200,000 U.S. weapons have been 'lost' somewhere in Iraq, the Bush administration has gratuitously accused Iran of supplying and training insurgents who've been staging attacks against our forces and against the new regime. To highlight that alleged Iranian support, Bush has launched assaults on Shiite communities believed to shelter the militias aligned with al-Sadr and who've been denounced by the administration because of their links to Iran.

If it weren't for the actual tragedy of the lives lost and disrupted as a result of these staged assaults on Iraqis, we could laugh off the farce of Bush chasing his tail as he pretends to actually have some useful purpose behind the new offensive beyond the feathering of the 'progress' of his escalation which he and his generals measure by the degree Iraqis have been repressed and cowed by the iron fist of the U.S. military into accepting the assumed rule of the Maliki regime.

At some point Bush has to be held to account for at least one of his shifting justifications for continuing his Iraq occupation. Despite the thorough discrediting of the initial lies about WMD's and al-Qaeda training camps in Iraq that Bush sold to Americans with a straight face and crooked hands as he pressed forward with his illegal invasion, Bush is still being allowed to offer even more rationales for remaining as he shrugs off the demonstrated will of the electorate and unilaterally escalates his occupation.

It should be clear to anyone who has watched this president's aversion to truthfulness throughout his term, that he has no intention of owning up to any development or reality which contradicts the strategic excuses and calculated dodges that his administration presents to the public as national policy. That lowered expectation has been accepted by legislators who've attempted to confront Bush to the degree and effect that our national debate (and their own) now mirrors the tortured, defensive unreality that the lame-duck loser has managed to bind the nation with as he's plundered, squandered, and destroyed everything he's charged with protecting and upholding.

It would more than fair to just conclude that because of the constant and escalating attempts by the administration to spin their Iraq fiasco as a work in progress, that there isn't a wit of sense in trying to extract practical, actionable initiatives from anything they've presented as a policy and use them to try and make a measure of any success or failure of their 'surge.' Why should anyone bother to measure the effect of their fictions? Knocking down the obvious lies should be enough.

Those lies and contradictions are so glaring, however, as to obscure whatever shine the administration is working to apply to the tarnished Iraqi regime they helped install. The most obvious is the extent that the Maliki regime has drawn closer to Iran, even as Bush works to undermine their neighborly relationship which has produced economic agreements as well as pledges to ensure each other's security. The August 8th image of Maliki and the Iranian president emerging from their meeting holding hands is an undeniable refutation of whatever threat Bush claims Iran poses to Iraqis.

There's even less solace for Bush in the normalization of economic ties between the two former enemies this week as Iran and Iraq inked a deal on an oil pipeline which would carry oil from Iraqi oil fields to refineries in Iran. There's likely even more nervousness from the administration carpetbaggers as Iraq's Oil Minister, after declaring that no country would get dibs on Iraq's oil, nonetheless, acknowledged that Russia would be first in line for a piece of the oil pie because of their existing contracts on what's turning out to be one of Iraq's most potentially lucrative oil fields.

Despite the gridlock which has infected the Iraqi government, there may yet be hope that the Maliki regime will play along with the Bush administration's new script and cobble together a compliant legislature, as Maliki ,today, threatened to replace the Sunni bloc who has completely vacated the government, with those Sunni leaders who are aligning right now with our forces in these contrived assaults against the administration's al-Qaeda specter. Convenient, huh?

That realignment will not, by any means, satisfy the Sunni bloc who've walked away from the government. They're still convinced the Shiite-dominated Maliki regime is bent on their destruction. And, that Sunni bloc isn't the only faction in the parliament who walked. Seventeen ministerial posts in his government are empty. That 'crisis' of confidence in his regime prompted Maliki today to call for a conference between key Sunnis and Kurds to take place in the 'next few days.' The invitees include President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, a moderate Sunni, Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi, a Shiite, and Massoud Barzani, the leader of the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq.

Whatever the intentions of the Maliki regime, it can't serve his efforts at reconciliation to have Bush flailing our forces all around Iraq in defense against whatever nemesis he conjures. Bush needs a defining fight and a vanquished enemy in Iraq to accompany the upcoming report due Congress in September on the effects of his 'surge,' and he's angling our forces to attract deadly brawls whose casualties will facilitate his planned determination to continue his cynical occupation.

A successful repression of resisting Iraqis will serve to represent the 'progress' Bush needs to highlight; a escalation of American deaths will serve his generals' vengeful insistence that Lt. Gen. James Dubik, in charge of training and equipping Iraqi forces revealed in his answer to reporters about the sacrifice of lives over defense of Iraqi ground: "It was fought over and died for," he said, "and there's no reason to give it back right now."

Yet, for Iraqis, that ground the Americans have fought and died to defend hasn't been for their benefit at all. That reality for Iraqis isn't obscured by our military forces' latest specter hunt. 'Operation Phantom Strike' is just another defense of bad Bush policy; wrapped around more treasonous lies about threats to the U.S. from Iran, or from some conjured Iraqi commandos following our troops home (as if they didn't already know the way by now). It's another chip placed on our soldiers' shoulders; it's another manifestation of Bush's obsession with "fighting them 'there.'"

To even an inexperienced observer, Bush's new assault on Iraqis looks like a deliberate provocation designed to counter Maliki's reconciliation efforts. To Iraqis, it almost certainly must look like just another attack on them - it can't really make any difference that our bullets, bombs, and oppression were actually intended for Bush's phantoms.
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