Too Big to Fail, Too Big to Jail

George Bush

George Bush

Karl Rove recently described George W. Bush as a book lover, writing, “There is a myth perpetuated by Bush critics that he would rather burn a book than read one.” There will be many histories written about the Bush administration. What will they use for source material? The Bush White House was sued for losing e-mails, and for skirting laws intended to protect public records. A federal judge ordered White House computers scoured for e-mails just days before Bush left office. Three hundred million e-mails reportedly went to the National Archives, but 23 million e-mails remain “lost.” Vice President Dick Cheney left office in a wheelchair due to a back injury suffered when moving boxes out of his office. He has not only hobbled a nation in his attempt to sequester information – he hobbled himself. Cheney also won court approval to decide which of his records remain private.

President Obama was questioned by George Stephanopoulos about the possibility of prosecuting Bush administration officials. Obama said: “We’re still evaluating how we’re going to approach the whole issue of interrogations, detentions and so forth. … I don’t believe that anybody is above the law. On the other hand, I also have a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backward … what we have to focus on is getting things right in the future, as opposed to looking at what we got wrong in the past.”

Legal writer Karen Greenberg notes in Mother Jones magazine, “The list of potential legal breaches is, of course, enormous; by one count, the administration has broken 269 laws, both domestic and international.”

Torture, wiretapping and “extraordinary rendition” – these are serious crimes that have been alleged. Obama now has, more than anyone else, the power to investigate.

John Conyers, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, has just subpoenaed Rove while investigating the politicization of the Justice Department and the political prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman. Rove previously invoked executive privilege to avoid congressional subpoenas. Conyers said in a press release: “I will carry this investigation forward to its conclusion, whether in Congress or in court. … Change has come to Washington, and I hope Karl Rove is ready for it.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who blocked impeachment hearings, is at least now calling for an investigation. She told Fox News: “I think that we have to learn from the past, and we cannot let the politicizing of the – for example, the Justice Department – to go unreviewed. … I want to see the truth come forth.”

Why not take it a step further?

Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, who led the charge in Congress for impeachment of Bush and Cheney, has called for “the establishment of a National Commission on Truth and Reconciliation, which will have the power to compel testimony and gather official documents to reveal to the American people not only the underlying deception which has divided us, but in that process of truth-seeking set our nation on a path of reconciliation.”

Millions have served time in federal prisons for crimes that fall far short of those attributed to the Bush administration. Some criminals, it seems, are like banks judged too big to fail: too big to jail, too powerful to prosecute. What if we apply Obama’s legal theory to the small guys? Why look back? Crimes, large or small, can be forgiven, in the spirit of unity. But few would endorse letting muggers, rapists or armed robbers of convenience stores off scot-free. So why the different treatment for those potentially guilty of leading a nation into wars that have killed untold numbers, torture and widespread illegal spying?

Which brings us back to Bush and books. Ray Bradbury’s novel “Fahrenheit 451” is one of the titles in the National Endowment for the Arts’ “The Big Read.” This ambitious program is “designed to restore reading to the center of American culture.” Cities, towns, even entire states choose a book and encourage everyone to read it. In “Fahrenheit 451” (the temperature at which paper spontaneously combusts), books are outlawed. Firemen don’t put out fires, they start them, burning down houses that contain books. Bradbury said: “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” The secretive Bush administration is out of power; the transparency-proclaiming Obama administration is in. But transparency is only useful when accompanied by accountability.

Without thorough, aggressive, public investigations of the full spectrum of crimes alleged of the Bush administration, there will be no accountability, and the complete record of this chapter of U.S. history will never be written.

insight-info

Airport laptop seizures anger Muslims

Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi

Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi

Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi, a frequent traveler who wears a robe and the traditional amamah headwear of a Shi’a leader, is accustomed to scrutiny at international airports.

But he was not prepared for what happened to him on Oct. 22 as he returned to Detroit Metropolitan Airport from an extended trip to his native Iran. After searching his luggage, customs personnel wanted to see more.

“They said, ‘Well, we need to check your computer,’ ” Elahi recalled. “They said they had to go to an office and check it. They came back and said, ‘Well, do the password.’ … He took it back, and it took another 20 minutes. And then he came back and said, ‘Well, you know, unfortunately, the computer died as I was looking at it.’ ”

Elahi was confronted with what many local Muslims and residents of Arab descent say are increased searches and seizures of laptops at airports and border crossings without warrant or warning. Civil rights groups are challenging the tactic, as the Bush administration and citizens continue to grapple with the conflict between civil liberties and national security seven years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

full article: www.insight-info.com

The Perils of a Bankers War with Iran

The neocons are not going to get their war with Iran if it’s to be left to their traditional power centers in the Bush Administration to make the call: They’ve lost the Pentagon, and it’s abundantly clear that neither the uniformed brass nor Defense Secretary Gates have any interest in starting another catastrophic war. And the fact that they still have a solid ally in Vice President Cheney doesn’t mean much, because Cheney is far less influential five years into the Iraq debacle than he had been on its eve. Nor is there any significant support (outside of Israel) among U.S. allies for a confrontational path. Still, all is not lost for that merry little band of neocon bomb throwers who’ve spent the Bush tenure quite literally “setting the East ablaze.” There’s always the Treasury.

Well, its Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), dedicated to fighting the “war on terror” etc. via the international banking system. John McGlynn offers fascinating insights into a critical aspect of Bush Administration policy that has scarcely appeared on the radar of most mainstream media. In particular, he warns, FinCEN’s March 20 advisory warning the international banking community that
doing business with any Iranian bank, or bank that does business with an Iranian bank, runs the risk of falling afoul of the U.S. Treasury’s expansive interpretation and enforcement of UN sanctions and of anti-terror money laundering regulations adopted under the post-9/11 USA Patriot Act.

The beauty of this approach, from a neocon point of view, is that it completely skirts all those troublesome international diplomatic forums where the U.S. and its closest allies have failed to convince others to apply meaningful sanctions against Iran — most of the international community is skeptical over the claims being made by the U.S. of an imminent Iranian threat (as, of course, is the U.S. intel community, as last year’s NIE showed) and even more skeptical of the value of sanctions in resolving the issue, rather than in preparing the way for confrontation.

Soldier Refuses Tour, Citing “Stomach-Churning Horrors”

I hope other soldiers can take him as an example.

 

Iraq soldier

 

A U.S. Army soldier who served as a military journalist in Afghanistan, Japan, Europe and the Philippines announced Thursday his intent to refuse orders to deploy to Iraq.

“As an Army journalist whose job it was to collect and filter service members’ stories, I heard many stomach-churning testimonies of the horrors of the crimes taking place in Iraq,” said Sergeant Matthis Chiroux, 24, in an announcement under the rotunda of the House of Representative’s Cannon Office Building.

“For fear of retaliation from the military, I failed to report these crimes, but never again will I allow fear to silence me. Never again will I fail to stand,” he said.

Chirioux said he’s aware he will likely face prosecution for refusing the deployment, but said, “I choose to remain in the United States to defend myself from charges brought by the Army if they are willing to pursue them. I refuse to participate in the occupation of Iraq.”

Chirioux is a victim of stop-loss, a controversial wartime power that the George W. Bush administration has used to keep soldiers from leaving the military when their term of service expires. Critics call the policy a “back-door draft”. More than 50,000 troops have been stop-lossed since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Full Article

U.S. Has Detained 2,500 Juveniles as Enemy Combatants

America supports human rights – what a crock!

 

guantanamo

 

The United States has detained approximately 2,500 people younger than 18 as illegal enemy combatants in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay since 2002, according to a report filed by the Bush administration with the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Although 2,400 of the juveniles were captured in Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, only 500 are still held in detention facilities in that country. The administration’s report, which was made public yesterday by the American Civil Liberties Union, says that most of the detained Iraqi youths were “engaging in anti-coalition
activity.”

As of last month, 10 juveniles were still being held in Bagram, Afghanistan, out of 90 that had been captured in that country since 2002, according to the report.

source

US Fails at Enforcing Prosecution of Contractors

The US government has the legal authority to prosecute private contractors for crimes they commit in Iraq but often declines to use it, according to a report released today by a leading human rights group. The findings by Human Rights First come amid renewed uncertainty about whether employees of the US security company Blackwater can be prosecuted for a September shooting in Baghdad that
left 17 Iraqis dead.

blackwater

The Bush administration has warned that inconsistency in federal law may allow the contractors to evade charges, the New York Times reported today.

“The main obstacle to ending the culture of impunity among private security contractors is not shortcomings in the law but rather the lack of will to enforce the law,” today’s report states.

A seven-year-old law called the Military extraterrestrial jurisdiction act, or MEJA, provides the main mechanism to prosecute contractors for crimes committed outside the US.

But many in the capital have questioned whether MEJA’s specific application to Pentagon employees would exempt Blackwater, which was operating under a US state department contract when the September shooting occurred.

The human rights report rejects that argument, citing a congressional expansion of MEJA passed after the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal in 2004. That measure allows for prosecution of non-Pentagon employees who were “supporting the mission of the department of defence”.

The behaviour of contractors for Blackwater and other security firms has sparked resentment among Iraqi officials as well as civilians, many of whom consider the private guards unnecessarily violent.

“These violent attacks have created a culture of impunity that angers the local population, undermines the military mission, and promotes more abuse by contractors over time,” the report states.

The report found that since the war in Iraq began, only one US contractor has been charged with a violent crime under MEJA: an employee of KBR, formerly owned by Halliburton, who was accused of
stabbing an Indian female colleague.

The House of Representatives already has approved a measure that would directly apply MEJA to Blackwater and its fellow contractors. Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama has introduced an expansion of MEJA in the Senate, but the bill has yet to see action.

Fallout from Blackwater’s legal and public relations troubles has hit British security companies in recent months.

The chief executive of ArmorGroup, the largest UK security firm operating in Iraq, left his post after reports of the September violence chilled the company’s profits and new contracts.

The human rights report singles out ArmorGroup and Aegis Defence Services, another UK-based contractor, for tracking incidents involving firearms use by their employees, in contrast with US
companies that do not routinely keep such records.

by: Elena Schorr