Comments: I Demand We Stop Pampering These Terrorists

By the way (and at the risk of making this about Glenn Greenwald, which I don't want to do since this story is much bigger than him), this is a large part of why the issues I raised in the GG-vs-GG posting were important: because the immediate response of Horton, Greenwald and other prominent liberals to this information was to attack the messenger in the most hysterical terms. And Greenwald went the extra mile by smearing not just the article itself but those who took it seriously. The purpose, in both cases, was to discredit the message and give the Obama administration the benefit of the doubt on a key civil liberties issue—despite the fact that Obama had already contradicted his empty rhetoric on other civil liberties issues, so there was every reason to expect he'd do it again.

Would things have gone differently if instead of trying to smear the L.A. Times, these liberals had chosen to take the Obama administration to task and raise the profile of this report? Maybe, maybe not, but it certainly couldn't have hurt (whereas burying the report in dismissive ridicule could, and likely did). And one thing is crystal clear: a civil libertarian's "huge dose of skepticism" should be directed at the government—not at the media, on those rare occasions when they're reporting critically important information like this.

(By the way, the civil liberties heroes at the Center for Constitutional Rights understood who deserved their skepticism right from the start, as usual.)

Posted by John Caruso at August 26, 2009 04:26 PM

Perhaps making this about Greenwald actually increases its scope. I would claim that this slavish adoration of establishment figures displayed here is exactly what transformed the last Democratic Primary from a chance to pull our country back from the brink into a vulgar, Wall St. sponsored sideshow where blacks, women, and upper- and middle-class whites were encouraged to put brand marketing ahead of analysis. The lack of critical thought from influential "progressives" allowed the rich to effectively whittle down the candidates to the marketable few that -- surprise! -- had every intention of delivering more goodies to our aristocracy at the population's expense.

Posted by No One of Consequence at August 26, 2009 06:06 PM

Can we ask the Syrian diplomat where our weapons of mass destruction got to -- the ones we lent to Saddam? Oh wait -- wrong Syria. I always get confused between the good Syria and the bad one.

Posted by DavidByron at August 26, 2009 06:17 PM

My only comment on this post, which oozes sarcasm and obscures understanding, is a quote from the end of the "latest word" article in the New York Times of yesterday, the very article linked by John Caruso to support his claims:

"Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch said the new interrogation policy represented a significant step toward more humane treatment, though he expressed dismay that administration officials failed to impose stricter limits on rendition.

But he praised the Obama administration’s overall approach to difficult counterterrorism issues, saying the government had adopted “some of the most transparent rules against abuse of any democratic country.”

That sounds like a change to me, but of course that's just the opinion of Human Rights Watch.

Posted by N E at August 26, 2009 07:30 PM

I agree that GG initially gave Obama more benefit of the doubt than was warranted, but he's not doing it now. It's more of a misdemeanor than a felony to me.

As for HRW, their opinion appears to be mixed, as shown in the very quote that NE supplies. And they don't seem overly thrilled in this link--

link

I like HRW myself, but I've seen criticisms of them from the left on various issues that sounded plausible--the gist of it is that sometimes they're a little too close to the liberal mainstream and it distorts some of their work. I don't know if that's true. Usually they seem good to me. I thought they could have been more forthright in their condemnation of the Iraqi sanctions during the 90's. I half-remember some criticisms others have made of them on certain issues, but since I only half-remember them, I won't post them.

Posted by Donald Johnson at August 26, 2009 08:08 PM

Yes, and the same Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch had this to say back in February (as you'd have seen if you'd checked the original L.A. Times article):

"Under limited circumstances, there is a legitimate place" for renditions, said Tom Malinowski, the Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. "What I heard loud and clear from the president's order was that they want to design a system that doesn't result in people being sent to foreign dungeons to be tortured. But that designing that system is going to take some time."

A human rights organization offering qualified support for rendition? That's just what we need. And in fact Greenwald cited Malinowski/HRW's statement as justification for his own attacks on the Times. So HRW was basically on the same side (i.e. the wrong side) as Horton, Greenwald and others back in February, to their shame.

This is one of many reasons I don't take Human Rights Watch (formerly Helsinki Watch, and at that time closely allied with anti-Soviet U.S. policy) very seriously, and especially when what they're saying validates or supports the actions of U.S. administrations. But if you choose to accept excuses for the Obama administration's kidnapping policy (even when they're tempered by "dismay") over the plain facts in front of your face and the warnings of organizations like CCR and the ACLU, knock yourself out; you certainly won't be the only Obama apologist doing it.

Posted by John Caruso at August 26, 2009 08:10 PM

How did I know that you'd take this position NE? What "understanding" is there that the post obscures? That More and Better Democrats (MBD) has morphed into the the third Bush administration?

Human Rights Watch? Surely you don't expect me to take an organization that can't seem to find Gaza on a map seriously. But then of course you would.

Posted by Coldtype at August 26, 2009 08:34 PM

So we are to believe that Human Right Watch, tainted by its alleged past as an anti-Soviet organization, wants to make excuses for rendition, along with Greenwald and Horton? A big claim.

Thanks for the link, Donald Johnson, to HRW's position on accountability for the perpetrators of torture. Their position is just what I would expect, a demand for accountability to the highest levels and dissatisfaction with anything less. Since HRW should be the voice of those who have been tortured, I would expect that position from them and be disappointed by anything less.

Horton's explanation of the difference between rendition and extraordinary rendition was clear to me. I didn't understand him to be endorsing rendition as a civic virtue. Nor do I think he or Greenwald or HRW can fairly be accused of being apologists for the Obama administration on the evidence presented.

Posted by N E at August 26, 2009 08:57 PM

But he praised the Obama administration’s overall approach to difficult counterterrorism issues, saying the government had adopted “some of the most transparent rules against abuse of any democratic country.”

To me, as somebody who knows nothing about Human rights Watch, this sounds like... what was it again, "the soft bigotry of low expectations"?

I mean, gosh, we can't just expect the government to not kidnap people, the most we can hope for is that they try to be a smidge less evil about it.

Really, that's how guys like Obama even get elected; we can't expect a politician to not be evil, that's just asking way too much of the poor dears. It's good enough that he can string two sentences together.

Posted by Christopher at August 26, 2009 09:04 PM

"Human Rights Watch? Surely you don't expect me to take an organization that can't seem to find Gaza on a map seriously."

Now that's surprising. HRW has been very critical of Israel's actions in Lebanon in 2006 and in Gaza this year. They put out a report on the Lebanon war where they did a detailed investigation into many of the civilian deaths and found that Israel's excuses just didn't hold up at all--Hezbollah didn't use them as human shields, for instance.

The blogger at "The Angry Arab News Service" is sometimes critical of them, but they seem pretty good on the question of Israeli war crimes as far as I can tell. Sometimes people criticize them for also criticizing Hamas and Hezbollah violations, but I side with HRW on that point. The more plausible accusation (to me) is that on some issues they get too close to the US foreign policy establishment, the ostensibly liberal side of it.

Posted by Donald Johnson at August 26, 2009 09:05 PM

Coldtype:

They seem to me to know where Gaza is.

http://www.hrw.org/middle-eastn-africa/israel-and-occupied-territories

http://www.hrw.org/en/features/israel-gaza


http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/08/19/letter-prime-minister-brown

http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/08/14/false-allegations-about-human-rights-watch-s-latest-gaza-report

Posted by N E at August 26, 2009 09:08 PM

HRW: the CIA's favourite "rights" organisation.

Posted by DavidByron at August 26, 2009 09:13 PM

Coldtype:

As to Human Rights Watch on Gaza:

http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/08/25/right-reply-dont-smear-messenger

http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/08/14/false-allegations-about-human-rights-watch-s-latest-gaza-report

The Caruso post obscured understanding, in my view, because reading it actually made it harder for me to understand the positions of Horton, Greenwald, or HRW. When I read their positions at the linked articles, I could understand them. Even now I have no idea whether John Caruso understood them.

Posted by N E at August 26, 2009 09:15 PM

N E: My only comment on this post...

Man, what a shock that that vow didn't last. I suppose it's just a matter of time now before we start seeing the Tolstoy-length, Friedman-quality rationalizations of Obama's renditions policy.

Posted by John Caruso at August 26, 2009 09:17 PM

So Obama still allows torture. Fine. But I hear Holder is going to have past torture investigated. So doesn't that all cancel out? I mean, for every case of past torture we investigate shouldn't we be allowed to torture one guy in the future? A sort of torture conservation law.

But enough about trivialities. Do we know about the purchase of the diapers? Is it still going to be done through a no-bid contract?

Maybe Obama is taking a stand against the diaper lobby. I interpret John Caruso's suspicious silence on this matter a sign that perhaps Obama is doing the right thing!

Posted by Bernard Chazelle at August 26, 2009 09:17 PM

DavidByron: The CIA and its older and younger intel siblings will infiltrate, manipulate, and tarnish any organization they can, so I wouldn't be surprised if they had ever done that to HRW. I am interested in any actual information you have with regard to that.

Posted by N E at August 26, 2009 09:25 PM

Bernard, I think any reasonable person can see that my diaper equity positions have nothing to do with this. I just want the next Maher Arar to be comfortable.

Posted by John Caruso at August 26, 2009 09:26 PM

John Caruso:

John Caruso:

Hey, that was a good snark--you get three points for that one. But you're not keeping up with the Professor, who seems to be traveling with the ghost of ATR past tonight. I can't stop thinking about diapers now!

Posted by N E at August 26, 2009 09:39 PM

I too, hate oozing sarcasm of the truth-obscuring variety.

Posted by Carl at August 27, 2009 02:11 AM

@ Donald Johnson: "The blogger at "The Angry Arab News Service" is sometimes critical of them, but they seem pretty good on the question of Israeli war crimes as far as I can tell. Sometimes people criticize them for also criticizing Hamas and Hezbollah violations, but I side with HRW on that point."

As'ad AbuKhalil (aka Angry Arab News Service) is always critical of HRW because (among other things) HRW insists on implying an equivalency between the actions of Israel (the usurping, occupying power) and those of the people resisting those actions. Before HRW had Hamas and Hezbollah to hold up as equals of Israeli state terror, they used the PLO and the PFLP in that role. A people under occupation have an absolute right to resistance by any means necessary, something that HRW ignores when convenient.

Posted by Phillip Allen at August 27, 2009 07:43 AM

Caruso, I don't get why you think that it's a bad thing to not blindly criticize what Obama might do in the future (and criticize those who do), as compared to consistently criticizing the things he's already done. Which as far as I can tell Greenwald's big offense to you.

Also I think that text based sarcasm is a risky thing that rarely works. And as long as the diapers are cloth they could be reused instead of throwing away mass produced ones. My apologies to all the Privates who in the future will be assigned to diaper washing detail.

Posted by tim at August 27, 2009 09:08 AM

We would all do well to remember, also, that this means the State Department will be monitoring our rendition partners for signs of "torture", nudge nudge wink wink. Since Holder has made it clear that prosecutions for "torture" means only those people who overstepped the law of torture in The World According To Yoo, I think it's safe to say that the Syrians have a pretty free hand even if the oversight is 100% effective, which of course it won't be.

Posted by Picador at August 27, 2009 09:32 AM

"A people under occupation have an absolute right to resistance by any means necessary, something that HRW ignores when convenient."

An "absolute right to resistance by any means necessary" apparently means that when people commit vicious atrocities in wars, just and unjust alike, as they generally do, we will excuse the ones committed by the good guys. IMO anyone who deliberately plans an attack on "enemy" children is a murderous bastard no matter how just their war happens to be. And murderous bastards have a tendency to remain murderous bastards even if they win their wars--they soon find some other reason why it's okay to commit atrocities, sometimes against their own people. It's all necessary for the greater good. It's part of why liberation struggles when successful often turn sour after it's over and it's not that different from the way imperialist oppressors (like Israel or the US government) think. But everyone should know this by now, so it's depressing that people still talk in such romantic terms about absolute rights of resistance, meaning that it's okay to commit some gruesome act against unarmed and often totally innocent people so long as the cause is just.

In the case of Israel's wars, most of the blame falls on Israel and its loyal supporter the US government, and Israel also does the vast majority of the killing and other crimes, but one can admit this without endorsing some of what the resistance groups do. As for moral equivalence, anyone who reads the HRW reports on Israel's wars can see the statistics and know who is doing more of the killing and who has more power. I don't want or need human rights groups to go beyond what they are supposed to do, which is keeping track of atrocities and who commits them and how these actions violate international law.

Posted by Donald Johnson at August 27, 2009 10:07 AM

Bernard: "I mean, for every case of past torture we investigate shouldn't we be allowed to torture one guy in the future? A sort of torture conservation law."

Proving once again that the French (at least since Algeria) have become far too accomodating. Such an approach signals that that a person has 'gone wobbly.' Wouldn't reasonable people agree we should apply the ratio of criminals caught / CCTV cameras in England: 1/1000? If we get useful information from 1 out of every 1000 terrorists tortured, isn't the utility established? What's the point of having a Big Brother if he doesn't carry a cattle prod? Heaven forfend, as George Will would whisper.

I want Obama's teeth to be not just big and bright and white but to have some bite in them.


Posted by Oarwell at August 27, 2009 10:21 AM

As for moral equivalence, anyone who reads the HRW reports on Israel's wars can see the statistics and know who is doing more of the killing and who has more power. I don't want or need human rights groups to go beyond what they are supposed to do, which is keeping track of atrocities and who commits them and how these actions violate international law.
Posted by Donald Johnson at August 27, 2009 10:07 AM

While I agree with you that "absolute right to resistance" is a problematic idea and that violence, especially against civilians, shouldn't be excused, and that extreme means like violence should be avoided as much as possible because violence is a corrupting and immoral means that almost always ends up corrupting the ends, however "noble" and justified those ends may have been to start with.

But the problem is that most people in the West don't go beyond the surface. All they see on TeeVee is HRW condemning Israel and condemning Hamas and Hezbollah at the same time and without providing any context whatsoever to the larger reality, giving the appearance of moral equivalence as if the amount of killing and even motivations are equivalent on both sides. This kind of mushy, "both sides have extremists", "everything has two sides" bullshit does nothing to inform the Western public about the reality of the situation, which is that Israel is an aggressive, racist, imperial colonial-settler state that is intent on colonizing as much land as possible, and with the support of the racist West, has and continues to get away with mass-murder and war-crimes against the weak and defenceless Palestinians and its weak Arab neighbours like Lebanon.

HRW makes the calculation that if they condemn the Palestinians in exactly the same language as they do Israel, they will appear impartial. The problem with this false equivalency is the same exact problem with the American media's false neutrality over issues like torture, aggressive war, health care, whereby "everything has two sides" and there is always some "centrist", "moderate" answer in the mushy "middle". This kind of hazy, mushy, false neutrality is the result of political calculation, cowardice, corruption and results in an unwillingness or inablity to to see and point that "both sides" are not always equivalent, that "one side" is a lot worse than the other, that one side is plainly the aggressor.

Posted by hv at August 27, 2009 02:47 PM

HV--

I don't think that HRW's reports on, say, the Lebanon War or Gaza get anywhere near the play that the standard pro-Israel bs gets. Hazy mushy neutral "two sides to this conflict" material would be a vast improvement over what we actually do see, not that I'm conceding that HRW is guilty of this anyway. I don't think it's their job to make explicit claims about which side is the bad guy--their job is to investigate atrocities and report them and if they do this right (and I think they have done a pretty good job with Israel vs. their neighbors) anyone reading their reports can easily see who is doing most of the killing. HRW may have done some discreditable things on other issues, but from what I've read of their Israel reporting they are doing just what a human rights organization should be doing. Making larger claims about who is ultimately to blame for the overall conflict is not part of their mandate and I don't think it should be. I have no problem saying Israel is the aggressor, but I don't want human rights groups making those judgments. Their job is atrocity-reporting and if atrocities are committed by both sides, than they should report that.


But anyway, most politicians habitually make absurd pro-Israel claims--Obama in one of his AIPAC speeches (I think it was 2007) made the usual statement about how Israel had the right to respond to Hezbollah's aggression and it was a shame that Hezbollah used civilians as human shields. If HRW reports really got the coverage they deserved, politicians would find it more difficult to get away with blatant lies on the subject.

Posted by Donald Johnson at August 27, 2009 03:40 PM
I agree that GG initially gave Obama more benefit of the doubt than was warranted, but he's not doing it now. It's more of a misdemeanor than a felony to me.

That “initial” period you’re referring to was the fucking primary, that unimportant period of time where minor details like the future president of the United States was being determined. Seriously, GG could have gotten everything in the fucking universe wrong before and after the primary BUT criticized Obama during it and he’d still be a better political commentator than he is now.

Seriously, where the hell are people getting their standards from? Has anyone forgotten about the NYT sitting on the Bush wiretap story until after the election? Did the argument “well, they released the details eventually” fly back then? Why not? Oh, that’s right, because had the public gotten a clear, consistent look at the candidate, he wouldn’t have been put into office to continue Bush’s horrible policies.

And that last sentence concerning continuing Bush’s horrible policies applies to both Bush and Obama.

Caruso, I don't get why you think that it's a bad thing to not blindly criticize what Obama might do in the future (and criticize those who do), as compared to consistently criticizing the things he's already done.

No one here is talking about what Obama “might” do. Only the quoted poster brought in this distracting canard. Only what Obama has done or is doing (or, in the case of the primary when I brought it up, was planning to do by his own admission) was at issue. This “might” dodge is worthy of rightwing rhetoric.

Posted by No One of Consequence at August 27, 2009 04:26 PM

A people under occupation have an absolute right to resistance by any means necessary.

An idea expressed perhaps first in the US Declaration of Independence.

Donald Johnson's treatment here is naive I think. He hasn't really thought it through from the point of view of the victims who are defending themselves. People go with a gut feeling instead of reason and of course as with deciding what brand of cola to buy, your gut feeling is easy to manipulate.

apparently [it] means that when people commit vicious atrocities in wars, just and unjust alike, as they generally do, we will excuse the ones committed by the good guys

That's what it would mean if you ignore the last word there. The word "necessary" is vital to the meaning here. It has the same meaning as it does in judging crimes of war. A war crime is something that goes beyond what is military necessary and is a done just to intimidate the population or for revenge or from racial hatred. A war crime can also be a technique that kills more people than is necessary -- ie when an alternative means of achieving the same goal was available (for example Hiroshima).

This is an important point which you appear to completely miss.

IMO anyone who deliberately plans an attack on "enemy" children is a murderous bastard no matter how just their war happens to be

What if the children are shooting you with guns?

You haven't thought it through. It is not that the dead are children that matters. After all would it really be OK to shoot adults instead? Are you really saying that its OK to kill people as they get older? What is "child" a proxy for in your mind here? someone else suggests instead "civilian" but that has the same problem. Are we really willing to say that killing someone is OK as long as they are a soldier? Don't soldiers lives have value? And if the guy with the gun is in Blackwater instead of the US army is he really worth more? What are you really trying to say when you express horror at shooting children or civilians?

In terms of the laws of war what you are saying is that you are condemning unnecessary killing. In your mind killing children (or civilians) is always unnecessary which is not quite true but your gut feeling says it's approximately correct.

You continue to attack the concept of self-defence as it applies to the genocide victims in Palestine thus:

In the case of Israel's wars, most of the blame falls on Israel

This is obviously false. Israel bears the full responsibility for the reasonably forseeable consequences of its own actions. That is an elementary moral law. An imperialist nation that occupies some other peoples' land reasonably expects armed resistance and is therefore morally responsible for the result of such resistance. All of it.

HRW condemns the victims of genocide for defending themselves. HRW essentially ignores the moral element of war -- who is the victim and who the killer. It is like equally and dispassionately condemning a rapist and the rapist's victim for their respective use of violence. Of course HRW only does this for official enemies of the USA.

It's part of why liberation struggles when successful often turn sour after it's over and it's not that different from the way imperialist oppressors [think]

You draw a disgusting moral equivalence between victim and killer.

Posted by DavidByron at August 27, 2009 09:53 PM

I'm not real interested in debating whether it's okay to strap explosives to someone and send that person into a restaurant to blow up teenagers, David Byron, and I've read a fair amount about war and ethics and thought about it for whatever that's worth, and you know, I'm just not going to change my mind about this even if you are disgusted with me.

Posted by Donald Johnson at August 27, 2009 10:04 PM

"t's part of why liberation struggles when successful often turn sour after it's over and it's not that different from the way imperialist oppressors [think]--Dj

You draw a disgusting moral equivalence between victim and killer.--DB

Though on second thought, that was an amazing display of incomprehension on your part. You seem to live in some dream universe along with many other idealogues where there are always excuses and rationalizations to be made when the good guys kill undeniably innocent people, but none to be found when the bad guys do it. And you don't seem to have any concept of the fact that people ruthless enough to kill children are probably not going to turn into Gandhi when their liberation struggle is over. Maybe you ought to have paid a teensy bit of attention to the long history of revolutions and how they often end up with supposed freedom fighters tyrannizing over the people they liberated. This isn't exactly unknown--a certain linguist has made precisely this point on numerous occasions. Revolutions often bring the most ruthless people to the top, and if they win they often set up a grim autocracy. You don't really have to be Noam Chomsky to have noticed this. You only have to be sentient. As for victims and killers, again it appears you only see them on one side, because you've got this political line drawn where there are all victims on one side and all villains on the other. Orwell had something to say about the kind of reasoning you display

link

Posted by Donald Johnson at August 27, 2009 10:16 PM
You seem to live in some dream universe along with many other idealogues where there are always excuses and rationalizations to be made when the good guys kill undeniably innocent people, but none to be found when the bad guys do it.

Donald Johnson misstates facts here and in doing so obscures an immoral position. He assumes two things, each of which is patently bullshit, but each of which is necessary in order to maintain his point:

a) The Palestenian people, as a body politic, endorse all military action done in their name against their invaders.
Obviously false; the Palestinian “government” alternates from being infiltrated by foreign powers and being utterly corrupt -- sometimes it manages both. This may have something to do with the fact that it isn’t a sovereign government at all since its land is occupied by an invading army. Since the Palestinian people have no agency in their military, ANY claim of atrocities against them is automatically complete fail.

After all, if I could hold them responsible for a group of people killing in their name, I could far more logically and easily hold all white people in the U.S. responsible for every single dead child in Iraq. I mean, mostly white people actually voted for Bush and mostly whites backed his war. Palestenian voting power is a complete joke in comparison.

DJ’s specious argument also requires one believe that:

b) By and large, the vast majority of people killed by Palestinians are innocent.
Palestine is at war, and if it’s possible to kill a civilian with friendly fire and not commit a moral wrong, you’re going to have to show that the Palestenians people are at least mostly killing people who contribute nothing to contribute to the Israeli war effort. . . and you’d be unable to do that due to the fact that the populace has insufficent agency, anyway. Keep in mind that the press will make no distinction between a true innocent and a civilian that was happily supporting the occupation. If in some neauvax Red Dawn fantasy scenario the U.S. was invaded by China (as if the Chinese don’t have way better things to do) and soldiers and tanks were too hard of targets, I’d happily go after civilian support infrastructure if it was willingly supporting that occupation. The only clean moral line that could possibly be drawn is if the targets are slave labor -- and even then things get fuzzy.

Besides, the scale of life lost and the mechanisms involved aren’t even remotely comparable. Organized tank divisions murdering civilians on behalf of a democracy is an atrocity that a terrorist bomber from a local gang literally can’t be compared to. The second actor would be considered a criminal, a non-state actor, since -- wait for it -- Palestine isn’t truly a state at this point.

Posted by No One of Consequence at August 27, 2009 11:42 PM

On the topic of Obama-era renditions: This episode has gotten very little attention, and what is known about it has been made known by Scott Horton. (It's not the first time that Horton has been too generous and optimistic at the beginning; but he is extremely dogged and insightful once he stops giving the benefit of the doubt.)

A Lebanese employee of a contractor working in Afghanistan (who also worked in Iraq) was taken prisoner in Afghanistan, stripped, hooded, thrown into Bagram in isolation and a very cold cell, interrogated -- during which he was threatened with harm to his family. Then he was flown to Virginia for trial. The kicker: these were FBI operatives doing the rendering and torture, and the crime was contracting fraud.

It seems impossible to set expectations low enough to avoid disappointment.

Posted by Nell at August 28, 2009 12:13 AM

You make the observation that violence can lead to more violence. Bravo. Was I supposed to disagree? But you blame this violence on the victim. Rapist and rape victim are both to blame. You advocate for ignoring the asymmetry of war and blaming the victim for not meekly agreeing to die. In fact you deny them the right to self-defence but of course you only deny the weak that right, not the strong.

I repeat: disgusting.

As I said above, Israel bears the full responsibility for the reasonably foreseeable consequences of its own actions. If as you seem to be suggesting a resistance movement in the process of legitimate resistance breeds violence (as any act of violence does) then that too is a foreseeable consequence of the actions of the attacker.

Yes, genius, violence is bad. Shocker. War is bad. That's why we condemn those who start wars. We don't condemn people for merely responding to violence so as to defend themselves or others even if they use necessary violence.

I was not aware that either Orwell or Chomsky were total pacifists. Are you? Or are you only a total pacifist when it comes to condemning the weak? Your choice: be a total pacifist or else recognise the right of self-defence.

You said,
undeniably innocent people

You fail to realise that the right of self-defence fully applies regardless of the "innocence" of the target. If you actually think about it how can this be any other way?

Let's say you are attacked by a man who is temporarily out of his mind through no fault of his own. The man is innocent of all malice. According to you then, you have no right of self-defence and must submit to being killed. This is not the view of the law or ethics.

It doesn't even matter if the victim of "self defence" posses you no threat at all. What matters is that you have to kill them to save yourself. Innocence is a non-issue because self-defence isn't about getting the bad guy in any sense. It's about survival. An example would be taking the last parachute on a plane that is going to crash.

I suspect you are not thinking of self-defence at all. You're thinking of revenge. Now revenge really does requires that the people you are attacking are the enemy and not innocents. Pretty pointless attacking innocent people to extract revenge. With revenge the innocence or guilt of the target is all important.

Revenge is not justified in law. What you are thinking of wouldn't be right or legal even if you only attacked the enemy who were armed and attacking at the time. That's because even the enemy has a right to their life. Even bad guys have the right to life. A person doesn't lose their right to life by being a bad guy or by being a soldier or by being an adult.

You have no right to take a life, not even if they are trying to kill you. The only exception is when you are forced to kill to save yourself or another. And if you are forced to it then what difference does "innocence" make?

Posted by DavidByron at August 28, 2009 12:37 AM

It seems impossible to set expectations low enough to avoid disappointment.

The trick is to reverse your expectations, and then thrill as Obama continually exceeds them.

I don't read Horton regularly, but I was pretty sure he'd return to sanity. In fact he was already more reasonable just a few days later in his debate with Michael Ratner of CCR. Though I'd still like to see any of the people who threw a mountain of mud at that L.A. Times article offer a public recognition that they were wrong (and not just on the facts).

Posted by John Caruso at August 28, 2009 01:20 AM

Fair enough, John, but I assume you're not holding your breath.

Horton does acknowledge past error more than many pundits. He fairly quickly acknowledged and apologized for having wrongly given Mukasey the benefit of the doubt as Attorney General, but in that instance he hadn't castigated people who weren't doing so. (He'd have had a tough time if he had: Mukasey refused to say during confirmation hearings that the president was subject to the law, making even Congressional Democrats recoil (and making the support from Dems Schumer and Feinstein look even stinkier than it already did.)

I think the phenomenon at work in February was the very strong desire of both writers to stay in the good graces of Obama administration members and enthusiasts until admin actions allowed them to return to castigation mode. Both of them place a high value on avoiding the charge of reflexively assuming the worst, and that was a period in which they were particularly eager to avoid it.

If, in the process, you and I and the CCR got criticized as knee-jerk pessimists, well, so be it. I'd be glad to have been wrong, and Horton and Greenwald are allies in the big picture. And, as they might be able to admit to themselves, if not publicly, all the left-bashing in the world will not restore them to Serious People status at this point: their realpolitik opponents lump them in with us radical rabble. Still, I doubt either of them will be able to resist the distancing impulse in the future, if a similar window opens.

Posted by Nell at August 28, 2009 01:05 PM

There's STILL the question of the MURDERED and Missing Detainees.

Posted by Mike Meyer at August 28, 2009 02:07 PM

I think the phenomenon at work in February was the very strong desire of both writers to stay in the good graces of Obama administration members and enthusiasts until admin actions allowed them to return to castigation mode.

Agreed, and that's basically what I've been saying, though I think "until" and "allowed" too strongly imply that that's what they expected. I'd say they were still in the honeymoon as much as many other liberals, and so although there was a desire not to seem to be going too negative too soon there was also a touching faith that Obama was different. If that weren't the case, the mud they threw wouldn't have been so laced with toxins (wildly exaggerated, buffoonery, gullible, etc). This wasn't just caution, it was a concerted effort to protect the Obama administration from a damning revelation.

And lost in all our talk here about Horton and Greenwald is the fact that Obama's new policy still allows the kidnapping of people from any country with no due process and the delivery of those people into the hands of torturers.

Posted by John Caruso at August 28, 2009 03:28 PM

"The Palestenian people, as a body politic, endorse all military action done in their name against their invaders."

I didn't say that or think it, though it's true iirc that at times a large fraction of the Palestinian population has supported such actions, just as most Israeli Jews supported the Gaza slaughter last January, according to polls that I read about. I was condemning the organizations which plan attacks on civilians and not even every member of such organizations, just the ones directly involved. Hamas and Hezbollah are much more than just terrorist groups, obviously. They are comparable to the US government--obviously not everyone in the US government is guilty of war crimes.

") By and large, the vast majority of people killed by Palestinians are innocent."

A large fraction, perhaps the majority, are innocent or anyway not legitimate military targets. Many of the victims in this list of attacks are innocent--

link

Btselem has some statistics --

link


As for comparisons, since I've said all along that Israel does most of the killing and shares most of the blame, you are arguing with some imaginary being. That's fine, but I'd rather you call this person by some other name rather than attribute ideas to me that belong to that imaginary opponent floating around in your brain.

David Byron--I've been talking about deliberate attacks on civilians, not making some general comment about the ethics of war. Apparently you have somehow managed to be unaware that some Palestinian groups have sent suicide bombers into public places with the intent of killing large numbers of random civilians. Or you were aware and decided to talk about some entirely different situation where Israeli children are shooting at you. Good for you--apparently that "all means are justifiable" blather wasn't something you really meant. Glad to hear it.

And you really should read that (admittedly long) Orwell link--obviously you didn't or you would have noticed that Orwell has some rather unkind (and probably unfair) things to say about some of the pacifists of his day. Not that anyone should agree with everything he says there, but there are a couple of paragraphs in about how ideologues treat atrocities that should be burned into everyone's brain before they are allowed to say anything about human rights. And Chomsky's point was not to advocate pacifism, but to state that revolutions are often taken over by the most ruthless violent elements, who set up the sort of government you might expect from such people once they take power.

Posted by Donald Johnson at August 28, 2009 05:46 PM

This shouldn't need to be said--blowing up random Israeli civilians has in no way prevented Israelis from building settlements or blowing up random Palestinian civilians. If anything it's given them an excuse to do more of it. "Self defense" applied to such actions is a rationalization, or at best a very misguided idea, but one suspects that the main motive for Palestinians when they support such actions is the entirely understandable one of revenge. When Western lefties defend such actions it's probably some notion that revolutionary violence is inherently justifiable.

Posted by Donald Johnson at August 28, 2009 06:09 PM

Sisters of a Sort:

Nell wrote: "It seems impossible to set expectations low enough to avoid disappointment."

Lily Tomlin said: "No matter how cynical you get it's impossible to keep up."

Posted by N E at August 28, 2009 07:06 PM

John Caruso wrote of: "Obama's new policy" that "still allows the kidnapping of people from any country with no due process and the delivery of those people into the hands of torturers."


First, the policy that permits rendition under some circumstances isn't new. Rendition goes all the way back to Reagan, and I would certainly be surprised if it didn't happen before that given the high moral standards we have historically maintained.

Second, the supposedly "new" Obama policy described by other commentators and Human Rights Watch isn't what John Caruso described. Repitition is a great tactic--the far Right certainly loves it--but things don't become true because someone repeats them.

Posted by N E at August 28, 2009 07:22 PM

Mike Meyer is right that it is not being sufficiently emphasized how many people were murdered while being tortured, or rather subjected to "enhanced interrogation." (What a loathesome phrase.)

Posted by N E at August 28, 2009 07:28 PM

As for the treatment of Mr. Azar by the FBI, I certainly hope nobody thinks FBI agents call the White House to ask whether they should mistreat a suspect, including by showing him a picture of his kids and telling him he may never see them again, or shackling him, or subjecting him to "sensory deprivation." How do people think the criminal justice system IN THE UNITED STATES works? Does anybody remember Abner Louima? The kind of misconduct alleged by Mr. Azar is not unusual, let alone unprecedented.

That being said, Nell's statement in passing that the FBI agents were "doing the torture" is premature. Right now all that has been made, about Mr. Azar and by Azar, are allegations. There has to be a legal process to determine what happened, a legal process that gives everyone due process. Fingers crossed, since the case is in Virginia. Mr. Azar might have been better off in Afghanistan.

Most of all, I'm glad Nell linked to that story by Scott Horton, and glad Horton wrote it, because I'm appalled by the idea that the FBI can send agents to Afghanistan to apprehend someone suspected of contracting fraud, abuse the suspect, and ship him back to the US for trial. That certainly is an unprecedented (and absurdly expansive and expensive) use of rendition, but it doesn't surprise me that the FBI would try it six weeks into a new administration. The agencies tend to push the limits of what they can do during new administrations--it seems to be a good time for them to expand their jurisdiction, and ultimately their power and budgets. In the past this has led to events like Waco.

The FBI has always been a right-wing agency. Those six agents probably aren't going to barbecues with too many Obama appointees. And the Bureau, like the CIA and the military, has been known to do things that caused political trouble for the annoying liberal political appointees who think their job involves telling the law enforcement and intel agencies what to do. From the point of view of the guys at the Bureau, it's probably great fun to act patriotically, kick some ass, and cause political trouble for your pain-in-the-ass moralistic bosses, especially if you can get away with it.

Which of course they can. And they will probably be able to get away with it forever, because it seems to be far to hard for people who seem preoccupied with being considered Serious to step back and take the time to figure out who actually holds power in this country, and how, so that maybe somebody can someday put a stop to this shit.

Posted by N E at August 28, 2009 08:29 PM

For anyone who's interested, here's a statement from Dennis Kucinich condemning the Obama administration's continuation of the extraordinary rendition policy:

“Extraordinary Rendition is an illegal practice hailing from the misguided policies and practices of the previous administration,” Kucinich said. “As such, I am deeply concerned by the Obama administration’s decision to continue the practice of extraordinary rendition. As a democracy it is imperative that we end the use of the inhumane and immoral practice of extrajudicial detainee transfers to places where the potential use of torture as a part of detention and interrogation exists.

“However, instead of ending this misguided policy, the Obama Administration proposes reforms to bring oversight to this illegal practice. Specifically, the Special Task Force on Interrogations and Transfer Policies recommends “clarifying and strengthening U.S. procedures for obtaining and evaluating” assurances from receiving countries that detainees will not be tortured. Moreover, the Task Force has recommended greater involvement by the Department of State in securing diplomatic assurances from the receiving country that detainees will not be tortured.

“The U.S. has an obligation to ensure that our actions are consistent with the rule of law. There is little reason to think that measures to reform rendition can ensure an end to the abuses caused by extraordinary rendition. It appears that under the reforms prisoners can still be transferred to countries who have previously engaged in torture. Furthermore, diplomatic assurances have been proven ineffective in the past. It is notable that the U.S. has engaged in extraordinary rendition of innocent individuals who were misidentified. It is also notable that no detainee transferred by the rendition process has ever had their case heard by a justice system.

“The people of the United States have clearly voiced and voted for a new direction in U.S. policy. The people of the U.S. did not choose the new administration based on the premise that rendition could be done better. The Obama administration must stop this illegal policy that leads to greater human rights violations.

“If the U.S. does not act to end extraordinary rendition we are simply playing a new rendition of an old song—torture.”

As usual, Kucinich is one of the few Democrats who's willing to put his values ahead of his party loyalty.

Posted by John Caruso at August 28, 2009 08:44 PM

I like Kucinich, but he is confusing rendition and extraordinary rendition, which are not the same. A little looking with Google suggests this confusion is pretty common, though not universal. (It never surprises me when the press doesn't bother to get the facts right.) This makes it very hard to tell what is actually going on. I'm a little disappointed that Kucinich's staff hasn't bothered to understand the basis for the press release, even if he doesn't have time.

It's too bad Obama's approval ratings will drop as a result of all this crap, while under the influence of their fabulous PR machines the military and the intel and law enforcement agencies will continue to become more and more popular and profusely thanked for doing a better and better job, while we steadily all become more and more grateful until eventually we will all spontaneously salute someone several times a day a day, which our more vigilant moral purists will decry from their keyboards until someone disconnects their service.

Posted by N E at August 28, 2009 09:41 PM

I like Kucinich, but he is confusing rendition and extraordinary rendition, which are not the same.

I must be confused, too. I can't find where EO 13491 explicitly bans the use of extraordinary rendition. Also, I could use some help with the definitions of a couple of words in the order.

Posted by Happy Jack at August 28, 2009 11:23 PM

Happy Jack

I don't mean to be snarky here, but you do appear to be confused. EO 13491 isn't about rendition or extraordinary rendition; it's a repeal of EO 13440, which was the Bush administration's unsuccessful 2007 attempt to sustain the unitary executive justifications for the abuses of the War on Terror after the Supreme Court's ruling in Hamdan. In particular, the Bush Administration was trying to preserve the military tribunals, which the Supreme Court had properly held violated the treaty-law obligations of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention.

Unless you are an international lawyer or at least have some experience with international law, I wouldn't spend too much time trying to parse the language of the executive orders, especially by looking for journalistic and other non-legal usages. You would be better served looking at rendition and extraordinary rendition on Wikipedia, which despite its dangers does have a fair amount of history and explanatory information. Or you could read the many books on the subject by Grey, Harbury, Danner, Greenberg, Jaffer and Singh, Saar and Novak, McKelvey, to name some but surely not most.

Or, hell, just ask a question. I bet a few people with some real legal expertise stop in every once in a while, just like the doctors do. But look out, because they might turn out to be Glenn Greenwald!

Posted by N E at August 29, 2009 12:02 AM

"The FBI has always been a right-wing agency."

I think the incident at Ruby Ridge shows the contrary. I also believe the core of the Branch Dravidian grievances was the threat of big government. I think that people I would describe as "right-wingers" have been especially targeted by the government but that's just me.

"...I don't mean to be snarky here...Unless you are an international lawyer or at least have some experience with international law,..."

Holy Jesus H. Christ on a pogo-stick, you're a licensed bona-fide lawyer?!!

...(Really)?

I really wish I noticed that all along. Oh well.

Yeah, I'd hate to say it but one very special branch of government does actually have respect for the Constitution and international law and I guess it comes as no surprise that its the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court has successfully rolled back the excesses of Bush's despotic years and didn't even mind standing up to him either. There was a case in Texas when a couple of teenage girls stumbled upon a Hispanic gang initiation rite. Upon the discovery of the onlookers, an unscheduled ritual was added and the girls were gruesomely and ruthlessly raped and murdered.

Despite Mexico going as far as suing in the International Court of Justice, the State of Texas was hell-bent on executing the most callous offender and jailing the rest. The bizarre part is not that the Supreme Court ruled in Texas' favor, but that it blew off the Lone Star State's Native Son to do it.

Posted by Nikolay Levin at August 29, 2009 05:43 AM

Happy Jack: You're right—EO 13491 didn't ban extraordinary rendition. It did limit the involvement of U.S. personnel, though, and it also established the Special Task Force on Interrogation and Transfer Policies, whose findings were the subject of the New York Times article I cited in the original posting. You can see the task force's actual press release here.

This is not complex stuff. If anyone's confused, here's CCR's definition of extraordinary rendition:

The forced transfer of a person from one country to another for arbitrary detention and interrogation under torture. Since September 11, 2001, the Bush administration has used extraordinary rendition to covertly transport an estimated 150 persons—and possibly more—for detention and interrogation without judicial oversight as part of the so-called "war on terror." Victims of extraordinary rendition are sent to countries where torture is routinely practiced on detainees. Also known as "outsourcing torture".

So the new policy Obama just adopted does indeed continue to allow extraordinary rendition, as Kucinich said. In fact the original L.A. Times article said that "Current and former U.S. intelligence officials said that the rendition program might be poised to play an expanded role going forward because it was the main remaining mechanism -- aside from Predator missile strikes -- for taking suspected terrorists off the street." Which makes sense, since U.S. personnel are more restricted in what they can do.

My favorite part from the press release about the diplomatic assurances was the "recommendation that the State Department be involved in evaluating assurances in all cases"—like stronger language on the pro forma scrap of paper is supposed to make a difference? And as the ACLU pointed out, monitoring didn't stop Maher Arar from being tortured. So we're back to outsourced torture, since (like other Democrats, and unlike Bush) Obama realizes there's a real value to maintaining that one-step remove from the people who do our dirty work. Just like he realized that Bagram is a lot less conspicuous than Guantanamo.

Posted by John Caruso at August 29, 2009 01:27 PM

Whatever happened to JUST arresting suspects and bringing them back for TRIAL?

Posted by Mike Meyer at August 29, 2009 03:19 PM
As for comparisons, since I've said all along that Israel does most of the killing and shares most of the blame, you are arguing with some imaginary being.
(Emphasis added.)

You are completely misreading my post and STILL do not understand the point I and DavidByron brought up. Israel does not “share” most of the blame, anymore than you “share” some of the blame if I break into your home and start raping, murdering and looting and you shoot me in the arm. Seriously, how does ethics work in your world? How can a resistance on the defensive be responsible for the attack upon them in the first place? This is actually a more dangerous position than mere moral depravity; at least that is obvious and unseductive. Donald Johnson’s position encourages more murder and rape since it demonizes anyone attempting to defend themselves from invasion -- and, news flash, the only thing preventing foreign armies from invading resource-rich countries is the threat of a strong defense.

I have no time for phantasms and certainly do not argue with them; I suggest Donald Johnson take the time to study the moral abyss he heappily endorses.

When Western lefties defend such actions it's probably some notion that revolutionary violence is inherently justifiable.

We have no need to defend blowing up civilians because, as outlined in the arguments you blissfuly ignored above, not a single Palestenian civilian has any agency for these actions, the media does not treat any pro-Palestinian government as a separate agent from the Palestinians in its propoganda (e.g., it grants them agency where it doesn’t exist) and the burden of proof is on Israel to show that their murders do not cause the “cycle of violence” that Hamas et. al. participate in.

Here’s some handy analysis of that phrase, btw:

Cycle of violence Disproportionate violence. "It suggests, at best, two equal sides, never that the Palestinians are resisting violent oppression with violence." John Pilger, New Statesman, July 1, 02. "Yes, there is a cycle and the violence is disproportionate, but what is missing is the context. Why is there violence at all? The standard refrain, when it is rarely mentioned, is there is "hatred" on both sides. But since Israelis are like us (fun loving and child hugging) and we don't think of ourselves as hate-filled, then it must be the other side, the Arabs, who are hateful. Add the history of persecution of Jews into the mix, and what you have is a cycle of violence based on Arab hatred of the Jews. Presto, we arrive at the Israeli propaganda line." Nabeel Abraham.
http://www.counterpunch.org/rooij1031.html
AI refers often to the 'cycle of violence'. As John Pilger has said: "It suggests, at best, two equal sides, never that the Palestinians are resisting violent oppression with violence." The 'cycle of violence' portrays the conflict as something we can't explain, and let alone, do much about. Furthermore, the pernicious element of this term is that AI doesn't accept Palestinian justifications for violence, and the Israelis are always portrayed as responding.
http://www.counterpunch.org/rooij1031.html
They are comparable to the US government--obviously not everyone in the US government is guilty of war crimes.

Yeah, sure they’re comparable. Like the Palestenians, the U.S. population is starving, demoralized, and occupied by a foreign power and its elections and government are influenced by foreign corruption and hamstrung by infrastructure destroyed by decades of war with the very foreign power that’s helping to use bribery and espionage to corrupt local government with the military and financial aid of the most powerful nation that has ever existed on Earth. Exactly the same.

Posted by No One of Consequence at August 29, 2009 06:03 PM

John Caruso:

If this is "not complex stuff," you certainly should be able to explain the entire basis for your position. I have to say, I don't think it's all so simple. As Scott Horton observed in one of the articles you linked to, during his first week in office Obama terminated the "extraordinary renditions" program of the last President Bush. A central feature of that program was "rendition to torture." That is the infamous "extraordinary rendition" program that so many authors have written about, and that has justifiably aroused such approprium and outright contempt both in the United States and abroad.

Rendition itself long predates the "extraordinary rendition" program that Bush instituted and Obama quickly terminated. Rendition is simply the surrendering of a fugitive without extradition, the better known formal legal process of transferring futigives that is typically established by treaty. Rendition has gone on for a long time, certainly at least a few decades. As I said before, probably much longer.

There is also a form of rendition known as "extraordinary" or "irregular" rendition, which is the extrajudicial surrendering of a fugitive so that he cannot avail himself of the legal processes of the sending state. See Rendition: Constraints Imposed by Laws on Torture, Miguel Garcia, Congressional Research Service, January 22, 2009. http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL32890.pdf

Rendition to torture was a big part of the Bush/ Cheney "extraordinary rendition" program, though that program was made horrific not by the transfer of fugitives without affording them acces to legal process in the sending state, but by the maintenance of secret CIA torture facilities and the practice of rendition to torture in third countries. It is one thing to transfer the Achilles Lauro terrorists to Italy without affording them a right to object to the act in a US court or other tribunal, as occured back in the 80s; it would have been another thing to transfer them to Syria for torture, or to a US torture facility on Diego Garcia or in Poland. Obama has banned the latter, he apparently has imposed restrictions on the former, restrictions that your pro-Soviet nemesis Human Rights Watch lauded.

I hope your view of these simple matters permits you to recognize a difference between these practices. When people and journalists and politicians like Kucinich talk about extraordinary rendition occurring, it's important to know what they are talking about, and if THEY even know what they are talking about. The infamous "extraordinary rendition" policy of the Bush/Cheney years, featuring rendition to torture, was terminated by Obama out of the gate. That does not mean no "extraordinary" or "irregular" rendition will ever occur in the sense identified by Miguel Garcia of CRS in the paper I linked. And it certainly does not mean that no rendition will ever occur, because that has been going on a long time as an alternative to extradition when a fugitive is captured abroad.
There may of course be international law consequences to rendition, or to the form of irregular rendition to which the Achilles Lauro terrorists were subjected, but that does not make those practices morally equivalent, or equal in gravity, to the Bush/Cheney extraordinary rendition program that had rendition to torture and CIA "black site" torture facilities as its centerpiece.

So if your position is that Obama hasn't changed anything, you are quite wrong, no matter how simple as it all may seem to you.

Posted by N E at August 29, 2009 07:13 PM

Nikolay Levin:

As to the FBI being right wing:

Throughout the Hoover reign, from 1924 until 1972, the FBI was notoriously right-wing, lacking the Cold War liberals like Bundy that populated the CIA. On several occasions, notably in 1936, 1950, Hoover had fixed plans to establish concentration camps. Harassment of the left was constant throughout his term as Director, and Cointelpro in the 60s replaced the Cold War black lists and life-ruining harassment that left-leaning people experienced before that. Nothing was done to the John Birch Society. Nor, contrary to the myth perpetuated by movies like Mississippi Burning, did the FBI assist the civil rights movement. They were not just on the side of the racists; they were the racists.

Since the 70s, the FBI still looks right-wing to me. Certainly Director Freeh was and is, and the many leaks by the FBI to Ken Starr make that pretty clear. I don't see a change since Freeh resigned to make big money with credit card companies doing whatever his expertise qualified him to do for them.

Ruby Ridge doesn't show that the FBI isn't right-wing. Nor does Waco. The FBI does what is best for the FBI, and perhaps they wanted to show their usefulness in a new era under the new Clinton administration. Or perhaps they had a different agenda that we don't know, because we're just citizens and so don't get to know what they are up to.

I didn't say I'm a lawyer, you did. I said something different. But maybe I just convicted myself.

Yes, the Supreme Court can sometimes do the right thing, but then again, don't forget Bush v. Gore.

Posted by N E at August 29, 2009 08:07 PM

N E, I don't think a government has to be decidedly "right wing" to be oppressive, not at all.

When Lenin was centralizing his government it was the SOCIALIST DEMOCRATS and their attempt on his life that precipitated the brutal crackdowns that the Cheka became notorious for. After the Ukrainian anarchists fought off the White Army it was the Red Army that wiped out their libertarian paradise all the while using White Army officers to outmaneuver their fighting spirit.

I think all autocratic governments always have one thing in common, they want to centralize their power and control their constituency. Thats why I'm a proud NRA member and Second Amendment advocate. Whether its friendly or not it gives some of the power back to the people when we can shoot back. That's why Waco and Ruby Ridge were so important. No oppressive power structure wants that.

Anyhoo, it seemed to me anyway that you were trying to get across that you were actually a Constitutional Lawyer and wished to remind certain unlearned braggarts not to lecture law to a Harvard educated attorney.

You sound succient, tact and well-read. I can believe that. It just never occurred to me that you could pass the test that Kennedy failed.

If you're not though, my B bad. Sorry for the confusion (Laughing Out Loud).

Yeah... technically the Supreme Court utterly violated international law by refusing their right of Ambassadorial consultations vis-à-vis the Vienna Conventions on Consular Relations signed, infact, by 164 countries besides the United States. I just brought it up because even with Bush challenging the Supreme Court, José Medellin, Efrain Perez et al. still lost.

Posted by Nikolay Levin at August 29, 2009 09:59 PM

Nikolay Levin:

Of course a government doesn't have to be "right wing" to be oppressive. I never said that. But it is more common these days.

I don't think I entirely agree with you about that bit of Russian history, but I haven't examined that issue closely enough recently to argue about it. I know foreign capital considered Stalin a big improvement over Lenin and certainly Trotsky, and I have a book written by a NY Times editor and published in 1936 which was pleased that the USSR was no longer anything but nationalist. But I really shouldn't even bring it up, because I'll end up having to dig out old boxes of books and argue with someone whom I presume knows more about this than I do. I can barely remember much beyond the names of those famous victims of Stalin like Kirov, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bukharin, and Tukhachevsky. And of course the great Trotsky.

I'm not as enamored of the NRA as you are and certainly would not join it. I was given my own shotgun when I was 14, and I have treasured memories of hunting with my father and brother, who are both gone from the earth now. I have no problem at all with hunters, hunting, or hunting weapons, and I even understand people's impulse to want to defend themselves, but I think it just really isn't a good idea for people to get all jacked up about guns. Lots of those NRA guys are batshit crazy, which I know from direct personal experience, and all these people who get killed by guns really don't need to be dead. Your view that the government respects people when they can shoot back strikes me as naive. It may feel good to think that oppressive power structures fear force, but the militia movement has been easily manipulated. "Oppressive" power structures are judo masters; they easily divert force and use it against itself.

Throw a rock you'll hit a lawyer. I wouldn't get all worked up about either Constitutional Law or Harvard. Harvard is just a school and Constitutional Law isn't nearly as complicated as Kant or Bach Or Kurt Goedel, let alone the tax code. But again, you seem to be talking about Larry Tribe for some reason.

Hey, i like your legal showmanship too. Did the Ukraine sign that Consular Convention?

Posted by N E at August 29, 2009 11:34 PM

And Donald Johnson, for what it's worth your sanity is not lost onto me.

For all the ignorant things they try to drill into my head, my Eretz Yisreal Zionist grandparents at least got this right. It's simple, if you do the crime, you do the time. If you're too chickenshit to even go up against the IDF reserve don't equate yourself to excrement by blowing up buses. The Geneva Conventions sets aside resistance against an occupier, it does not recognize MURDER.

The recent ax-attack against the 7-year old son of an Isreali terrorist was so ironic given that Isreali's arrested the boy's father BEFORE he could blow up an Arab school. On top of that, giving him a longer sentence than most Arab terrorists receive when they SUCCESSFULLY carry out an attack can only dawn on the anyone but the most deluded.

Posted by Nikolay Levin at August 29, 2009 11:45 PM

One should concider OUR financial investment in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Perhaps if WE quit buying that conflict, quit financing both sides, then perhaps things would work out.
OTHERWISE WE should bump the dole up 10 billion a year to the Israelis and "go for the sure kill". If WE all call Olie North on his radio show and beg, he could smuggle a few stingers to the Palestinians for a great show. Fantastic TV.

Sweet Child, in time
You'll see the line
The line drawn
Between the good and bad
See the blindman
He's shooting at the world
Bullets flying, taking toll
If you've been bad
Lord, I'll bet you have
And you've not been hit
By flying lead
You better close your eyes
You better bow your head
wait for the ricochet----Deep Purple.

Posted by Mike Meyer at August 30, 2009 01:09 AM

Libertarians operate on tradition and religious faith, Anarchists are mostly agnostic/atheist, Libertarians believe in individualistic free-market, Anarchists believe in communities, Libertarians originate from agrarian beginnings, Anarchists were birthed from industrial workers in urban jungles. If these people are so fundamentally different why are they on such on good terms?

When my Republican U.S. Army Cadet for a roommate took an online test determining his political angle he told me it was on a graph. I remember thinking what a genius idea it was. I believe the idea of this "left-right" continuum is an obscured schema. At the very least it does not even mention one's penchant for authoritarianism and libertarianism. Do you believe that someone must be ordained with the ability to determine value? Do you believe that people should do whatever they want with themselves?

Ok. Puny rhetorical questions. What can I say? I'm tired. But I'll try to wrap this up.

Anyway, the fact of the matter is, he was placed at the right of the grid a little above the x-axis. This was greatly perplexing to him and not the least of which was because the test thus concluded him a conservative who "leaned" totalitarian.

Although I would of preferred authoritarian, I see why that word was appropriate. Its what I see as a primary problem of creating a free and just society. From kickbacks from corporation monoliths to compulsory sterilization, from prayer in schools to free riders on welfare..

...When you look at it, Republicans and Democrats both encourage fundamentally totalitarian concepts as they do libertarian. When one finds out that once, a long time ago, the Republicans were THE platform for the labor movement you hope that people can have a paradigm shift for the better. We'll see.

Posted by Nikolay Levin at August 30, 2009 01:37 AM

Well you got that right. It's not really in the interest of Democrats that we pull the plug on Republican Zionists' little pet project, ITS IN THE INTEREST OF AMERICA.

You'd think after the Israelis bombed and torpedoed the U.S. Navy's newest surveillance ship that the Middle East's only democracy wouldn't exactly constitute ally material, but then Mr. Great Society himself ordered airstrike sent to blow away the aggressors terminated lest he "embarrass" Israel.

You see, certain political idealouges (like Zionists) wouldn't look so pathetic if they weren't so screwed over. Israel only exists with the reluctant tolerance of the U.S. and what else to make that clear than remove funding from the Jewish state's little security fences, halt settlement expansion and even send sizable peace-keeping forces to show just who's boss.

It goes without saying that the ehem.. effective tactics used in pacifying Iraq were tested in Israel and that Israelis are always there to make great use of Palestinians as dependent variables to America's latest weapon of mass destruction, whenever the mood strikes them. Ho-hum, business as usual.

I think everyone can figure out anyone's foreign policy as soon as they continually ask the prophetic question.

Qui bono?

Who profits?

Posted by Nikolay Levin at August 30, 2009 02:46 AM

very well said!
Glenn Greenwald is an apologist for Obama? Not surprising after all...
I suppose hope and change could be compared to those little toys inside boxes of cereal - just a little inducement to children in order to sell more high fructose corn syrup. Health Food!

Posted by Rich Laplante at August 30, 2009 08:29 AM

Nikolay, Nikolay, Nikolay, sigh:

You wrote: "When one finds out that once, a long time ago, the Republicans were THE platform for the labor movement you hope that people can have a paradigm shift for the better. We'll see."

Hmmmm, when exactly was that? It certainly wasn't any time after Teddy Roosevelt. McKinley is underrated, and had some protectionism in him, but calling the GOP under him and Hanna "THE platform for the labor movement" would be a little over the top. And back before that, when the Molly Maguires were getting crushed in Pennsylvania, I don't think the GOP was helping labor out much either. The U.S. basically was run by the GOP until its corruption split the party and Grover Cleveland slipped into the White House, and I don't think they ever did much for labor, let alone become its platform. In fact, they constantly suppressed labor, complaining incessantly at that time about radicalism and anarchism and the Paris Commune.

Now Teddy Roosevelt did make some pro-labor speeches, but with TR that was just politics and was always about following the Bismarckian formula of undercutting radicalism with some free bread. TR progressivism was at heart conservative. He wrote: "I wish to draw into one dominant stream all the intelligent and patriotic elements in order to prepare against the social upheaval which will otherwise overwhelm us." His concern was that "there are not a few men who claim to be leaders in the progressive movement who bear unpleasant resemblances to the lamented Robespierre and his fellow progressives of 1791 and '92." (Pivotal Decades by John Milton Cooper at 170).

From Woodrow Wilson on, the Dems have been the voice of labor, notwithstanding that Harding was not as anti-labor as the reactionaries ever present in the GOP would have liked. Of course, that doesn't mean the Dems have been constant or good friends of labor, but they have been way ahead of the GOP for the last century.


You wrote: "You'd think after the Israelis bombed and torpedoed the U.S. Navy's newest surveillance ship that the Middle East's only democracy wouldn't exactly constitute ally material, but then Mr. Great Society himself ordered airstrike sent to blow away the aggressors terminated lest he "embarrass" Israel."

--The destruction of the Liberty by Israel is an interesting incident, with similarities to the shoot-down of the U2 back when Ike was President, the seizure of the Pueblo by North Korea around the same time, and the Gulf of Tonkin incident a few years earlier. I don't get the feeling from your recital that you have the complete incomplete picture that is known about what the Liberty was doing and what might have given rise to the convulted series of mistakes that caused it to remain where it was after all US ships were ordered out of those waters. This sort of problem didn't used to be so unusual. LBJ's role, or as you put it "Mr. Great Society"'s role, is exaggerated in your recital. To come to a more accurate understanding, either spend $30 for the reissued copy of The War Conspiracy by Peter Dale Scott, or just request it with an interlibrary loan. You should be able to get it within a month or two, and I suspect you'll find it plenty interesting.

Posted by N E at August 30, 2009 02:30 PM

NE ( and other supporters of the " objective " HRW ) look uo their out put on latin america . enough people have pointed out at least that part of HRW's is more closely marching along with US imperial foreign policy objectives .
may be the different sections with in the organization are at various levels of consciousness but they sure do not deserve a blanket seal as kind of final word as seen by both MSM and liberals and others .

Posted by badri at August 30, 2009 08:06 PM

badri

How about we stick to facts. Here's HRW on Latin America:

http://www.hrw.org/americas/honduras

http://www.hrw.org/americas/colombia

HRW is marching along with "imperial US foreign policy objectives?" That doesn't strike me as an assertion you'll be able to support.

Posted by N E at August 30, 2009 08:40 PM

badri: Not to mention that the only thing HRW's Malinowski expressed about rendition itself was "dismay"; the rest of his remark dealt with interrogation, not rendition (which are separate topics in the task force report), despite the attempts here to conflate the two. So HRW is expressing the same sort of concern as the ACLU and CCR about the new rendition policy, in their own tepid way.

I don't disregard HRW entirely; they often do good work, and the exceptions are almost always due to them aligning themselves with U.S. policy (which I've seen them do often enough that I've learned to treat them very skeptically). And they do seem to be improving slowly. My own ranking of major rights-related organizations would be CCR first, followed by the ACLU, Amnesty, and finally HRW.

Posted by John Caruso at August 30, 2009 09:12 PM

"Seriously, how does ethics work in your world? How can a resistance on the defensive be responsible for the attack upon them in the first place? "

Huh? I'm now being accused of believing in causality violations.

Yeah, anyway, I probably don't share enough of your moral presuppositions to be bothered by your insults. I'd recommend reading that Orwell essay "Notes on Nationalism" that I linked, or several of his other essays--I don't necessarily agree with every detail of his positions, but the overall stance seems pretty much on target to me. Simply put, when people in an organization (be it a nation or a resistance group or whatever) choose to deliberately murder people who are innocent, then they've crossed a moral line. You don't have the right to do whatever you want to do in a conflict, no matter how just your cause might be. And if you take such actions, then you share some of the responsibility for the suffering. Or if you don't like that word "share" , then Palestinians directly involved in planning or carrying out attacks on Israeli civilians are guilty for the innocents they've helped to kill and that remains true even if Zionists are 100 percent responsible for starting the conflict and even if one wants to say that the Zionists are responsible for all the deaths. I have no problem with that last claim, necessarily, so long as it is understood that more than one group can be responsible for the same deaths. That's true of Iraq--there might be one million dead there and Bush is responsible for all of them (at least until Obama took over), but that doesn't mean the Iraqi resistance groups and death squads aren't also responsible for the innocent people they murdered.

If you disagree with this, we don't have enough in common to make an argument interesting. I'm going to forgo getting into a detailed discussion of your post. Feel free to think I am unable to grasp what you and David are saying.

Where Orwell comes into this is in his recognition that ideologues across the political spectrum have one thing in common--a tendency to be outraged by the atrocities of one side, and to ignore, excuse, not know about, or even support the atrocities of the "good side".

Nikolay Levin-- Thanks.

Posted by Donald Johnson at August 30, 2009 09:57 PM

"Hmmmm, when exactly was that?"

How about the first Republican president? The German-American leader Carl Shurz spoke of Republicans as "...emphatically as the party of free labor" Republican congressman Henry Wilson really took it to the Democrats when he said, "On the one side is arrayed the Republican Party, vindicating the dignity of free labor and asserting the rights of the toiling millions; while its antagonist is a false Democracy, reviling the laboring man as a slave, and prostituting itself to the interests and purposes of a purse-proud oligarch." Back then, Republicans promised tariffs, the Homestead act and the end of the Southern monopolies.

Although the Republican's had a thing going with that "Democratic elitist" myth as recently, the best thing the Democrats could come up with then was "all there sympathies are involved with their tenderness towards for the Ethopian race..." when that didn't work they instituted what was later called the "Reign of Terror" instructing their media mouthpieces to write things like "If Lincoln is elected you will have to compete with the labor of four million emancipated negroes." (History Of The Labor Movement by Philip Sheldon Foner, 293.)

Needless to say, Lincoln won. The Republican Congress passed the Morill Tariff, the Homestead Act reduced competition for industrial jobs and the Southern aristocrats were denied their monopoly for good.

I'm sure you'll find other examples of both parties fighting for the most noblest of causes just as well as defending the heinous.

If you're looking for corruption, look no further than Tammany Hall. Now that was downright scummy.

Former high-echelon CIA officials now admit that the USS Tonkin incident was a false flag operation but Special Forces raids into sovereign North Vietnemese territory would of certainly been casus belli (I love dead languages but rest assured I'm no necrophiliac). The USS Pueblo and Gray Powers "incidents" were no brainers. Both countries were at war with the United States no matter the temperature (pun intended).

The thing with the USS Liberty? It was attacked by an ally. Although the USS Stark attack comes to mind, witnesses and the very survivors themselves claim they flew a clearly discernible U.S. ensign, that there were intercepted transmissions of Isreali pilots confirming Acrylic markings (Official Isreali report claims they mistook the Liberty for an Egyptian freigher) and that the Rear Admiral that sent a recalled fighter wing personally confided to a senior Liberty crewmember that Washington terminated their mission; all evidence pointing to a cover-up that is still being fought to this day.

I'd check out the USS Liberty Veterans Association. They have really accomplished a lot and I hope they accomplish more in the future.

Posted by Nikolay Levin at August 30, 2009 11:20 PM

Woops forgot to mention. If you had to know, that aircover? The Sixth Fleet was close enough that it's fighters were gaurenteed overhead ten minutes at the latest.

Phew, although I'm glad my response to Mike Meyer interested you, the expanding discussion is taking a lot out of me. Of course, that just means I have to stop working 7 day work weeks. Then it would problem solved (bracket+letter P).

While I'm at it, I think I'll wrap up the other loose ends so I can catch up.. Ready, Set, Go!

Yes, Ukraine is a signatory. Yes arguing Russian history with moi' would be a deathwish. I couldn't harm a fly, let alone kill bigger game but I can't get enough of target shooting. Nothing like shooting stuff up with a trainer AK-47. Anyway, short-term solution, yes. But a deterrent it is, if bullying North Korea while standing on top of thousands of nuclear devices is any indication..

Who the f*** is Larry Tribe?

Donald, if someone couldn't say it I had to. The length at which you continued the discourse is commendable in itself.

Posted by Nikolay Levin at August 31, 2009 12:20 AM

Nikolay (only once this time without a sigh):

I love Carl Schurz; I'd even call him one of my heroes for his work with the anti-imperialist league, but he wasn't any more a power in the Republican party than the Mugwumps had been a generation earlier. There are always outliers.

You may be right that Lincoln was a friend of labor--I have a love of Lincoln that clouds my judgment--but any pro-Labor sentiments of the GOP during Lincoln's Presidency didn't survive him. And though I hate to say it, I suspect even Lincoln was not the greatest friend of labor, even if he did prefer free labor to slavery.

I'm not saying the Democrats have been great friends of labor. That's obviously not true. Even Labor has not been much of a friend to labor.

You didn't take my point about the Liberty, or the other incidents, and I repeat that you should read Peter Dale Scott's book, or even just the book of Joseph Goulden of the NY Times about the Gulf of Tonkin incident, to better understand what was going on there. I don't think you are necessarily correctly apprehending what might have been intended. Israel and the U.S. were not the only nations with forces deployed in the region, and the consequences resulting from an incident could have been far, far broader than you seem to consider. McNamara thanked God afterward that the U.S. had not retaliated against the USSR for the attack, making that just another close call that he survived.

Posted by N E at August 31, 2009 12:59 AM

Thats the point. There are always outliers in the Democratic party too. Some people call them libtards, I call them progressives.

Still tripling the price of European goods is a pretty hefty tariff if you ask me and thats what survived the Morill Tarrif and its successors long after Lincoln's death.

As for the Gulf of Tonkin, this link seems to quote the book. Nothing I can disagree with there. Sounds just about right, no PT boats, no torpedoes just uncorroborated allegations used to escalate a war.

I didn't even use Wikipedia (wink, wink) and I'm still stumped. No eureka moment yet. Elaborate?

Posted by Nikolay Levin at August 31, 2009 04:40 AM

No, wait, THERES the link.

Sorry about that.

http://dissidentvoice.org/Articles2/Hamilton_TonkinII.htm

Posted by Nikolay Levin at August 31, 2009 04:42 AM

http://www.theonion.com/content/video/is_using_a_minotaur_to_gore

Hilarious, if you haven't seen it. Spot on perfect, too.

Posted by Oarwell at August 31, 2009 09:27 AM

Nikolay, since you provided the link to that very fine short article on the Gulf of Tonkin, which cites Gouldin's very fine book (but not as fine a book as Peter Dale Scott's book), I'll elaborate. But first a bit about U.S. labor history.

Woodrow Wilson and his labor secretary William Wilson were not outliers, and they were widely considered very pro labor during the Wilson administration. I sense from your remark about the tariff that you view it (correctly) as having a pro labor effect, but in that day much more than a protective tariff needed to be done for labor. In fact, by the start of the 20th century free trade may have benefitted U.S. labor more than the tariff on the whole. That remarined true until at least WWII, and FDR was no outlier either. Nor was Truman, who was still more pro-labor than the GOP. (But the tariff you cite did help labor in the earlier era you cite; it just helped capital much more.)

I get your point about the tariff, but during the past century the mainstream of the Democratic party has been substantially more pro labor than the GOP. That being said, the emphasis on free trade for the past twenty years has been horrible for U.S. labor and U.S. society as a whole, and we can thank Clinton and the Democratic Party for that. So your point isn't without merit. In recalling the GOP's early support of protective tariffs, you have a bright political idea. Just remember that at that time the GOP viewed the tariff as pro-capital more than pro-labor. Mark Hanna wasn't the greatest friend of the worker around; he was an industrialist and friend of industrialists. (But as I said, McKinley is underrated.)

As for my point requiring elaboration, it isn't clear to me what operation the NSA was running with the Liberty that resulted in the Israeli attack on it, but such an operation seems to have been being run and LBJ certainly was not runing it. I doubt LBJ had the slightest idea what was happening there. Obviously, whatever was going on was not intended to precipitate a war with Israel, because they were already our ally in the region, but it is worth noting that McNamara was relieved that the navy did not mistake the Israeli attack for a Soviet attack and respond AGAINST THE USSR. Still, we can't really know what was intended, because there were very effective methods of concealment at work. Joseph Goulin's book notes that Eisenhower himself commented on those types of concealment during the "politically inopportune" U2 crisis of 1960, (which undermined early efforts at detente at that time). In Eisenhower's words, "these activities have their own rules and methods of concealment which seek to mislead and obscure." Gouldin, Truth is the First Casualty at 104.

Neither LBJ nor McNamara was calling all the shots with regard to what happened at the Gulf of Tonkin, or the activities of the Liberty, or the ELINT activities of the Pueblo, just as Eisenhower had most definitely NOT been in charge of everything happening in connection with the U-2 shootdown, just as Truman had NOT been in connection with events in Korea in the summer of 1950, just as JFK had NOT been fully in charge of everything that happened before and at the Bay of Pigs. There are other examples for later times too, but that should be enough to make the point for now. This goes on with frequency approaching continuity.

There isn't any legitimate question that the intel agencies and military have repeatedly tried to start wars or prevent disarmament or assassinate foreign leaders or interfere in the affairs of foreign governments or otherwise achieve objectives that most people would presume require Presidential authorization but that have frequently NOT involved Presidential authorization. There really isn't much basis for factual dispute about that, though of course that doesn't stop it from being disputed. And the examples could be carried forward through the 70s and the 80s through the Gulf Wars to the present. Yet most of that history is ignored by Right and Left alike. The Right doesn't want to acknowledge that history because it makes the military a very partisan political actor, with a definite militaristic agenda not in keeping with our professed tradition of military deference to civilian rule. And the Left doesn't acknowledge that history for different reasons, one of which is just ignorance of it and general confusion, though much of the Left also seems to actually prefer to not have what the military would call a Grand Strategy, or for that matter any coherent strategy to accomplish anything at all.

Those who actually don't want to know the true facts about how the intel agencies and the military operate within our government remind me of the Senate, where it seems to be almost universally believed that it's unnecessary to have a deep understanding of anything and better to just make another speech and move on. The Senate is corrupt, so that can be explained. But the Left lacks even that excuse.

Posted by N E at August 31, 2009 09:41 AM

oarwell:

thanks, that is hilarious.

Posted by N E at August 31, 2009 10:42 AM

Now that I think of it, I question my view of reality, NE.

Although anyone can edit Wikipedia and I mean EVERYONE. The site is a good reflection of how myopic EVERYONEs perception of reality really is.

One theory of the Liberty incident is Isreal was attempting to frame Egypt so the United States would join the war with Isreal. Another says that the USS Liberty was recording Israeli transmissions of POW killings in the Sinai Peninsula incriminating Isreal in warcrimes. Hell, a Russian author believes that the Soviet Union was intercepting Liberty's communications and so Isreal was doing the United States a favor. It may not matter what anyone does, the theories will have their respective loyal camps.

Its interesting that you thought Mr. Cooper's work was completely suspect because of a little research of the extraterrestrial kind, when polls show at least three times as many people believe in UFOs then they do of a 9/11 coverup. (50%! And the UFO POLL specifically was a FOX News one which is credible because of its base and just as much unfortunately because of its superior cable news ratings.)

I can see why he stopped the research. Its bad enough leading (and maintaining credibility) with a resistance movement against a government allied with bloodthirsty dictators and greedy corporate conglomerates. What are you supposed to do when you find your government is colluding with a power (LITERALLY) out of this world?

Before I thought a current events were more immeditate than a Stuka dive bomber's operational ceiling, I posted at a website where this guy was ABSOLUTELY convinced that the Soviet Union had the best technology in the war and that the Germans held back Russia with cunning alone. His proof? A bunch of books written by the SAME AUTHORS. Even after showing a Soviet field marshall's account of that BS, he kept on quoting the same (Western mind you) sources. Needless to say, our diatribes lasted for weeks, clogging up the Stalingrad message board for months.

Rewinding hundreds of years earlier, I think its less important how the USS Maine was blown up (the collegiate historian debate is still gridlocked) but why our response was so completely unjustifiable. Mr. Donald Johnson may be up to something.

Anyway, I think I'll stop this philosophical rant now with the closing of the comments section approaching so I can at least set aside your last word.

Posted by Nikolay Levin at August 31, 2009 11:45 PM

...Hopefully.

Posted by Nikolay Levin at September 1, 2009 02:56 AM

Not a chance!!!!!!

Posted by N E at September 1, 2009 11:16 AM

What? Doh! Oh well.

Until the next Caruso post, N E.

Posted by Nikolay Levin at September 1, 2009 02:32 PM

NE all i will give you is one name as he happens to be HRW's latin america face ..
Jose Miguel Vivanco
is it not funny that HRW gets touted in US media and amnesty is almost shut out . that should tell all there is .
i only pay attention to their less than stellar performance on latin america and said so .
at one level it is meaningless to argue with american Kool aid drinkers like you .

Posted by badri at September 1, 2009 09:15 PM