Tuesday, February 21, 2006

"Remember that my life is but a breath"

Late last night, we all worked on several news items and posted them at our sites. I mention that because I have a visitor who's e-mailed to say, "You really like your time off, don't you?" For the record, I do like my time off. But the process of working on those entries last night was not time off. We all discussed topics (including the mining disaster in Mexico) and made a list of which ones we wanted to hit hard on. Iraq and Guantanamo were natural choices. The additional ones were harder to decide upon. Everyone hunted down resources and for the items that did make it into the posts, there were more resources than we linked to. We discussed the research, in depth discussion, and then went about writing the thing. I would guess we worked about three to four hours on that.

For tonight, please visit Mikey Likes It! to get Mike's take on the news.

"Navy's Top Attorney Warned Against Administration's Detainee Policies" (Democracy Now!):
The New Yorker magazine has revealed that two years before the Abu Ghraib photos were first published, the Navy's general counsel, Alberto Mora, began challenging what he described as the administration's "disastrous and unlawful policy of authorizing cruelty toward terror suspects." Mora warned his superiors at the Pentagon about the consequences of President Bush's decision, in 2002, to circumvent the Geneva conventions. He argued that a refusal to outlaw cruelty toward U.S.-held detainees was an implicit invitation to abuse. Mora also challenged the legal framework that the Bush Administration has constructed to justify an expansion of executive power, in matters ranging from interrogations to wiretapping. He described the novel legal theories granting the President the right to authorize abuse as "unlawful," "dangerous," and "erroneous."

So what everyone knew is confirmed. "A few bad apples" weren't responsible for what happened at Abu Ghraib, it was a policy at Guantanamo that was carried over (read Jane Mayer's article). While the country wants to pretend that "justice" had been done as a result of Lynddie England and a few other, low-level people getting show trials, the reality is that those who crafted the policies and transferred them, the higher ups, have not been punished, have not even been forced to answer serious questions.

"The Memo" (Jane Mayer, The New Yorker):
There was only one copy of the opinion, and it was kept in the office of the Air Force's general counsel, Mary Walker, whom Rumsfeld had appointed to head the working group. While Walker sat at her desk, Mora looked at the document with mounting disbelief; at first, he thought he had misread it. There was no language prohibiting the cruel, degrading, and inhuman treatment of detainees. Mora told me that the opinion was sophisticated but displayed "catastrophically poor legal reasoning." In his view, it approached the level of the notorious Supreme Court decision in Korematsu v. United States, in 1944, which upheld the government’s internment of Japanese-Americans during the Second World War.
The author of the opinion was John Yoo, a young and unusually influential lawyer in the Administration, who, like Haynes, was part of Addington's circle. (Yoo and Haynes were also regular racquetball partners.) In the past, Yoo, working closely with Addington, had helped to formulate the argument that the treatment of Al Qaeda and Taliban suspects, unlike that of all other foreign enemies, was not covered by the Geneva conventions; Yoo had also helped to write the Torture Memo. Before joining the Administration, Yoo, a graduate of Yale Law School, had clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas and taught law at Berkeley. Like many conservative legal scholars, he was skeptical of international law, and believed that liberal congressional overreaction to the Vietnam War and Watergate had weakened the Presidency, the C.I.A., and the military. However, Yoo took these arguments further than most. Constitutional scholars generally agreed that the founders had purposefully divided the power to wage war between Congress and the executive branch; Yoo believed that the President's role as Commander-in-Chief gave him virtually unlimited authority to decide whether America should respond militarily to a terror attack, and, if so, what kind of force to use. "Those decisions, under our Constitution, are for the President alone to make," he wrote in a law article.

In the case of John Yoo, not only has there been no accountability, he's been rewarded outside the government. He teaches at Berkeley. So UC Berkeley is okay with this? They're okay with his actions? As C.I. pointed out, this isn't "speech" -- this is action. Yoo has the right to say anything. He can argue that the world would be better off if London wasn't in it. But if he takes actions to ensure that London's not around, we've gone beyond speech and landed in the area of action. By keeping him on their faculty, UC Berkeley is saying that they condone his actions which were war crimes. (C.I. covered this Monday in "Other Items." I agree 100% with C.I.) This is not the case of a professor arguing, with free speech rights, that we should torture, this is the case of a man who crafted plans and orders that led to the torture of many and the violation of Congressional acts and legislation as well as the Geneva Conventions.

"Report: U.S. Used Bogus Call Sign to Hide Secret Flights" (Democracy Now!):
The Sunday Times of London is reporting the U.S. military has been operating secretive flights across Europe using a call sign assigned to a civilian airline that they have no legal right to use. This has allowed the U.S. to carry out covert missions in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The Sunday Times reported one flight apparently transported 45 tons of surplus weapons and ammunition to Rwanda in defiance of a UN embargo. In another case, a plane identified with the CIA practice of "extraordinary rendition" left a US air base just after the arrival of an aircraft using the bogus call sign.

Why are we arming Rwanda? "[I]n defiance of a UN embargo"? Hello, Iran-Contra. When Reagan and Poppy (along with their underlings) were allowed to escape responsibility and accountability for their actions (and Poppy Bush pardoned those who could rat him out -- with all the outcry over Bill Clinton's last minute pardons, you didn't hear too much about Poppy's, did you?). That's what happens when there's no accountability, people escape and think they can degrade the nation again.

I wish I had an uplifting quote to go out on tonight, but I don't. Tonight's quote captures my current mood.

Remember that my life is but a breath, my days have passed and vanished.
-- Job