"Senate Holds Hearing On Continuation Of Fatally Flawed Military Commissions (7/7/2009)
Use Of 'Coerced Evidence' Makes Them Unconstitutional, Says ACLU" (ACLU):
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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WASHINGTON – The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing today on the proposed continuation of the controversial Guantánamo military commissions system. The chairman of the committee, Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), has inserted language related to military commissions into the current Senate draft of the Defense Authorization bill and President Obama has recently declared his intention to revive the fatally flawed commissions after suspending them by executive order his first day in office.
In addition, the American Civil Liberties Union is scheduled to testify on military commissions at a separate hearing before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties Wednesday morning.
“The military commissions are unconstitutional and were created not to enforce the law but to circumvent it,” said Christopher Anders, ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel. “Bringing back the military commissions would signal to the rest of the world that the United States continues to flout the rule of law.”
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled the first version of the Bush administration’s military commissions illegal. President Obama, as a candidate, took the position that the second and current version of the military commissions, as implemented through the Military Commissions Act, should be rejected, but he is now pushing Congress to help revive these proceedings with certain changes.
While both the president’s proposal and the new legislation passed by the Senate Armed Services Committee would bar evidence obtained through torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, they would still allow for the admission of other “coerced evidence.” That means that forced confessions and hearsay evidence that would be barred from every U.S. courtroom and court-martial would still be admissible. By contrast, the Constitution, the Federal Rules of Evidence used in federal criminal courts, and rules for military courts-martial prohibit all evidence obtained by coercion. The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times reported last week that a recent undisclosed Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel opinion concluded that the use of coerced evidence in at least some military commission proceedings would be unconstitutional.
" The military commissions are fatally flawed and no amount of tinkering will fix them,” Anders added. “The system is set up to ensure convictions, not give defendants an impartial hearing. When the military commissions stack the deck against a fair trial, how can we trust their outcomes?”
In addition to being unconstitutional, the military commissions are unnecessary. Under our criminal justice system, the government already has sufficient tools at its disposal to prosecute terrorism suspects, including a wide array of criminal laws that even prohibit activities that are often only remotely related to terrorism. Civilian and military courts are perfectly capable of dealing with classified evidence and protecting national security while also providing fundamental rights. The United States has successfully prosecuted more than 200 defendants in international terrorism cases in federal courts for crimes committed both before and after 9/11. By comparison, only three terrorism suspects were successfully prosecuted in the military commissions system at Guantánamo.
“President Obama put an end to the use of torture and abuse because he knew that it was contrary to our most fundamental values. Yet the president and Congress are now considering allowing forced confessions – the fruit of some of those very same practices – to be used against defendants,” said Anders. “Under the new legislation, involuntary confessions forced out of witnesses at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and other torture sites could be used to convict people. Due process cannot exist when we allow hearsay and coerced evidence in our courtrooms, and justice cannot exist without due process. The military commissions must be shut down for good if America is to repair its legacy as an international beacon of human rights and civil liberties.”
The hearing is covered by C.I. in the snapshot today. Be sure to read it. C.I. starts it after the day's violence in Iraq. The press release came out before the hearing. I was hoping they'd have something about the hearing itself because, reading C.I.'s report, it's worse than even the press release thought it would be.
"Vietnam War Architect Robert McNamara Dies at 93: A Look at His Legacy With Howard Zinn, Marilyn Young & Jonathan Schell" (Democracy Now!).
I'm providing the link. It's read, watch or listen. I'm going to talk a little bit about this segment. It was very disappointing.
Thank goodness for Young who had some perspective. Jonathan Schell is the biggest joke in the world. He's done 'blog posts' for Iraq. A few. A few times. He's an embarrassment. He was one of those idiots trying to scare up votes for John Kerry (I voted for John Kerry) by calling 2004 "the torture election." Jonathan and War Hawk Robert McNamara had a half-in-half at a nuclear freeze rally so instead of offering reality, Schell's singing "That's why I fell for [bomb, bomb] the leader of the pack. Leader of the pack, and now he's gone. Leader of the pack, and now he's gone." It was so embarrassing.
Young stayed firm.
Better than I expected but is he really talking about the topic? No. He's spitting out generic statements and I'm really worried if he's able to follow the conversation. I'm not joking or being snide, I'm seriously worried because that was just really shocking.
Marilyn Young addressed McNamara's War Crimes (Zinn gave generic comments about War Crimes -- anyone's War Crimes) and Schell spent forever repeatedly attempting to justify and minimize McNamara's actions. It was disgusting.
Disgusting has been All Things Media Big and Small in the last two weeks (continuing today).
"TV: Trash TV" (Ava and C.I., The Third Estate Sunday Review):
And while people pretend that Michael Jackson: Still Dead is news, it keeps real news off the radar. So it's especially disgusting when Pacifica's Free Speech Radio News and The (KPFA) Morning Show waste listeners time with this garbage. And flat out outrageous when Democracy Now! uses its radio and TV time to 'cover' bad gossip.
Michael Jackson wanted to be Diana Ross for years. Then he wanted to be a White woman. At last, in death, he is. He's Anna Nicole Smith for 2009. And all the ghouls and all the idiots -- who can't be bothered with following actual news -- rush to watch more and more infotainment and kid themselves that they're in any way informed or aware of what's going on in the world. Shame on anyone pretending to be a public affairs or news program that assists them in mistaking trash TV for news.
Amen. This is a wonderful commentary. It needed saying and, as usual, Ava and C.I. stepped up to the plate.
"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, July 7, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Iraqi police become the target of choice, the US Senate Armed Service Committee appears to have no grasp of the US legal system and no respect for it, a War Hawk dies, and more.
Gay Life After Saddam is a documentary the BBC commissioned which was set to air Sunday, July 5th on BBC Radio 5 Live; however, the Wimbledon Men's Final ran late Sunday and the program has been rescheduled to air Sunday July 12th from nine to ten p.m. (1:00 to 2:00 p.m. PST). Ashley Byrne did the investigative reporting for the documentary and, at the BBC, Byrne explains, "What is clear, and confirmed by separate evidence from various human rights groups, is that some gay men have been subjected to appalling violent abuse. . . . Gay men inside Iraq have been able to seek santuary in safe houses, thanks to the UK-based Iraqi Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) group, which manages them from London. The documentary team were granted exclusive access to one of the homes on the outskirts of Baghdad". The people Byrne speaks to maintain it was easier to be a gay Iraqi when Saddam Hussein was in charge of Iraq. So much for 'liberation' and 'democracy.' Again, the specail has been rescheduled for this coming Sunday, July 12th.
Moving over to an Iraq War veteran in Canada, David Solnit, co-author with Aimee Allison of Army Of None, notes the following action (taking place tomorrow):
Kimberly Rivera, mother of three, wife, and soldier of conscience is now living in Canada, but that could all change on July 8th. Join Courage to Resist at a support rally outside of the Canadian Consulate in San Francisco, July 8, 12 noon - 1pm 580 California Street at Kearny, San Francisco (4 blocks up Montgomery from Montgomery BART, left on Calif. St, right side of street just before Kearny) http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=580%20California%20Street%2C%2014th%20floor&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wl%20) We will bring signed petitions to the Consulate General, urging the Canadian politicians to respect the will of the Canadian people, the Canadian parliament, whom have twice voted recommendations to allow war resisters to stay and the basic moral imperative that does not separate children from their loving mother.Kimberly has this to say: "I want to stay in Canada, with my family, because the Iraq War is immoral, illegal and I couldn't in good conscience go back. The amount of support I'm getting from Canadians is amazing. The parents of my kids' friends, MPs and even strangers on the street keep telling me that they can't believe the votes in Parliament aren't being respected." Kimberly Rivera is the first outspoken female Iraq War resister to publically and legally seek refuge in Canada. Kimberly, along with her partner Mario, son Christian (7 years old) and daughter Rebecca (4 years old), fled to Canada in January 2007 when Kimberly refused redeployment. In late November 2008 Kimberly gave birth to her Canadian daughter Katie (8 months old). She served in Iraq in 2006 and experienced, firsthand, the reality of this ongoing illegal war and occupation. On July 8th, Kimberly is going to Canadian federal court, to appeal the decision in her Pre-Removal Risk Assessment. If her appeal fails, she will be asked to leave Canada, or forcibly removed -- and delivered into the custody and jurisdiction of the United States Army where Kimberly will face charges that will carry, at the very least, a 4 year sentence in a military stockade. Four years or more away from her young children, away from her baby daughter, away from her husband -- she will be kept in an Army prison. She has served in Iraq, she has been to combat; now, because she has decided to exercise her conscience, she faces imprisonment, additional forced separation from her family and eviction from her new home. Act to help Kimberly on July 8th! Join Courage to Resist in protesting the Canadian governments attempts to violate a loving mother's human rights!Sign the letter online & for more info: http://www.couragetoresist.org/x/content/view/726/1/
Over the weekend, US Vice President Joe Biden continued his trip to Iraq. Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) reported that his "mission to promote national reconciliation in Iraq was rebuffed Friday by Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, who told him that the issue was a domestic Iraqi affair and that U.S involvement wouldn't be welcome." US involvement wouldn't be welcome . . . but Nouri's happy to have the involvement of US forces on the ground in Iraq because otherwise he would be overthrown. That involvement he's all for. An Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy offers her take here. Sheryl Gay Stolberg (New York Times) added, "One official said the vice president made it clear that if Iraq returned to ethnic violence, the United States would be unlikely to remain engaged, 'because one, the American people would have no interest in doing that, and as he put it, neither would he or the president." Yesterday, Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) explained that "the Americans helped most leading Iraqi politicians, including Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, come to power -- and stay there -- they can no longer expect the Iraqis to acknowledge the help, because being close to the Americans risks alienating average Iraqis." Which has never prevented the puppet from biting the hand that continues to feed him and why Alsumaria reports today, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki refused any foreign interference in Iraqi affairs; two days after the United States cautioned that it might disengage in Iraq if the country fails to reach national reconciliation. In a meeting with tribal sheikhs, security chiefs and local officials in Anbar, Al Maliki reiterated that he won't allow anyone to meddle in Iraqi affairs and oversee the political process and national reconciliation." Independent journalist Dahr Jamail (MidEast Dispatches) uses Biden's visit to provide the context on the non-departure and non-withdrawal:
On July 4 in Baghdad, Vice President Joe Biden, who campaigned with Barack Obama on a platform of ending the occupation of Iraq, found himself in one of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's lavish buildings, the Al-Faw Palace. While one of Saddam Hussein's thrones sat on the side of the room, Biden presided over a swearing-in ceremony for 237 soldiers, who were becoming US citizens. Speaking of the ceremony, Biden said, "We did it in Saddam's palace, and I can think of nothing better. That S.O.B. is rolling over in his grave right now." Perhaps the irony of both the scene and his statement were lost to Biden. For if Saddam Hussein was rolling in his grave, the reason would have less to do with one of his palaces being used as a naturalization center for US soldiers, and more to do with the fact that the US government has no intention of withdrawing from Iraq anytime soon.
We have passed the June 30 deadline that, according to a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) signed between US Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari on November 17, 2008, was the date all US forces were to have been withdrawn from all of Iraq's cities. Today, however, there are at least 134,000 US soldiers in Iraq - a number barely lower than the number that were there in 2003. In addition, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates testified on June 9 that the United States would maintain an average of at least 100,000 troops in Iraq through fiscal year 2010.
The SOFA is a sieve, and the number of US military personnel in Iraq is remaining largely intact for now. Add to the 134,000 US soldiers almost the exact number of military contractors (132,610 and increasing), 36,061 of which, according to a recent Department of Defense report, are US citizens.
Dahr Jamail's latest book was just released this month and is The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The weekend trend in Iraq was attacks on police officers resulting in the deaths of at least 6 police officers with eight more wounded. Though primarily in Mosul, the attacks also took place in Baghdad and Kirkuk.On Saturday, 1 was killed and one wounded and a Mosul bombing targeting a police squad car resulted in one civilian being injured, Sunday's numbers were 3 killed with two wounded while a Mosul car bombing targeted the police but wounded three civilians, and Monday saw 2 killed and five wounded. (And use links in linked day's entries for wounded totals.)Meanwhile 'safe' Iraq still requires police training takes place . . . outside the country. Iraq's Foreign Ministry announced Sunday that their ambassador to Canberra, Ghanim Taha al-Shebly, attended graduation ceremonies for Iraqi police officers in . . . Australia: "Ambassador AL-Shebly delivered a speech on the occasion in which he expressed his thanks to the Federal Police and the Australian Government for their initiative in providing development programs to the elite members of the Iraqi National Police, which included training in management and leadership development, administrative and criminal evidence in order to strengthen the Iraqi Police Service." The Ministry also announced Sunday that Mustafa Musa Tawfik, Charge d'affairs in the Iraqi Embassy in Seoul, gave a speech at the "training course for the dvelopment of policies and programs human rights in filed in Iraq" in . . . (South) Korea.The need to continue training outside of Iraq is not surprising considering the ongoing violence; however, it needs to be noted that US government ended the training program which had been taking place in Jordan even though it was cost effective and, according to outsiders, effective period. The claim at the time was that training should take place in Iraq where it would be more cost efficient. And lucky for that cover story, reporters haven't been eager to point out that Iraqis continue to train in foreign countries. The only real difference now is that they are not training in Arab countries.
The targeting of police officers continued in Iraq today. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports two Iraqi "servicemen and one civilian" were injured in a shooting at a Baghdad checkpoint and 1 police officer was shot dead in Mosul while his father (also a police officer) was left wounded. In both incidents, silencers were used on the guns and McClatchy was noting (in their daily violence round-ups) over the weekend how common the use of silencers was becoming. Reuters notes 1 Iraqi soldier was shot dead at a Mosul checkpoint with two other people left injured and they note 1 police officer shot dead in Mosul in a drive-by.
From violence to the thing everyone wants to get their hands on: Oil. Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) quotes Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari saying, "We showed the world two things -- that the Iraqi oil industry is open for investment for the first time, and second, that the process was transparent." The statement comes on the heels of the first auction and as Iraq prepares for the second auction. Angel K. Yan (Red Net) notes, "China's three major oil companies are thinking of participating in Iraq's second auction of oil and gas fields later this year, in a move to get a better foothold in the country's oil industry." The first auction was at the end of last month and the big winners were British Petroleum and China National Petroleum Corporation who partnered up and won what Robin Pagnamenta (Times of London) described as "access to Iraq's biggest oilfield." At The Ecologist, Dan Box offers a historical view of England and Iraq. Vivian Wai-yin Kwok (Forbes) notes China Daily is reporting China National Petroleum Corporation and China Petrochemical Corporation plan to bid in the second auction. Jane Arraf observes that "factors including lingering security fears and concerns that Iraq's climate for foreign oil investment is still shifting" are weighing on some foreign companies.
"Good morning, everybody," declared US Senator Carl Levin bringing to order the Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing on Military Commission and the trial of Detainees for Violations of the Law of War. "In its 2006 decision in the Hamdan case, the Supreme Court held that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convetions prohibts the trial of detainees for violations of the law of war unless the trial is conducted 'by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.' The Court concluded that 'the regular military courts in our system are the courts-martial established by congressional statutes' but that a military commission can be regularly constituted by the standards of our military justice system 'if some practical need explains deviations from court-martial practice'.'' His opening remarks set up the hearing so we'll also note this section.
Senator Carl Levin: Of great importance, the provision in our bill would reverse the existing presumption in the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that rules and procedures applicable to trials by courts martial would not apply. Our new language says, by contrast, that: "Except as otherwise provided, the procedures and rules of evidence applicable in trials by general courts-martial of the United States shall apply in trials by military commission under this chapter." The exceptions to this rule are, as suggested by the Supreme Court, carefully tailored to the unique circumstances of the conduct of military and intelligence operations during hostilities. Three years ago, when this Committee considered similar legislation on military commissions, I urged that we apply two tests. First, will we be able to live with the procedures that we establish if the tables are turned and our own troops are subject to similar procedures? Second, is the bill consistent with our American system of justice and will it stand up to scrutiny on judicial review? I believe that those remain the right questions to consider and that language we have included in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 meets both tests. Over the last three years, we have seen the legal advisor to the Convening Authority for military commissions forced to step aside after a military judge found that he had compromised his objectivity by aligning himself with the prosecution. We have had prosecutors resign after making allegations of improper command influence and serious deficiencies in the military commission process. We have had the Chief Defense Counsel raise serious concerns about the adequacy of resources made available to defendants in military commissions cases, writing that: "Regardless of its other procedures, no trial system will be fair unless the serious deficiencies in the current system's approach to defense resources are rectified." So even if we are able to enact new legislation that successfully addresses the shortcomings in existing law, we will have a long way to go to restore public confidence in military commissions and the justice that they produce. However, we will not be able to restore confidence in military commissions at all unless we first substitute new procedures and language to address the problems with the existing statute.
The hearing was composed of two panels. The first panel was composed of the Dept of Defense's Jeh C. Johnson, Dept of Justice's David S. Kris and JAG's Vice Adm Bruce E. MacDonald. The second panel was composed of Retired Rear Admiral John Hutson, Retired Maj Gen John Altenburg Jr. and the American University's Daniel Marcus.
Senator Carl Levin: Let me ask you first, Mr. Johnson, I quoted from the Hamdan case in my opening remarks, saying that the Court in Hamdan said: "The regular military courts in our system are the courts-martial established by congressional statutes." But they also said that a military commission can be regularly constituted if there's a practical need that explains the ndeviations from court-martial practice. We have attempted in our language to do exactly that. And my question first of you is, in your view, does our bill conform to the Hamdan standards?
Jeh C. Johnson: Senator, as you, as you noted, Hamdan uh-uh requires -- and of course Hamdan was at a time that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 did not exist, as I recall. The holding of Hamdan was that military commissions -- and I'm not going to get this exactly right -- but that military commission should depart from UCMJ courts only in situations of evident practical need. The proposed legislation, uh, in our view definitely brings us closer to the UCMJ model and the circumstances under which the military commissions, uhm, contemplated by this bill and UCMJ courts differ are, in our judgment, circumstances that are necessary, uhm, given -- given the needs here. Uh, for example, uh, there is no Miranda requirement imposed by-by this-by this legislation. Article 31 UCMJ is specifically excluded from application here. Article 31 is what uh calls for Miranda warnings in uh UCMJ circumstances. The legislation also takes what I believe is a very appropriate and practical approach to-to hearsay. As you noted in your opening remarks, Mr. Chariman, the-the-the burden is no longer on the opponent to demonstrate uh-uh that hearsay should be excluded. There is a notice requirement in the proposed legislation and if the proponent of the hearsay can demonstrate reliability and materiality and that the declarant is not available as a practical matter given the unqiue circumstances of military operations and intelligence operations, the hearsy could be admitted.
And people make fun of the way Sarah Palin speaks? The Dept of Defense sends that stammering uh-uh dofus into a hearing? He's the Dept's General Counsel?
First off, Article 31 is not the military's Miranda. UCMJ's Article 31 predates Miranda by 16 years. Don't confuse the two. Article 32 is not a copy of Miranda. Miranda can be seen as a civilian copy of Article 32. What an idiot. And, no, he has no knowledge of the law. Admitting hearsay goes against everything the US justice system stands for and that includes the US military justice system. The Senate should be ashamed of himself for authoring legislation that shreds the US justice system. Let's not let them off (and I don't) but let's be clear that Johnson's a stammering fool who came off like a drunk barely able to keep his head up at the bar (you really needed to see the way Johnson's head dipped and swung to this side and to that side). David Kris was just as much of an ass as Levin's being but he could speak. What he had to say was frightening. Terrorism, Kris said speaking for the Dept of Justice, should be prosecuted in military courts, not civilian ones and proscuted, pay attention to this, by the Defense Department. Slippery slope is apparently a concept foreign to the idiots Barack's appointed. Senator John McCain, the Ranking Member of the Committee, wanted to know if there was a difference in the proceedings based on whether the trials were held in the US or at Guantanamo? Johnson fretted that "due process" would apply if held in the US and "that the courts have not determined applies -- applies now" at Guantanamo. Johnson had a real problem being concise. Not because he was adding detail but because he was restating the same thing over and over. He did that with Levin in Levin's first round of questioning (leading the Chair to note that there was only six minutes in the round) and he tried that with McCain who cut him off.
Senator John McCain: So what you're saying is that you believe that there could be some differneces in procedure if the trials were held in Guantanamo or the United States of America?
Jeh Johnson: I'm not sure I would be prepared to say significant difference, Senator.
Senator John McCain: It would be important for this committee to know what your view is? It might have something to do with the way that we shape legislation. If they're going to have all kinds of additional rights if they're tried in the United States of America as opposed to Guantanamo, I think that the committee and the American people should know that.
Jeh Johnson: One of the things that I mentioned in my prepared statement, Senator, is that when it comes to the admissability of statements, the administration believes that a volunatriness standard should apply on account of the reality of military operations and we think that that is something that uh due process may require particularly if military commissions come to the United States, that the courts may impose a voluntariness standard.
Senator John McCain: Well I hope that you and Mr. Kris will provide for the record what you think the difference is and the process would be as to the location of uh those trials. I think it's very important. Certainly is to me.
Vice Adm Bruce E. MacDonald made clear to Senator Lindsey Graham that the US has more restrictive use on hearsay than, for example, an international tribunal in Rawanda. Boo-hoo. What Constitution did MacDonald swear to uphold and is not coherent enough to grasp what oath he took? And someone tell the idiot to comb his hair. That fallen lock wouldn't play on a guy half his age and for a man showing up before Congress in military dress it was flat out embarrassing. (His hair was comparable to Paul Wolfowitz for any needing a visual. Only worse.) Senator Mark Udall praised Lindsey Graham and had nothing to add. Disappointing. If any Senator did a half-way decent job and seemed to have an understanding of the law it was Senator Jack Reed who did speak up for at least some civilian courts, at least some of the trials needing to take place in civilian courts and he also noted that a number of criminals are being glorified by having their actions, their crimes, inflated into something more than that. It was a very sad hearing and the first panel lasted about one hour and seventeen minutes. The second panel moved more quickly. Former Judge Advocate General of the Navy and Retired Rear Admiral John Hutson made it very clear that he was opposed to the notion of allowing the Defense Dept to begin conducting trials. He spoke of the US system of justice and it would be wonderful if the senators present had either stood up and applauded or slapped their heads in I-didn't-not-know-that gestures. Instead, his words appeared to sail over their clueless heads. We're going to note his remarks at length:
Even greater than democracy itself, the greatest export of all from the United States is justice. Daniel Webster once said, "Justice, Sir, is the greatest interest of man on earth. It's the ligament which holds civilized beings and civilized nations together." But justice is fragile and easily disparaged. It must be nurtured and handled with great care. I was an early and ardent supporter of military commissions. Initially, I was drawn to their historical precedents and, more importantly, I was confident that the United States Armed Forces could and would conduct fair trails even of reprehensible defendants. My own experience gained during 28 years in the Navy and our long history of providing due process while trying our own military personnel in courts-marital gave me this confidence. Unfortunately, as it turned out, the commissions that were created did not live up to the traditions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Predictably, they became a significant distraction for the military. I hasten to add that this was in spite of the stalwart, honorable effort of many, many military personnel themselves. Indeed, that is one of the great tragedies of this saga, and largely makes one of the points that I wish to underline. The primary role of the military is to fight and win our nation's wars or, stated more precisely, to provide the time and space necessary for real solutions -- economic, cultural, social, religious -- to take place. Prosecution of miscreants is an occasionally necessary sidebar to that mission but shouldn't distract from it. We have the UCMJ and the military court-martial system to expedite the legitimate role of the military, not interfere with it. If a sailor on a ship is alleged to have committeed a crime, we must expeditiously and fairly resolve that problem. Otherwise it can fester and interfere with unit cohesion and impede an effective fighting force. The UCMJ and the Manual for Courts Martial serve that purpose alone. They solves problems for the armed forces; not create them. Our recent history with military commissions has been the opposite. I've come to realize that even a perfect commission regime would be a distraction for the military. It's simply not part of its mission. I am very concerned when the military is called upon to perform functions outside of its core mission even when I'm confident that it can do it well. Preserving and ensuring justice in the United States is the primary mission of the Department of Justice, not the Department of Defense. If there will be criticism of our prosecution of alleged terrorists -- and there will be -- the Department of Justice and the US Federal Court system are equipped to deal with that criticism. Indeed, it is part of their responsibility to face it, address it and resolve it.
Monday Kat reviewed Regina Spektor's latest album. I should have noted that this morning but was in rush to get to the hearing (see, it's connected) and (still connected), Kat will share her thoughts on the hearing tonight so be sure to visit her site.
Turning to peace and justice news, infamous War Criminal and scourge of the globe Robert McNamara is dead. In an online discussion at the Washington Post (conducted by Robert G. Kaiser), Promise and Power author Deborah Shapley provided this context:
Washington, D.C.: Hi Bob -- I wrote a biography of McNamara, "Promise and Power," published in 1993. For the record, he told me he did not quit over the grim outlook in Vietnam because he wasn't that sure he was right, and because holding on could force Hanoi's hand politically, in his view. Therefore, the deaths of additional Americans at that time (1965 ff) were not in vain. My personal opinion is that his 1995 book "In Retrospect" gave the impression he thought the war was 'totally wrong' at the time -- which is not what his record shows -- at all! He went on telling the president they could bring off something-or-other, albeit in more pessimistic terms. Some people want to seem on the right side of history even when they were on what 'in retrospect' was the wrong side of history. Too bad for the servicemen that he misrepresented (or seemed to misrepresent) his own record.
In this decade, the War Criminal recast himself as a bra-less starlet followed around by professional gadfly Errol Morris for the mockumentary Fog Of War (aka The Bore Never Shuts Up). As with any Morris revisionary opus, the point of the mocumentary was that no one was really guilty. Alexander Cockburn (CounterPunch) observes:
He faded comfortably away. The last time we saw him vividly was in 2004 as the star of Morris's wildly over-praised, documentary The Fog of War, talking comfortably about the millions of people he's helped to kill.
Time and again, McNamara got away with it in that film, cowering in the shadow of baroque monsters like LeMay or LBJ, choking up about his choice of Kennedy's gravesite in Arlington, sniffling at the memory of Johnson giving him the Medal of Freedom, spouting nonsense about how Kennedy would have pulled out of Vietnam, muffling himself in the ever- useful camouflage of the "fog of war."
Danny Schechter (News Dissector) explains, "McNamara returned to his Waterloo (Hanoi) some years back for a conference on the "lessons of the war" with General Giap, the winner, and several American Generals, the losers. He was challenged by the feisty Vietnamese American documentary director, Tiana [Thi Thanh Nga], who made 'From Hollywood to Hanoi' and other films for all the deaths he caused. There is precious footage of him freaking out and arrogantly lecturing her. The Vietnamese government was too diplomatic to express its rage." On Democracy Now! today, Marilyn Young, Howard Zinn and Johnny Apologist Schell appeared to discuss War Hawk McNamara. Historian Marilyn Young (author of many books and recently co-editor of Iraq and the Lessons of Vietnam) is worth noting. She explained of McNamara:
One of the legacies is that there is none, in a sense. The first clip that you ran, you could have run it now. About Iraq, several years ago, about Afghanistan today. It's as if it doesn't go anywhere. There is knowledge, and then it's erased in between McNamara should be kind of a morality tale. During his tenure as Secretary of Defense, he initially -- he was responsible really -- for the initial escalation. In 1964, he and Bundy gave -- '65, I'm sorry -- gave Johnson what's called "The Fork in the Road Memorandum," in which they said, "Now, we have really thought this over and we have two choices. We could increase military pressure or we could negotiate." And they strongly urged the increase of military pressure and Johnson went along with that. Not that he was, you know, I think he was a little unwilling, but that is another subject. Gradually, by later in 1965, by 1966, and certainly by 1967, he was completely disenchanted with the war. And he said it in public at the Senate hearings on bombing targets. And he said, "This bombing is just not going to work." The next thing he knew, he was out. And he said later he never knew whether he had quit or Johnson had fired him. And then, as Howard [Zinn] said, he was absolutely silent. You can imagine that the silence was expressed in onse sense by his opposition to nuclear weapons, which was very sincere and I'm sure Jonathan can talk about that. He and Bundy both focused on the dangers of nuclear war as if that attempt to prevent a future war was going to erase the war they had both just conducted. And then in 1995 he comes out with In Retrospect and everybody quotes, "We were wrong, terribly wrong." But if you read the full paragraph, what it says is: "We weren't wrong in our values and our intentions, we were wrong about our judgments and capabilities." And the book as a whole is an excuse. It's a struggle -- he almost comes to terms and then he runs away from coming to terms. And he does the same thing, I think, in Fog of War. And he did the same thing for the rest of his life -- and approach to what he had really been responsible for, and then a bouncing off it, too awful to face. And it happens over and over again. He says, for example, he lists all the terrible mistakes that he made -- that "they" made. He never says "I." He says "they." And he says, "We just didn't understand that Vietnam was about nationalism." He doesn't ask why they didn't understand that. There were internal critics. George Ball, Paul Capenburg, but also, he was surrounded, if you read the newspapers, by Lidman, by Morgenthau, by I.F. Stone, who was vigorously writing about the Vietnam war. By George Cain, a great historian of South East Asia. So, if he wanted to know what the upsurge, the insurgency in South Vietnam was about, he had lots of sources. He never comes close to explaining why he didn't pay attention to any of that. Instead he says, "Oh my God! We just didn't know they were nationalists." How come?
iraqashley byrnebbc news
aimeee allisondavid solnit
the new york timessheryl gay stolberg
alissa j. rubinliz slythe los angeles times
the washington postrobert g. kaiserdeborah shapley
democracy nowmarilyn youngjonathan schellhoward zinn