Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The U.S. is Guiltier than WikiLeaks

Here’s an interesting tidbit published by CLG News.com on November 30, 2010:

WikiLeaks: US Senators call for WikiLeaks to face criminal charges --'WikiLeaks presents a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States.' 28 Nov 2010 Members of the United States Congress reacted with fury at WikiLeaks on Sunday, calling on the group to be designated a "Foreign Terrorist Organisation" and urging the United States government to pursue a prosecution. "Leaking the material is deplorable," Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, a Republican, told Fox 'News.' "The people at WikiLeaks could have blood on their hands ... People who do this are low on the food chain as far as I'm concerned. If you can prosecute them, let's try."

I don’t disagree with Senator Graham that to the extent that such leaks as this one endanger lives the crime should be prosecutable. But where was Senator Graham’s when the Vice President of the United States’ outed Valerie Plame in retaliation for her husband’s opposition to the Iraq war?

For that matter, I think politicians who are willing to violate the Constitution they swore to uphold by imprisoning and/or torturing people without proof of criminal action should be open to prosecution – not to mention those who manufacture evidence in order to take the nation into war.

Now don’t you wingnuts start screaming at me for that last one. I am not just talking about George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, (Although I’m betting that they are the first people who came to mind when you read that sentence.) but also include our current president’s continued persecution of untried prisoners. There’s no way to prosecute the following, but calls to war from Teddy Roosevelt’s ouster of King Kamehameha to give an American corporation control of Hawaiian fruit production to insurgencies in South and Central American nations and LBJ’s Gulf of Tonkin incident were also criminal. (For a compilation of these offenses see: “Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq” by Stephen Kinzer. Times Books, Henry Holt and Company, New York. 2006.)

The point is that our country has used boogey man enemies to stir up support for war after war. By comparison Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks publication of classified documents is a pretty minor offense. Apparently Pfc Bradley Manning actually downloaded the info and gave it to WikiLeaks – maybe even conceived the idea himself – but his fate will still be little more than an echo of another of our favorite diversions – prosecuting someone at the bottom of the ladder so those at the top can go on pulling their deadly shenanigans. In effect, he may be more of a whistleblower than a traitor.

The fact is that the number – if any – of lives endangered by these leaks doesn’t come close to the number wasted by our invasions of other countries. By that measure this young man’s transgression is a drop in a sea of official sins that we will continue to support by ignoring them.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Amnesty International Calls for American War Crimes Investigation

On September 17, 2001, just six days after 9-11, President G. W. Bush authorized the CIA to set up secret detention facilities in other countries. Now in his memoir, he has clearly stated that he was part of the process authorizing "enhanced interrogation techniques" (read torture) against detainees in those facilities. He also named others who were involved.

On November 11, 2010 Amnesty International, a London-based group that has done a lot of excellent work over the years, called for a criminal investigation based on that admission. On the 18th, the UN echoed that call. It is a call that should be heeded.

If it should happen the ramifications would shake this nation from Washington, D.C., where President Obama is still operating those facilities, to right here in Springfield because SWMO's own John Ashcroft will be among those who will have to explain their roles.

Of course there will be a lot of backroom bargaining – to put it politely – between the call for investigation and the day when the United States government refuses to participate. It might become a rather bloody public debate or – more likely – a story quietly buried on the back page if reported on at all. Certainly the American press – not so leftist after all – will not print the whole story. The U.S. has long pretended to be supportive of the UN and the World Court, but has always denied them the right of judging us. That certainly won't change in the face of this mess. It will take pressure from the rest of the world to make it happen.

As a child of the forties and fifties I remember comic books, cartoons and movies that showed caricatures of Japanese soldiers and told stories of their barbarous ways. We were pretty carefully taught that one of the things that separated us from them (aside from the broadly drawn racial characteristics) was that they tortured prisoners while our soldiers did not.

No matter how skillfully our leaders might maneuver their way out of the limelight on this one, the fact is that the nation that filled our heads with stories of its righteousness in WWII as compared to the savagery of the Germans and Japanese has now moved to an official policy allowing torture - a sad slide from a moral ideal (whether ever true or not) into a pit of immoral slime from which there is no honorable escape other than to admit guilt and beg forgiveness.

America owes it to the world to allow an investigation and agree to accept its findings. It's the only realistic way to regain the moral high ground our lapse into barbarity has stolen from us.

My bet, though, is that we won't do it. Instead we will continue to posture as though we never lost that ground. We might fool ourselves with such posturing, but we can't be our own judge. The rest of world, watching our continued vanity, arrogance and hypocrisy on full display, will judge us harshly. We have lost their respect for good reason. We could gain it back, but I'm betting we won't.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I’m Fed Up Too, Billy

In his recent campaign for Congress Billy Long picked up the tea party chant "I'm fed up" and made it his tag line. Well, Billy, I'm fed up too.

I'm fed up with politicians who go to Washington pledging not to take earmarks and upon arrival declare that they will bring home all the money they can get their hands on ala Rand Paul. (Who got a knot jerked in his tail!)

I'm fed up with politicians who pledge to work for their constituency but link up with outfits like Halliburton and big oil companies bent on continuing their rape of the planet. Gee, Billy, what newly elected politician do suppose has done that?

I'm fed up with politicians who will spread any lie they think will get them traction. Lies like "Obamacare" is a government takeover of health care that will establish death panels and cut Medicare coverage. I'm completely fed up with politicians who say they will repeal "Obamacare" when they know darn well they can't and wouldn't if they could because it suits their private insurance industry friends from whom we must all now buy health coverage. While they say they're against this law because it forces purchase of a product, they will be working behind the scenes to modify it so that the forced purchase won't also force the insurance companies to provide the coverage required by the new law.

I'm also totally fed up with politicians who claim they will work for the needs of the people but argue that those who make significantly more than the average person should be exempt from taxation that could help those out of work get through tough times. It seems to me that if those on top were true patriots they would be not just willing but eager to contribute what they could to the well-being of the nation. Instead of patriotism they display only hunger for more wealth and power. I'm fed up with them, Billy, and the politicians who betray their constituencies to toady up to them.

And I'm fed up, too, with politicians who say they want to restore the Constitution, but support a Supreme Court that grants corporations human rights as unidentified, unbridled campaign spenders. I'm also fed up with an Executive Branch that usurps the powers of Congress and spies on the people.

Politicians who say they want to restore ethics but do nothing to stop the runaway system of false attack ads and huge advertising budgets that take the influence of the common voter completely out of the equation ought never to be reelected.

Yes, I'm as fed up as you are, Billy, so I want you to know that I, along with a great many Ozarkers, will be watching very closely to see how Congress goes about its business, and the next election will be even harder on those who said they were going to clean things up but don't than it was on those they just replaced. Keep watching.

Monday, November 8, 2010

What Now?

We survived the off-year elections, but will we survive the next two years?

Chances are we've just elected a do-nothing Congress, so our odds for survival may be better than you think. After all, the theory says, a Congress that can do nothing can do no harm.

I'm not so sure. One of the first problems they'll argue about is whether or not to extend the tax cuts the Bush administration put in place. The Democrats will argue that they should be continued for the middle class, but rescinded for high earners. The tea partiers will argue for extension of all cuts. If they win the day the cuts will all stay in place, but the consequence will be that the government will have to borrow money to cover the shortcoming in revenue – exactly the kind of borrowing that helped toss away our surplus in the first year of the Bush administration. They will have won their taxation argument, but deepened the deficit as a result. If they allow the tax, their angry base will accuse them of ignoring public demand for low taxes. Either way, they could be hoisted on their own petard.

The big problem, of course, is still the economy. We should note that on November 5, two days after the election, the Department of Labor announced an upturn in employment levels, GM announced its intention to buy back the government's investment in its stock, Detroit announced that truck sales are up and global stock markets surged in response to the "Fed's" buy of $600 billion in Treasury bonds. Our new electees have no claim on these accomplishments, though if the upturn holds they will surely try it later.

Still, we have a long way to go and the jobs lost over the last ten years will never return. Our manufacturing based economy has gone the way of the dinosaur. That's why the only way out is forward, and that's where the argument against government involvement falls apart.

Government created the highway system that enabled freight hauling to make available the consumer goods that drive our economy. Government created the G.I. Bill after WWII that gave us a college educated, home owning middle class. Government created the space program (ERTS-1) that gave rise to Landsat and, ultimately, the internet.

Yes, corporations built the manufacturing base, but there was government assistance involved in that, too. Given free reign, existing big corporations will do more to guard their present positions than to find new ways of competing with those positions. Government R&D and infrastructure investments in alternative energy sources and other sustainability oriented endeavors would do us a great deal more good, including new jobs, than curtailing social programs could possibly accomplish.

The plus side of the election is that the two sides must now work harder at working together. The question is will they take us forward or backward? Stay tuned.