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Glenn Greenwald Debates David Frum on Universal Jurisdiction Over Torturers & On U.S. Aid to Israel

by on Friday, February 25, 2011 at 10:40 am EDT in DOJ, Middle East, Politics, World

There are few ideologies I find as confounding, disjointed, and brazenly dishonest as neo-conservatism. Former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum, who debates Salon’s Glenn Greenwald, is far from an idiot. I wish he were, because I like to believe every pundit — regardless of where he lies on the political spectrum — honestly thinks the arguments he puts forward are based upon facts.

We like to believe the people whom we disagree with are as sincere as we are in finding the truth.

But there is an unshakable feeling I get each time I read a column by a neo-con that the statements he/she makes are in spite of the facts they know to be true. That they are intentionally misleading their readers. They seem to spend a great deal of time and effort cherry-picking facts and inventing narratives (i.e. “They hate us for our freedoms” — which Frum reasserts in this debate as the impetus for terrorism).

I’ve dismantled Frum’s propagandizing posts in the past, but it’s a lot more entertaining to watch the masterful and articulate Glenn Greenwald do it live on video.

Here they debate Universal Jurisdiction over alleged torturers, and then they butt heads on Frum’s recent statements that the U.S. should increase military aid to Israel in light of increased instability in the region.


WATCH: MSNBC’s Chris Matthews Bemoans US’s Lack of ‘Loyalty’ to Egypt’s Brutal Dictator

by on Monday, February 7, 2011 at 12:30 pm EDT in Egypt, Middle East, World

Last Friday, Chris Matthews appeared on Morning Joe where he questioned the Obama Administration’s character for not showing proper loyalty to one of the Middle East’s most brutal dictators, Hosni Mubarak.  He tells Joe Scarborogh and Mika Brzezinski:

Americans think upon ourselves as the good guys, and being good friends, and loyal. And these are values that mean a lot to us as people … Was he our friend for 30 years?  Are we denying that?  […]

And we’ve been with him for 30 years and now we say “It’s time for the gate”. […]

I feel ashamed about this.  I feel ashamed as an American the way we’re doing this.  I know he has to change.  I know we’re for democracy, but the way we’ve handled it is not the way a friend handles a matter.  We’re not handling it as Americans should handle a matter like this.  I don’t feel right about it.

And Barack Obama — as much as I support him in many ways — there is a transactional quality to the guy that is chilling.

I believe in relationships.  I think we all do.  Relationship politics is what we were brought up with in this country.  You treat your friends a certain way, you’re loyal to them, and when they’re wrong you try to be with them, you try to stick with them.  As the great old line was “I don’t need you when I’m right”.  You gotta help out people when they’re in trouble.  […]

You’d think Matthews was defending a law-abiding respectable statesman — someone whom he merely opposed on ideological grounds — who has now fallen on tough times.  You wouldn’t expect this sort of sappy loyalty babble with regards to a ruthless tyrant who has terrorized the citizens of his country for upwards of thirty years.

Either Matthews is ignorant about Mubarak’s brutal reign, or his notion of loyalty is royally fucked up.  Obviously, loyalty is an admirable trait, but what if the person in question has imprisoned people indefinitely without trial?  Tortured them?  Murdered them?  Robbed a poverty-stricken country blind of its national treasures?

Sounds as if Matthews believes that a country’s political elites — regardless of their crimes — should be accorded immunity merely for being an ally of the US and Israel.

Matthews continues:

He’s a leader too …  I think we have to think about America here and our character.  And I go back to the question of shame.  Do the American people like the image of this guy being hauled out of that country?

When I heard the other day that some clown, and I mean clown, living in Italy somewhere in the Alps — Alpine, Italy — said he wants a trial for Mubarak.  Now here’s a guy who’s an expatriate to begin with, and I don’t think much of expatriates, but what is this guy saying they’re going to bring out at trial? … You start talking about trials it’s like unconditional surrender.  You want the war to last longer?  Do you want to have this guy fight to his death?

Talk about a trial.  What … we should get the army over there and immediately start negotiating with the fact a … one:  this guy will not stand charges for anything.  If he wants to leave he can leave.  If he wants to live peacefully in his country we’re going to do what we can to make that possible.  But the idea of trying the guy before he’s even out of office is exactly the way third world countries behave. You lose an election, you’re hanged.  If that’s the way it works, these guys are never going to give up power.  Would you give up power if you knew the next step was “Oh it’s not a peaceful retirement.  It’s not teaching at some college.  Oh, you’re trial is next, and guess what? — the Islamic Brotherhood is your judges.”

To fully appreciate how anti-democratic Matthews’ line of thinking is, you need to consider the degree of Mubarak’s despotism.

For the entirety of Mubarak’s reign, Egypt has remained under martial law — a police state.  From suspending all constitutional rights, to censoring all media; from outlawing all political expression and organization (unless expressly approved by Mubarak himself), to indefinitely detaining and torturing political dissidents without trial, one could reasonably conclude that Mubarak is nothing more than a brutal thug.

Knowing full well how Mubarak engaged in torture, the United States eventually began to outsource the torturing of its own apprehended suspects to Egypt, which housed some of the CIA’s infamous black sites.

Additionally, Mubarak pillaged the country’s wealth for himself, amassing a fortune reported to be upwards of $70 billion (exceeding that of both Bill Gates & Warren Buffet) making him a likely candidate for the wealthiest individual on the entire planet.  He’s reported to have stashed his swindled fortune in Swiss and British banks, plus UK and US properties.  He did all this while the Egyptian people suffered massive unemployment, and dire living conditions.  Forty percent of Egypt’s population (or 33 million people) live below the poverty level.

The Corruption Perception Index rates the corruption level of 178 countries around the globe, from least corrupt (1) to most corrupt (178), and Egypt placed 98th.

Matthews’ remarks exemplify the conventional inner beltway mentality, where egregious crimes of the ruling class are never to be tried in a court of law.  Political elites are supposed to be loyal to one another.  After all, loyalty, he contends, is the important quality that Americans value most.

Their punishment should simply be getting rebuffed at the ballot box, and then they should be allowed to enjoy their post-Presidency days teaching at a prestigious university in the country of their choice.  Because, according to Chris Matthews, the rule of law is something only a Third Word Country would try to impose upon their political class.  It’s so “transactional”.


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U.S. Officials Privately Admit They Overstated Damage Inflicted By WikiLeaks

by on Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 10:12 pm EDT in Politics, WikiLeaks

Reuters is reporting that Internal U.S. government reviews confirm what many of us had cynically assumed all along: that the US government was intentionally embellishing the damage done to US interests abroad by WikiLeaks documents:

A congressional official briefed on the reviews said the administration felt compelled to say publicly that the revelations had seriously damaged American interests in order to bolster legal efforts to shut down the WikiLeaks website and bring charges against the leakers.

“I think they just want to present the toughest front they can muster,” the official said.

But State Department officials have privately told Congress they expect overall damage to U.S. foreign policy to be containable, said the official, one of two congressional aides familiar with the briefings who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity.

We were told (the impact of WikiLeaks revelations) was embarrassing but not damaging,” said the official, who attended a briefing given in late 2010 by State Department officials.

Ironically, it is precisely attempts like these — by government officials to mislead the American public — that has made whistleblower groups like WikiLeaks all the more essential to the viability of our democracy.

I suspect this Administration is most concerned about the leaks exposing its own, or its predecessor’s, wrongdoings.  This Administration has gone to great lengths to cover-up and to squash any investigation — any judicial proceeding — against the Bush Administration for its alleged criminal activities.

They have got to be worried that the leaked documents could end up incriminating government officials in such a way as to push the entire topic of government accountability back into the public discourse.

For instance, it has been long reported that WikiLeaks is holding potentially incriminating military documents on Guantanamo Bay, where detainees were allegedly subjected to torture.  What if these documents were to provide an iron-clad case against the highest-levels of the Bush Administration?

The US is a signatory to the UN Convention Against Torture — a binding agreement ratified under President Ronald Reagan.  The Obama Administration therefore has very clear legal obligations that it has long been evading.  Whenever there are indications or allegations of torture, it is incumbent on the Administration to investigate.  It is NOT merely an option to mull over for its potential political ramifications.  It is the RULE-OF-LAW.

Here are those legal obligations:

A State Party’s Undertakings

Most of the provisions of the Torture Convention deal with the obligations of the States parties. These obligations may be summarized as follows:

(i) Each State party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture. The prohibition against torture shall be absolute and shall be upheld also in a state of war and in other exceptional circumstances (article 2);

(ii) No State party may expel or extradite a person to a State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture (article 3);

(iii) Each State party shall ensure that acts of torture are serious criminal offences within its legal system (article 4);

(iv) Each State party shall, on certain conditions, take a person suspected of the offence of torture into custody and make a preliminary inquiry into the facts (article 6);

(v) Each State party shall either extradite a person suspected of the offence of torture or submit the case to its own authorities for prosecution (article 7);

(vi) Each State party shall ensure that its authorities make investigations when there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed (article 12);

(vii) Each State party shall ensure that an individual who alleges that he has been subjected to torture will have his case examined by the competent authorities (article 13);

(viii) Each State party shall ensure to victims of torture an enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation (article 14).

By not only evading their required responsibility to investigate torture, but by aggressively threatening other nations to end their investigations and criminal proceedings, President Obama and his Attorney General are themselves violating international law.

After George W. Bush boasted, during his recent memoir tour, that he authorized water boarding, Amnesty International’s Senior Director Claudio Cordone issued a pointed statement saying:

“Under international law, the former President’s admission to having authorized acts that amount to torture are enough to trigger the USA’s obligations to investigate his admissions and if substantiated, to prosecute him,”

“His admissions also highlight once again the absence of accountability for the crimes under international law of torture and enforced disappearance committed by the USA.” […]

“Under international law, anyone involved in torture must be brought to justice, and that does not exclude former President George W Bush.  In the absence of a US investigation, other states must step in and carry out such an investigation themselves.”

The Obama Administration and the DOJ would obviously prefer to aid and abet the Bush Administration in evading justice in complete secrecy — hidden away from all public scrutiny.

The last thing they want is for WikiLeaks to publish documents that so undeniably incriminate upper level administration officials — either Bush’s, or Obama’s — that they in turn feel public pressure to actually do the unthinkable: to hold the political class accountable to the rule-of-law.

Former Justice Dept. Chief: Obama Gave Bush Officials ‘A Get Out of Jail Free Card’

by on Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 6:45 am EDT in DOJ, Politics

In an exclusive interview with Brad Jacobson for The Raw Story, a former acting Justice Department chief J. Gerald Hebert (who served the DOJ in various positions between 1973 and 1994), had this to say about the Obama Administration’s failure to hold public officials to account: “It’s one thing to want to appear like you’re […]

MSNBC Pundits Push False Narrative On WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange

by on Thursday, December 2, 2010 at 6:39 pm EDT in Politics, WikiLeaks, World

On MSNBC’s Jansing & Co, host Chris Jansing, The Washington Post Editorial Page’s Jonathan Capehart, and former GOP Congresswoman Susan Molinari attempt to create a fictitious narrative for WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange.  They claim he’s anti-American, anti-Capitalist, and a hypocrite on his transparency agenda, seeing as how he’s ‘on the run’ from his own personal transparency.  They […]

Gov’t Accountability: The Only Antidote To Conspiracy Theories

by on Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 7:30 pm EDT in Politics

Lately there’s been a deluge of conspiracy theories seeping into the American political discourse.   Outside the JFK Assassination, the 9-11 conspiracy theory is perhaps the most popular of them all.  There are varying themes, depending on who’s doing the advocating.  Some suggest the government actually organized 9-11; others believe the government knew something of an […]