AlterPolitics New Post

HuffPost Live’s Alyona Invites All-Star Panel To Discuss CIA Torture Whistleblower John Kiriakou’s Plea Deal (video)

by on Tuesday, October 23, 2012 at 10:45 pm EDT in Justice System, Politics, War On Terror

CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou plead guilty this morning to revealing the identity of a CIA officer in the agency’s detention and interrogation program. He is expected to spend 2 1/2 years in prison.

The reason he chose to negotiate a plea deal rather than go to trial was summarized succinctly by Marcy Wheeler (investigative blogger, Emptywheel):

… the rush to make a plea deal came after [U.S. District Court Judge] Brinkema ruled, on October 16, that the government didn’t need to prove Kiriakou intended to damage the country by leaking the names of a bunch of torturers. That ruling effectively made it difficult for Kiriakou to prove he was whistleblowing, by helping lawyers defending those who have been tortured figure out who the torturers were.

So ironically, John Kiriakou — who took enormous risks as a whistleblower to expose criminality — will do jail time as if he were the criminal, while the torturers themselves remain free.

Today on HuffPost Live, Alyona Minkovski hosted an all-star panel to discuss the John Kiriakou whistleblower case, including:

  • Marcy Wheeler (Grand Rapids, MI) Investigative Blogger, Emptywheel @emptywheel
  • Kelley Vlahos (Washington, DC) Columnist, Antiwar.com @KelleyBVlahos
  • Col. Morris Davis (DC, WA) Former Chief Prosecutor for the Military Commissions at Guantanamo @ColMorrisDavis
  • Jesselyn Radack (Washington, DC) National Security & Human Rights Director at Government Accountability Project @JesselynRadack
  • Josh Gerstein (Arlington) Reporter, POLITICO @joshgerstein

WATCH:

 

Debate Spin Room VIDEO: An Angry Wasserman-Schultz Fields Questions On NDAA And Obama’s Kill List

by on Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 3:52 pm EDT in Election 2012, Justice System, Politics, War On Terror

Here is a perfect example of how political elites from the Democratic Party respond when they are subjected to questioning on Obama’s egregious Civil Liberties record. 

In the spin room, following the Hofstra University Presidential Debate, Luke Rudkowski from WeAreChange approached Chair of the DNC Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, who was there serving as one of Obama’s Congressional spokespeople.

Rudkowski began by asking her about the President’s record on NDAA:

Rudkowski: How does Obama justify his flip-flop on the National Defense Authorization Act, especially the Indefinite Detention Provision, which he said he never wanted, but he is now — the Administration is appealing the order?

Wasserman-Schultz: I didn’t hear that as a subject of the debate tonight.

No, she is right, the two duopoly parties would never allow such an important question on this Administration’s ‘police state’ policies anywhere near their staged debates.

A while later he asked her about Obama’s Kill List — the program Obama created to assassinate people, including American citizens, based on mere suspicion:

Rudkowski: If President Romney becomes President, he is going to inherit President Barack Obama’s secret Kill List. This is going to be debated. How do you think Romney will handle this Kill List and are you comfortable with him having a Kill List?

Wasserman-Schultz: I have no idea what you are talking about.

Rudkowski: Obama has a secret kill list which he has used to assassinate different people all over the world. 

Wasserman-Schultz: I’m happy to answer any serious questions you have. [she glares at him as if he is crazy]

Rudkowski: Why is that not serious?

Wasserman-Schultz: Because I have no idea what you are talking about. [she stomps off]

Rudkowski: Of course you don’t.

I mean, the audacity of that young journalist to ask questions regarding Constitutionally-protected rights of U.S. citizens to this so-very-important political elite! If he attempts to pull off this ‘journalism stunt’ at the next debate, he might find himself handcuffed to a chair for eight hours, alongside Presidential Candidate Jill Stein.

WATCH:

YouTube Preview Image

Recommended reading material for Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz: via ProPublica, or any of Glenn Greenwald’s excellent coverage.

Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize Speech Incites Neo-Con Cartwheels

by on Sunday, December 13, 2009 at 9:38 am EDT in Afghanistan, Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe, Iraq, Middle East, Politics, World

President Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize Speech, in my opinion, was an attempt to somehow mesh Candidate Obama — the principled, compassionate, mindful leader who won the Nobel Peace Prize — to President Obama — torch bearer of the neo-con commitment to open-ended warring.

He started off on a semi-defensive tone, giving something of a broad justification for embarking on an indefinite commitment to more killing and dying in occupied Afghanistan.  He then transformed into the more thoughtful, sensible, Candidate Obama persona — the one that artfully taps into secular humanistic sensibilities.  A little something for everyone, I guess …

In all fairness to Obama, he never should have been awarded this honor, and he somewhat acknowledged that fact.  So it was by no fault of his own that he had to somehow overcome this uncomfortable, somewhat vicarious predicament.  And from the favorable reception this speech has been getting from both the Left and Right, it’s safe to conclude he pulled it off — politically-speaking.  You know you are the rhetorical master when you deliver a speech that:

has Karl Rove waving pom poms and doing cartwheels, …

It was as if Obama was saying: even THIS president doesn’t do canapés and champagne with European peaceniks! Hoo-ah! After the speech, Karl Rove was crowing, if you can crow by Twitter. “Tweeted that Gerson and Thiessen had gone to work at the Obama White House,” he e-mailed me—Gerson and Thiessen being the two neo-con wordsmiths in the Bush shop.

and also garners support from left-of-center columnists like Joe Klein of Time:

“How does a rookie President, having been granted the Nobel Peace Prize, go about earning it? Well, he can start by giving the sort of Nobel lecture that Barack Obama just did, an intellectually rigorous and morally lucid speech that balanced the rationale for going to war against the need to build a more peaceful and equitable world.”

Here are a couple things from the speech that managed to exorcise my ire:

1. The beginning of Obama’s speech, where he resorted to exaggerated, simplistic notions — i.e. ‘neo-con speak’ — to try to justify his Afghanistan decision:

“For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms.”

This part really disappointed me — that he would resort to this kind of charged-up demagoguery.  He has never been one to shy away from complexity in making his case to the American people.  His sudden fallback on words like “evil,” and conjuring up images of Adolph Hitler to justify his decision in Afghanistan, will lead many discerning viewers to question his underlying sincerity; especially after eight years of George W. Bush misleading us into wars, committing war crimes, and trampling upon our Constitutional rights — all under the guise of that same simplistic imagery.  It’s as if Obama himself has come to recognize that his own substantive case for war is somehow unconvincing on its own merits.

Yes, we are all keenly aware that there’s a small band of loosely connected thugs (al Qaeda), which poses a threat — on some level — to American security.  But don’t even try and muddy that threat with Adolph Hitler imagery — a dictator of an industrial nation that had one of the most powerful militaries in the world; one who bombed and invaded country after country, committing genocide against Jews and other innocents, and who ultimately left over 65 million dead in his wake.  It’s a disingenuous comparison.  The world faces no equivalent threat to Nazi Germany, and this kind of demagoguery has been used far too often — as of late — by disingenuous leaders seeking to justify unnecessary wars.

World War II was a necessary war, but Iraq was not — something he acknowledged, if only by its omission from his speech.  But a continued military escalation in Afghanistan is also unnecessary.  The tragic consequences of neo-con warmongering has all but ensured that exaggerated threats leveled as a run-up to military escalation is only going to fall on deaf ears, and his doing so only undermines America’s ‘new and improved’ image abroad.

2. Obama’s speech then pivoted to a more idealistic discussion on world responsibility — one where all countries are subjected to the same standards:

To begin with, I believe that all nations — strong and weak alike — must adhere to standards that govern the use of force. I — like any head of state — reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation. Nevertheless, I am convinced that adhering to standards, international standards, strengthens those who do, and isolates and weakens those who don’t. […]

Furthermore, America — in fact, no nation — can insist that others follow the rules of the road if we refuse to follow them ourselves. For when we don’t, our actions appear arbitrary and undercut the legitimacy of future interventions, no matter how justified. […]

Where force is necessary, we have a moral and strategic interest in binding ourselves to certain rules of conduct. And even as we confront a vicious adversary that abides by no rules, I believe the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war. That is what makes us different from those whom we fight. That is a source of our strength. That is why I prohibited torture. That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And that is why I have reaffirmed America’s commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions. We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend. (Applause.) And we honor — we honor those ideals by upholding them not when it’s easy, but when it is hard. […]

Those who claim to respect international law cannot avert their eyes when those laws are flouted.

This one almost made me laugh.  Mr. President, clearly this rings hollow to anyone who’s been following your continued cover up of Bush Administration war crimes and your continuation of indefinite detention.  Hell — let’s put your predecessor’s illegalities (and your cover up and perpetuation of them) aside for a second.  You extend this same “exceptionalism” — this same exemption from international law — to another country: Israel.  Richard Goldstone’s UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict produced a credible, scathing report documenting Israeli and Hamas war crimes.  You, your administration, and the U.S. Congress immediately discarded it outright using flimsy, ridiculous, unsupportable excuses, as if international laws shouldn’t apply to Israel either.

It appears that much of his speech’s positive feedback from the Left has been directed at his placing recognition on the historic role of war in helping to actually foster peace.  He brought up the Balkans as an example.  It’s a legitimate point; there are times when war is absolutely necessary in preserving or restoring peace.  And yes, the U.S. has willfully assumed a great deal of the world’s burden on this front, paying dearly in American lives and treasure.

There are very few who would look back on history and contend that the U.S. should have stayed out of the 2nd World War, or shouldn’t have intervened — the embarrassingly few times we actually did — to stop genocide.  The problem I have is he’s obviously attempting to conflate these noble causes of war with something unrelated: Afghanistan.

Obama is not sending 30,000 additional troops to Darfur or to the Congo to save millions of civilian lives.  We’re sending young Americans to prop up a corrupt and illegitimate regime in Afghanistan that has its hands deep into the world’s heroin industry.  And this is supposedly vital to U.S. security interests, only because there are fewer than 100 cave-dwelling al Qaeda operatives somewhere between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Obama is a master orator — I give him that.

Having said all this, the entirety of Obama’s speech was not utterly deplorable — in fact, he’s incapable of delivering a bad speech.  But overall, it rang hollow to me, leaving me with the following impressions:

  1. He knew, as we all did, that he had NO BUSINESS being in Oslo, accepting the Nobel Peace Prize.  (He cannot be blamed for this.)
  2. In using neo-con, war-mongering rhetoric overseas, he slightly diminished America’s ‘new’ standing in the world, as well as his own image, while simultaneously giving the now-ridiculed neo-cons a HUGE moral victory; a big ‘told you so’.  It felt like he somehow substantiated their despicable and dishonest methods by exhibiting lines from their very own playbook, word for word, to reach a similar ends.  How appalling, after all the calamity they inflicted upon this country and this world.

Have we finally seen the real Obama?

Bill Moyers & Glenn Greenwald Discuss Gov’t Secrecy, The Beltway Elite, Afghanistan

by on Friday, October 30, 2009 at 2:19 pm EDT in Afghanistan, Politics, World

My favorite news man, Bill Moyer at PBS, interviews my favorite blogger, Glenn Greenwald at Salon, in a web-exclusive video.  It’s a fascinating discussion that covers a number of different topics. Part I: Moyers and Greenwald discuss how the Obama Administration has actually embraced Bush-era justifications for secrecy and indefinite detention: Part II: Moyers and […]