U.S. Officials Privately Admit They Overstated Damage Inflicted By 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.
The Reagan Legacy
Andrew Levine reflects on Ronald Reagan’s legacy, and how — to this very day — it continues to derail sensible policies:
The most enthusiastic Reaganites today are radical, nationalist, racist and xenophobic; just like the fascists of old. And because Democrats lack the courage and conviction to stop them, they drag our politics rightward, regardless of who sits in the White House or which party controls Congress.
These circumstances have forced the left or what remains of it into a defensive mode — struggling, often in vain, to retain as much as possible of the social, political and economic progress gained before the Reagan era began. Not in the Tea Party sense, but according to the real meaning of the word, it has made conservatives of those who would otherwise be struggling to make a qualitatively better world.
For many, Obama, the Rorschach candidate, conjured up hopes of putting an end to this sad state of affairs, putting progress back on the agenda. But, as Reagan’s screenwriters might have had him say, “boy, were they wrong!” Under Obama as much as under Clinton or either Bush, Reagan rules.
You can read the article in its entirety over at Huffington Post.
NY Times’ Paul Krugman: Supply Side Economics Creates Deficits
Nobel Prize winning economist, Paul Krugman, attempts to educate a largely ignorant Republican/Tea Party constituency on the documented failures of Supply Side economics. He focuses on the Carter and Reagan years (since Republican politicians tend to cite Reaganomics as their model for economic success), and he demonstrates that revenues actually dropped decisively with Reagan’s tax cuts:
… the revenue track under Reagan looks a lot like the track under Bush: a drop in revenues, then a resumption of growth, but no return to the previous trend:
Matt Yglesias contends that “the conservative movement in America doesn’t [actually] care about the budget deficit,” and the proof is in the policies for which they advocate:
1) There have been two presidents who were members of the modern conservative movement, Ronald Reagan and George W Bush, and they both presided over massive increases in both present and projected deficits.
2) The major deficit reduction packages of the modern era, in 1990 and 1993, were both uniformly opposed by the conservative movement.
3) When the deficit was temporarily eliminated in the late-1990s, the mainstream conservative view was that this showed that the deficit was too low and needed to be increased via large tax cuts.
4) Senator Mitch McConnell says it’s a uniform view in his caucus that tax cuts needn’t be offset by other changes in spending.
5) The deficit reduction commission is having trouble because they think conservative politicians won’t vote for any form of tax increase.
In sum, there are zero historical examples of conservatives mobilizing to make the deficit smaller.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell recently made the following assertion about George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy:
“There’s no evidence whatsoever that the Bush tax cuts actually diminished revenue. They increased revenue, because of the vibrancy of these tax cuts in the economy. So I think what Senator Kyl was expressing was the view of virtually every Republican on that subject.”
Here Ezra Klein of the Washington Post resoundingly slams McConnell’s fictitious allegations:
There’s an ontological question here about what, exactly, McConnell considers to be “evidence.” But how about the Congressional Budget Office’s estimations? “The new CBO data show that changes in law enacted since January 2001 increased the deficit by $539 billion in 2005. In the absence of such legislation, the nation would have a surplus this year. Tax cuts account for almost half — 48 percent — of this $539 billion in increased costs.” How about the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget? Their budget calculator shows that the tax cuts will cost $3.28 trillion between 2011 and 2018. How about George W. Bush’s CEA chair, Greg Mankiw, who used the term “charlatans and cranks” for people who believed that “broad-based income tax cuts would have such large supply-side effects that the tax cuts would raise tax revenue.” He continued: “I did not find such a claim credible, based on the available evidence. I never have, and I still don’t.”
Of course, the Right rarely if ever lets factual evidence get in the way of their deep-seated, largely debunked, ideologies.
Still, it is good to see the Left finally doing a better job of educating the public about the real track record between the differing economic policies — something necessary if we are serious about promoting positive change in this country.
The Politics Of Genocide Denial
The House Foreign Affairs Committee is preparing to consider H.Res.252—The Armenian Genocide Resolution—this Thursday (March 4, 2010), and it has some key Congresspeople scrambling to kill it. The resolution calls upon the President of the United States: (1) to ensure that U.S. foreign policy reflects appropriate understanding and sensitivity concerning issues related to human rights, […]
War Of Words: Why Failed Theories, Like Reaganomics, Continue To Linger
The Republicans have long engaged in historic revisionism as a means of covering up a long record of failed policies and blunders. Some of their most disastrous ideological experiments over the years, like Reaganomics, have been successfully re-framed into mythological successes. Democrats have no one to blame for this, but themselves. They’ve done next to […]