It's Mrs. TD's birthday... so happy birthday to Mrs. TD!
The White House is "optimistic" the President can bounce back from
the biggest opportunity for genuine positive transformation in American history flushed down the toilet in order to give us Mitt Romney/Newt Gingrich's Frankenstein monster of propping up health insurers by giving them public money "health care reform" and difficulties over the troubled roll-out thereof. Did we mention Michele O's college classmate Toni, an executive at the company involved in said roll-out? [The evidence is somewhat dubious here, actually... and as a college classmate of Mr. Obama myself, I can safely say that such a "relationship," by itself, is hardly evidence of much of anything... and let's face it... had "healthcare.gov" been a project of the NSA, you can be damned sure it would have had all possible money and resources thrown at it.]
Filipinos in the city of Tacloban aren't so optimistic about much of anything, as even the grim task of burying the dead as a result of the recent typhoon is proving overwhelming. All we can do from the other side of the world is watch, weep, and maybe contribute to our favorite international aid organization... but sadly, much of this is just beyond anyone's control.
As awful as the devastation of the ever-more "super-storms" is (and as, it seems, even Exxon Mobil, the Koch Bros., etc., don't even have the energy to put out quite as much global-warming-denial propaganda as they used to... or so it seems to me, anyway...) even if the host-city of UN climate change talks is also the host city for Big Coal's meeting... how convenient is that?
Say... where was I...?
Oh yes... something that might be far scarier than even global climate disruptions... it would be amusing if it were amusing, as some morons actually consider this ultimate doomsday monster "a solution" to said climate change issues, rather than, you know, talking about "sacrifice," or, good God!, lowering our "standard of living" (voluntarily)... that being, of course, good old "nucular power"... because... it's another week... and hence, another new record in radiation measured at good old Fukushima as a result of yet another new leak there... Here is "Anne Kaneko's Fukushima Blog"... a fascinating blog by someone (writing in English) nearby... seriously... you'all might just want to check in on Fukushima Prefecture on a regular basis...
In GTMO news... Candace and Andy are both chock full of "new developments," which are more in the realm of stuff that Candace, Andy and I have kind of known about for years, but about which the public is (finally) getting some more news...assuming anyone cares all that much...
Alrightie then... enjoy the rest of your weekend!
Happy Guy Fawkes night. This year, it's also an election, where my fair city will finally be replacing Mayor
Millionaire Mike Billionaire Mike Bloomberg with Hillary Clinton's former campaign manager.
My political realization of the day: Barack Obama owes a great deal to Bob the Builder.
Well, the President decided he was coming right here to Brooklyn, landing in (and tying up) our beloved Prospect Park, and giving a speech on his education shtick at a Brooklyn high school. No comment, really... the problem with education in this country is the federal government... Can a call for school uniforms be far behind?
An earthquake and tsunami hit near Fukushima, Japan... yes, that Fukushima... Because the fact that the nuclear plant is in deep trouble and could, you know, result in some "bad" outcomes (up to... oh... wiping out life in the Northern hemisphere)... but, since it's not being reported...
Seriously-- on that Fukushima thing? A few of our billionaire overlords really should get together and, as a service to humanity, buy up the waste from the four or five hundred nuclear power plants in the world, and clad the waste in stable material (it is technically doable-- just, you know, more expensive than dumping the crap in pools of water... except, of course, it wouldn't require perpetual electric power to maintain the cooling) and then finding somewhere geologically stable to dump the crap... and, of course, decommissioning every one of these nightmares ASAP... as ironic as it is, we can live with less electricity... we probably can't live with massive radiation releases... just saying...
And the Germans seem pissed that we are spying on them... it's not as if we can understand a freaking word... they talk in some foreign language...
Hey, I hear the Jets are over .500!
And the dog turns 51 (and Hillary Clinton turns 66)... tomorrow...
So the suspense is over... it's monetary bid'ness as usual, as the President nominates Federal Reserve Vice-Chair[wo]man, [Brooklyn-born-and-bred] Janet Yellen to be the next
most important person on Earth Federal Reserve Chair[wo]man.
If you think Bernanke had a tough time improvising some way through the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent
prolonged depression "Great Recession," Ms. Yellen will promptly have to deal with even bigger "too big to fail" banks, even more debt and derivatives everywhere, the ongoing playground urinating contest government shut down and the granddaddy of them all... the ultimate own-goal... the potential American default, now slated for around October 17th (although, ironically, not paying nearly a million federal workers because of "the shutdown" will have the bizarrely salutary effect of improving the Government's cash flow, so it may get an extra week or two before having to miss any legally required payments.)
Not to worry-- the answer to these, and all other woes, will be the magic bullet (yes, that's the term... "silver bullets" only either kill werewolves or contain Coors Light) known as
creating currency through purchase of ever more dodgy debt "Quantitative Easing," and Ms. Yellen is not only with the program, she will "un-taper" and probably buy even more crap each month than Greenspan Bernanke did, and ultimately, stick the bill to the taxpayers (a declining number of people as full-time jobs fade away, and this trend will accelerate, in part, due to increased hiring costs caused by... Obamacare.)
The current fiasco of Republicans purporting to hold the nation hostage was set in motion by one Barack Obama... when he sold us out back in 2010 with the Bush tax cut extension (and I thought he was just doing what his backers wanted). I thought things were bad when I noted that extending the Bush tax cuts-- which would, and did, add trillions in cumulative deficit, without a concomitant increase in the debt ceiling was political malpractice. But "bad" was understating. Obama's extension of the Bush tax cuts in exchange for nothing was as gross an act of political malpractice as has ever been committed, and may, because this President has shown Republicans that he will always cave when push comes to shove, actually result in a calamitous "default" situation (which, btw, could be disastrous even absent an actual default if the interest the U.S. government has to pay on bond interest goes up significantly as a result of the perceived risk)... and it's entirely Obama's fault.
I can't say that enough times. And his present position-- holding the line that
Newt Gingrich's Mitt Romney's health care plan is so sacrosanct that all else must be sacrificed to it--. is just stupid. Don't get me wrong-- the Republicans (to the extent you believe that all of this isn't just some giant kabuki to benefit financial interests who have placed huge bets on the chaos and that they are actually different from "the Democrats") are plenty stupid too.
And so there we have it-- two groups of stupid people (or one group, if you like) having a gigantic schoolyard "hold your breath" contest... Good luck to the rest of us. Because while I can't predict a "winner," I can sure as hell tell you who is going to lose.
Dear Lord, it's been a dozen years, to the day, since the first post on this blog. Where does the time go?
The national consciousness will, of course, "move on," like it always does. But this sort of thing seems to be happening more and more frequently.
And yes... it is because we are becoming a more crass and violent society at every level (starting with the rotting fish head at the top as he proposes another pointless war against someone somewhere, because his overlords in finance demand it), as we promote violence in every last corner of the world that we don't already occupy. And yes, it is because of our national perverse, one-off attitude toward private gun ownership (Second Amendment my ass... the rest of the Bill of Rights is now "optional"... this is the one we give a sh*t about?). And yes, it is because of a simultaneously failing economy and ever-increasing stress level. Note the victims so-far identified are in their 40's and up-- the workforce is aging, even as young people have fewer prospects. And finally, yes, it is because we consume most of the world's output of psychotrophic drugs; it is extraordinarily unlikely that an autopsy would not reveal large quantities of anti-depressants, anti-anxiety meds and God knows what else coarsing through the veins of the shooter.
Nothing to see here, folks. Move along...
Because September 11th only comes once a year. It's only been a dozen years... indeed, I've been blogging for all of them... and yet, it all seems... so long ago when I got put out of my office a block from the WTC by the morning's events, which seem ever more a distant memory (though I was there), and yet, the perpetual underpinning of what America has become.
Ah... just a dozen years ago... back when things like the Bill of Rights seemed so... relevant. When it wasn't my college classmate (twelve years ago, a political non-entity in the Illinois state senate) and now, the President of the United States. the alleged Muslim socialist radical arch-liberal who used the occasion of this 9-11 Eve to propose murdering Syrian civilians himself in retaliation for Bashir al-Assad murdering Syrian civilians...
And today... a primary race in New York, to finally replace Mike Bloomberg, who was pretty much elected mayor a dozen years ago... because of 9-11.
Well... just saying... enough musing from me... happy 9-11 everybody.
There seems to be nothing good to say about anything coming out of Syria, as the government of Bashar al-Assad [and his visible allies, Hezbollah and Iran and his less visible allies, Russia] and "the rebels" [a wild consortium, almost certainly sponsored by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and
without doubt possibly the CIA], now accuse each other of unleashing a chemical attack on the Syrian city of Ghouta in the suburbs of Damascus, which is estimated to have killed well over 300 people and sickened thousands... as the Obama Administration deploys some U.S. naval vessels ever closer to Syria... for some inadequately explained reason, because direct American intervention in Syria would probably start World War III be bad.
This Grey Lady op-ed by Edward Luttwak suggests that a prolonged unpleasant bloody stalemate is the only outcome favorable to American interests (he certainly cautions against-- and rightly so-- American intervention in Syria), noting that the Islamist extremists likely to emerge after a "rebel" win are not favorable to American interests, nor would an Assad regime that relied on assistance from Hezbollah and Iran (and presumably, Russia.)
Really? REALLY? Have we learned NOTHING? The list of our misguided and utterly f***ing DISASTROUS interventions seems endless, be they of recent vintage such as in Iraq... Afghanistan... Libya... Somalia... and our less obvious involvement in places like Egypt, and Bahrain, not to mention slightly older adventures in Southeast Asia, Iran (back when we overthrew a democratically elected government to install the Shah), and of course, all over the Western Hemisphere.
In short-- Mr. Luttwak is correct that American intervention-- of any kind, for any reason (other than perhaps giving humanitarian aid to surrounding countries like Jordan that have to deal with refugees)-- would be "ill-advised." And somebody's use of chemical weapons is, alas, just not a good reason for American intervention. And the presence of U.N. weapons inspectors already in Syria at the time of the attacks and the attacks just a few miles from their hotel-- makes me wonder about whether the Assad regime is that stupid (hint... I don't think so, though it certainly might be). Naturally, other than the rebels themselves, it seems the United States government is arguing the loudest that it is the Assad regime (rather than "the rebels") that is responsible for the chemical attack. None of us can say for sure, but right now, the evidence is inconclusive at best, and what American officials get out of stirring this pot (other than some really sweet contracts for whoever gets to provide support for the presumed sh*tstorm they're trying create)... is a mystery, at least to me.
Anyway, as awful as it is, Syria is unlikely to have a liberal, democratic government any time soon. I tend to think that a stable, albeit unpleasant regime like Assad's would be far, FAR better than either an Islamist sh*t-hole state (see how well that one just worked out in Egypt, for example) or an unstable, corrupt semi-failed state resulting in ostensibly permanent anarchy and civil war (of the kind we have installed and unleashed in Iraq and Afghanistan). And this result would also be true for Israel, which, without doubt, wants stability on its Northeastern border, and would (presumably) prefer not to have an Islamist regime reminiscent of Hamas in control of an entire well-armed country.
At the end of the day, the Middle East is a tough neighborhood with no good prospects... American intervention in the region has achieved exactly zero unqualified successes (save arguably Israel's position as regional powerhouse... and even there, our support has not involved direct military intervention)... and getting involved in this one-- chemical weapons or not-- would be yet another bad idea.
Update (8-25-13): Syria will allow weapons inspectors full access to the site of the attack. Another strong hint as to its provenance... at least in my view. And yet... seeing as Assad's Syria is a client-state of, you know, Russia, I don't think American forces will be ordered to back off anytime soon.
That's the sentence handed down by a military court-martial to Bradley Manning for leaking evidence of the United States's war crimes and other acts of malfeasance. The idea is to deter others who might have the audacity to try to let the public know what their government is up to. Hell-- the government was arguing for an even longer sentence-- of sixty years or more, to assure that Manning would die in prison for having the audacity to tell the American people what their government and military are doing in their name with their tax money. Damn him.
Of course, it bears noting that our government recently begged a country headed by a former KGB Colonel to hand back one of our citizens, assuring Russia that we [probably] wouldn't torture Edward Snowden [too much].
Interesting times. Do you not think we're living in 1984, only maybe even "new and improved"? Well... reminds me (albeit tepidly) of how Candace [and to some extent, I] were muzzled by this Administration shortly after it assumed power.
But go ahead, alleged progressives, and tell me about "lesser of two evils" and all...
Well, this piece from WaPo sort of lays out the conventional wisdom (as WaPo is wont to do)... to wit, given that the majority of the poor bastards still held at GTMO hail from Yemen, and given that there is a purported "threat" coming from "Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula," allegedly based in Yemen, this will "complicate" the return of said Yemeni men to their home country, which of course, had been held up by Barack Obama for years now, in response to "the underpants bomber," but was supposedly "resumed" in response to the GTMO hunger strike. Of course, the Obama Administration, and every government agency asked to do so, has found that some 86 men at GTMO, many of them Yemeni, pose no threat whatsoever because they were NEVER terrorists of any kind... meaning... what freaking difference would it make to return men who were never part of al Qaeda to begin with to a country with a purported al Qaeda presence? (Stop with reality...)
Of course, the "credible threat" arising from "intercepted chatter" [that has led to the closing of around twenty-two diplomatic embassies and missions throughout the Islamic world] is, presumably, completely made up as a political stunt to get Congress to back off its recent efforts to rein in NSA spying on Americans. Of course, the scope of that spying is, surprise, surprise, broader than the government had been telling.
I say this because, and I admit its only IMHO... but I tend to think after all the trouble that OBL went through to make it hard to find him... that al Qaeda leadership is probably just not stupid enough to have a conference call... but, of course, in a nation that used to lead the world in most things and now leads it only in propaganda, the American people probably are stupid enough to believe that "the evildoers" would form a Legion of Doom on an easily intercepted open line.
You know, over a decade ago, on this very blog's "talking dog points," given former President George W. Bush's tendency to refer to "evil doers" and "war on terror" and "axis of evil" and the like, we pondered whether his National Security team (then led by Condi Rice) was briefing him with comic books... We have, of course, often quipped about how seamlessly, it seems, the Obama Administration has wholly adopted Bush Administration policies in everything important... such as the never-ending expansion of
totalitarianism "the national security state..." but now even the asinine nomenclature and diction of the Bush Administration has trickled down to its worthy successors... in the Obama Administration.
And so... as my college classmate the President, who turned 52 a few days ago (happy birthday, Mr. President) petulantly tries to out-Bush Bush by reigniting the Cold War (over pique that a political dissident has fled from the United States to Russia!), by stepping up those killer robot drone strikes, by the ongoing war on whistleblowers in general, and by so many other Bush-like policies...
I'm sorry, I lost my train of thought. Kind of, you know, like the President did with that whole "close GTMO" thing. Sigh.
It seems that uber-whistleblower and former contractor to the NSA Edward Snowden has, at least for the next twelvemonth, been given asylum in Vladimir Putin's Russia. Perhaps a September Obama-Putin summit will be canceled as a result of this... or perhaps it won't. Russia is obviously an irritant, along with Ecuador, Venezuela, Cuba and the few other countries flexing their independence from Washington's jackboot. Having both a nuclear arsenal and huge oil reserves, Russia can pretty much do what it likes... and has. Actual national sovereignty independent of the financial interests running most of the world: imagine that?
Let me make this easy for both you and my own NSA minders. Obviously, not only do I approve of the actions of Mr. Snowden (and Mr. Manning, who awaits sentence, and Mr. Assange, who is holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and any of the other freedom-fighters out there who want to tell us what our own quite-literally-rogue-state government no longer wants to tell its own citizens), I applaud their actions, while readily admitting that I personally would almost certainly not have the courage to take the risks (probably lengthy prison terms) to do anything of the kind.
And so, I'll immediately juxtapose this news of Mr. Snowden's asylum with a great piece from James Fallows writing in the Atlantic,
"Why NSA Surveillance will be More Damaging than you think." The short answer to that is that business interests not forced by virtue of being here to operate in the United States will soon choose alternatives to doing so, be it local or regional networks not going through here, or other arrangements perhaps even of a lower tech nature, to avoid the prying eyes of the United States government and its contractors, because the United States has flushed its honest broker status, and heinously abused the exorbitant privilege of ostensibly hosting most of the backbone elements of the internet.
Here's the thing, boys and girls: not only is none of this shit going to keep us any "safer" from the mini-van or two worth of al-Qaeda operatives still in existence (and among others, Sen. Leahy evidently just concluded that the big phone thing accomplishes nothing of the sort), it wasn't designed to. It's designed to be used against specific kinds of targets: dissidents (animal rights activists, especially the kind who might take pictures of the activities of "agri-business" are prime examples), personal enemies of those in power (generally in the financial sector or the military), or, best of all, business interests whose secrets might prove extremely profitable to steal, particularly for American business interests under contract to do the snooping.
Oh... right... "foreign terrorists" doesn't seem to be on that list. Because everyone knows that terrorists operating in the poorest countries on Earth just this side of the stone-age are best thwarted using the world's most complex and sophisticated high-tech interception methods.
What... they're not? Uh oh...
Was it that much of a surprise that George Zimmerman of Sanford, FL was acquitted in the homicide of Trayvon Martin? You'll recall that originally, police didn't even want to charge Mr. Zimmerman with killing Mr. Martin, who, after all, represented American society's ultimate bete noire, a young Black man. But, you know... the public outcry and all.
I'm not going to comment specifically on the case, or on the outcome. Indeed, this from the Atlantic says it more articulately than I ever could, noting essentially that "we wuzn't there..." Where the only living witness is the alleged perp, "proof beyond a reasonable doubt" could be difficult to prove. And I wasn't even in the courtroom (nor did I follow the coverage); I've been in enough courtrooms where juries have done things that I've personally found inexplicable to add any value in commenting on this particular case... maybe it was just a tough case to prosecute... maybe the prosecution did a horrible job... don't know. [Candace, quoting Langston Hughes, comments even more articulately.]
No... I'll let the public outrage (on "both sides") play out elsewhere. I kind of want to "drill-down" into something else. I'm going to talk about Mr. Zimmerman himself, who I've found fascinating for any number of reasons. Mostly, I want to know just why this man was so scared shitless of everything that he felt the need to play
Batman God, and be a well-armed homicidal vigilante volunteer neighborhood watchman... had this been the 1960's, when millions of middle class White people (including most of my own family) abandoned the ever scarier inner cities for the seeming peace, quiet and safety of the suburbs, driven by that force that is now embedded in the American DNA (though it was arguably less apparent then), that being, of course, fear, particularly, fear of "the other," I might have "understood." Clearly I'm missing something... perhaps it's that I live in the seemingly peaceable kingdom of a "mixed" (though just about fully gentrified) Brooklyn neighborhood, while most of my family remains in the suburbs, or even in points beyond... of course, the irony is that I can walk to places without fear of imminent death (mostly by being run down by cars)... and they can't.
Anyway... we find Mr. Zimmerman in an ostensibly "gated suburban community," as, fear (of something or other) seems to reside quite literally in his own bones, he being employed as an insurance underwriter and taking courses toward a junior college degree in criminal justice... but again, I'm just stuck on "reality" (it always gets in the way)... I just was not aware of gated suburban communities in Seminole County, Florida being hotbeds of violence by young Black men... one might think the word "Brooklyn," even gentrified Brownstone Brooklyn, would be more fear-inspiring... But... I guess I'm mistaken.
I admit that I try, superficially at least, not to live my own life in fear. After all, unlike most Americans, I found myself in downtown Manhattan on September 11, 2001, as I still do on most work days, within a football field's length or two of the WTC site... and yet, readers of any regularity know I am nonetheless an absolutist in Ben Franklin's "those who would give up their precious liberty for temporary security deserve neither..." I never accepted the need to become a totalitarian country (which, boys and girls, we have become) in order to "fight terrorism." I'm evidently in a small minority.
Hey, paranoia is patriotic. Obviously, on a macro-level, we are all supposed to fear the ever-lurking swarthy A-rab terrrrrrrrorists of al-Qaeda ... notwithstanding that OBL is dead and that AQ elements in Libya and Syria seem to be on American --or at least American allies'-- payrolls... on a less macro-level, White suburbanites, including presumably Mr. Zimmerman, are supposed to remain
scared shitless ever vigilant against incursions by... young Black men. Even those evidently visiting their father, who happens to live in the same gated communities.
In some sense... who am I to talk? I can put on my own brave face, but if my own neighborhood were to see a spike in street crime... what would I do? [Fortunately, and I mean this, I live in a City where it's damned hard for me, and hence, for the George Zimmermans of the world, to get their hands on a gun... but I digress...] Indeed, I hide behind the anonymity of a pseudonym for this blog, as much from fear of possible adverse work implications as from fear of irritation by trolls and those who simply disagree with me. And why is that? Notwithstanding the supposed enlightened state of our democratic republic (for those who believe we have one in anything other than form), most people would certainly agree that the conditions under which most Americans earn their living are far stricter... our managers exercise virtually unfettered authority over us during the six or eight or ten or whatever hours a day of work that we perform, and we self-temper our work behavior (and, more and more, our off-hours behavior), lest we offend someone who might
kill fire us, thereby cutting off not merely our self-esteem, but almost certainly, our access to health care, the ability to remain in our homes, or ultimately, to eat (let alone to live with any kind of personal dignity), and casting us to our fate in a country where actual unemployment (as opposed to the official propaganda rate) is, and for some time has been at, Depression era levels.
And I guess I'm going to point out that this fear (of starvation if wages are cut off) is more or less embedded in the very DNA of industrial capitalism... our basic needs can be met in comparatively few hours of work a day... capitalism requires that we generate " a surplus," promptly handed over to our betters who manage us accordingly (while taking the lions' share for themselves). Without going all "Occupy!" on you, my comment is not on the resulting distribution of money, but on the intrinsic distribution of power... in our supposed representative democracy, the basic attitude of our work life is, of course, fear... the fear of living in essentially totalitarian environments. And, surprise surprise, once duly primed, fear can easily make its way into everything else- i.e., the extremely politically useful fears-- such as fear of crime (notwithstanding that crime rates have been declining for years) resulting in an insane level of incarceration (particularly for men of color), or of course, fear of terrorism (notwithstanding its extraordinary rarity), or of course, as has been of note in the recent legislative theater of the absurd known as "comprehensive immigration reform," fear of
Mexican people illegal immigrants, leading to various absurdities such as proposals to militarize our Southwestern border to levels comparable only to the border between the two Koreas.
And so, we have this ambient level of fear leading to Florida's outrageous "Stand your Ground" law, making it public policy to favor aggressive behavior likely to result in death... out of very politically useful fear.
With all this fear out there swirling around, including, of course, in the heads of the likes of physically slight, gun-toting, absolutely scared-shitless George Zimmerman hanging on in his suburban enclave ever more fearful of losing ground economically, or of course, giving way to all of the other litany of fears swirling around his head... and voila. Throw in all this fear, hundreds of millions of firearms, and the general racial unfairness in this society (temporarily papered over by the Presidency of not-actually-descended-from-slaves Barack Obama), and you get unfortunate events like the Trayvon Martin killing. Which, had it resulted in a prompt charge and guilty plea to something like involuntary manslaughter, wouldn't have generated much attention.
But the powers need the peasants to turn on each other (rather than their betters in the banking sector, military industrial complex, Monsanto, etc.)... and hence, the fear-mongering, the stand-your-ground-laws, the psychotic numbers of guns circulating...
I think you get the picture. Regardless of your views on the Zimmerman verdict... the picture is still not a pretty one.
David Marshall is an attorney in Seattle, Washington, where his practice focuses on defense of those accused of child abuse. He represents a Syrian national detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. On July 2, 2013, I had the privilege of interviewing Mr. Marshall by telephone. My interview notes, as corrected by Mr. Marshall, are below.
The Talking Dog: Where were you on Sept. 11, 2001, and to the extent you can answer, please tell me where your GTMO-detained client or clients were?
David Marshall: I was among the last people in America to find out! I first heard something peculiar when I was riding a bus to work. A couple of women on the bus were talking to each other, and one said "and that's when they closed all the airports." I thought, "that can't be right..." I got to work, and walked past a conference room where people were watching t.v.-- by that point, both towers had fallen down. I realized this was not going to be just another day. For whatever reason, even though I was in a sky-scraper, I don't recall even going home from work early.
The Talking Dog: Please identify your GTMO-detained client by name and nationality. To the extent you can, please tell me something about him, such as age, family status, personality, circumstances of capture, or anything else you believe of relevance.
David Marshall: My client is Syrian, and, although Arabic transliteration is not always perfect, I spell his name Ahmed Adnan Ajam. He grew up in Aleppo, Syria. His family was well to do. His father ran a textile factory (which was a business he apparently married into!) Ahmed was trained as an apprentice jeweler and goldsmith. When he was in his early twenties, a friend of his died in an automobile accident. This caused Ahmed to think about eternity. The free life he lived, he felt, was dissolute-- he wanted to get right with God and set about becoming more serious about Islam. He was widely read (as he still is), and he found about the society in Afghanistan that took Islam very seriously. He wanted to become a more devout individual, so he traveled to Afghanistan. He lived in Kabul for eleven months or so, and he did some charitable work with an organization that distributed food there, and he played soccer and volleyball and took walks around the city.
When the war broke out, he got word that the Northern Alliance was going to take the city, and it was planning on killing all of the Arabs. As he was an Arab, he left. He was seized while entering into Pakistan, and he was been in captivity since late 2001 or early 2002. He bears the designation "ISN 326." He is now in his mid 30's.
The Talking Dog Please tell me the status of his habeas litigation to the extent you can; if you can identify who the judge involved is, and please tell me about the recent motion you brought challenging the restrictions on transferring prisoners.
David Marshall: Ahmed's habeas case is pending before Chief Judge Royce Lamberth of the U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. No habeas hearing is scheduled.
I have just filed a motion challenging the restrictions on the transfer of prisoners from Guantanamo imposed by the past three annual National Defense Authorization Acts. My contention is that this is an unconstitutional encroachment on the President's commander in chief powers. The President decides when to exert force (in an authorized conflict) and when to release or relax that force. Detention is a form of force. My client denies that he is an “enemy belligerent," but even if he were, the President would have the power to release him without Congressional restriction.
Ahmed has been cleared for release by this government-- the Obama Administration’s inter-agency task force. Once the Executive Branch decided to release him, Congress had no right to interfere. By analogy, when President Bush decided to attack Fallujah, Congress could not interfere in his doing so, nor could they interfere with his later decision to withdraw from Fallujah by compelling him first to issue a certification that it was safe to do so.
The Bingham firm in Boston and New York has provided great assistance to me with this motion, but I am the sole signatory on the motion, and it is only on behalf of my client.
The Talking Dog Of course, you are asking for his outright release, but he can't go home to Aleppo, can he? Are you contending that Congress can't restrict his release into the United States?
David Marshall: It has been recognized by our government that the Syrians (of whom there are now about seven left at GTMO) can't be returned to Syria. The Assad regime would treat GTMO detainees very harshly.
The motion I recently filed does not challenge Congress's prohibition on admitting detainees into the United States. For reasons you can imagine, Ahmed does not care to live here; it has not been “the home of the free” for him. Our goal is for the Obama Administration to transfer him to a third country to live in peace and freedom there.
The Talking Dog: Can you please tell me the last time you visited your client or clients at Guantanamo?
David Marshall: I have not visited my client in 2013 (since the hunger strike and surrounding events have transpired). I'm not sure I would go at this point. Since my client regards the genital searches that are now imposed as a condition of visiting counsel as so extremely offensive to him, he might not be willing to meet me if I did go. I note that he recently didn't come to the phone when I called-- which I suspect is connected to something he said in his letter to me of May 17th, where he reported consternation that other prisoners had to be searched just to take phone calls from their attorney.
The Talking Dog Can you tell me if your client is participating in the present hunger strike?
David Marshall: In his 5/17 letter he wrote that he had ceased the hunger strike himself-- he could just not take the Ensure that he was being forced to consume. According to his letter, he has been placed in isolation, is not allowed exercise, and has intolerable noise inflicted on him.
The Talking Dog: Can you tell me, if you believe the recent events of escalating tension culminating in the hunger strike are the actions of the local command structure (however misguided), or perhaps reflect broader, high level decisions, for whatever reason?
David Marshall: I have no specific knowledge about this-- you know as much as I from reading newspaper accounts. I will say this seems to be a crazy policy that has precipitated a crisis that may ultimately redound to the benefit of the prisoners. Frankly, I can't see the Obama administration being so clever that they induced extreme actions from inmates knowing it would create the kind of political pressure that would culminate in closing the detention facility.
The Talking Dog: Can you comment on media coverage, in particular, of events at Guantanamo in calendar year 2013, and previously, and in particular, with respect to your own clients and representation?
David Marshall: It certainly appears that there has been a whole lot more media coverage this year because of the hunger strike. If it was planned as a means to get attention, it has been extremely successful.
The Talking Dog: Do you have any predictions for Guantanamo, preventive detention, and related issues for, say, the remainder of Barack Obama's Presidency?
David Marshall: I have no predictions. In late 2008 and early 2009, we all thought "thank goodness this will soon end" because of the election of President Obama. That experience has cured me of making predictions.
The Talking Dog: How did you become involved in representing a detainee, and can you tell me how your Guantanamo representation has effected you personally, be it professionally, emotionally, spiritually, or any other way you'd like to answer?
David Marshall: I became involved when the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers sent an e-mail in the summer of 2005 asking if there was interest in representing detainees. I expressed interest. Then a year went by, and in the summer of 2006, another e-mail went out saying "we're serious now", and this time noting that, unlike other pro bono cases, there was not only no compensation for the time to be expended, but no reimbursement for expenses which were likely to be substantial. I talked to my wife, and she agreed that this was important for me to do, and I undertook it. After a lengthy time to get my security clearance, by February of 2007 I was cleared to be Ajam's representative.
That is how I became involved; now I should tell you why. I'm a little older than you. I grew up at the height of the Cold War in the 50's and 60's. I learned that in the USSR, people were imprisoned indefinitely without trial. I was struck by how awful that was. I was glad I didn't live in a country that did that. Early in the last decade I realized I now do live in a country where that can happen. And so, in the interest of helping to get back to that country where that kind of thing cannot happen, I undertook this representation.
One thing that has surprised me is the level of support I have gotten from other people. I have asked for donations to help me cover the expenses of representation. I have been stunned by how many people responded and how much they donated (particularly relative to the means of the donors). I see there are many people who, like me, want to get that "other America" back-- the country that doesn't imprison people indefinitely without trial. I have been deeply touched by their generosity.
The Talking Dog: I join all of my readers in thanking Mr. Marshall for that compelling interview.
Readers interested in legal issues and related matters associated with the "war on terror" may also find talking dog blog interviews with former Guantanamo military commissions prosecutors Morris Davis and Darrel Vandeveld, with former Guantanamo combatant status review tribunal/"OARDEC" officer Stephen Abraham, with attorneys Jan Kitchel, Eric Lewis, Cori Crider, Michael Mone, Matt O'Hara, Carlos Warner, Matthew Melewski, Stewart "Buz" Eisenberg, Patricia Bronte, Kristine Huskey, Ellen Lubell, Ramzi Kassem, George Clarke, Buz Eisenberg, Steven Wax, Wells Dixon, Rebecca Dick, Wesley Powell, Martha Rayner, Angela Campbell, Stephen Truitt and Charles Carpenter, Gaillard Hunt, Robert Rachlin, Tina Foster, Brent Mickum, Marc Falkoff H. Candace Gorman, Eric Freedman, Michael Ratner, Thomas Wilner, Jonathan Hafetz, Joshua Denbeaux, Rick Wilson,
Neal Katyal, Joshua Colangelo Bryan, Baher Azmy, and Joshua Dratel (representing Guantanamo detainees and others held in "the war on terror"), with attorneys Donna Newman and Andrew Patel (representing "unlawful combatant" Jose Padilila), with Dr. David Nicholl, who spearheaded an effort among international physicians protesting force-feeding of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, with physician and bioethicist Dr. Steven Miles on medical complicity in torture, with law professor and former Clinton Administration Ambassador-at-large for war crimes matters David Scheffer, with former Guantanamo detainees Moazzam Begg and Shafiq Rasul , with former Guantanamo Bay Chaplain James Yee, with former Guantanamo Army Arabic linguist Erik Saar, with former Guantanamo military guard Terry Holdbrooks, Jr., with former military interrogator Matthew Alexander, with law professor and former Army J.A.G. officer Jeffrey Addicott, with law professor and Coast Guard officer Glenn Sulmasy, with author and geographer Trevor Paglen and with author and journalist Stephen Grey on the subject of the CIA's extraordinary rendition program, with journalist and author David Rose on Guantanamo, with journalist Michael Otterman on the subject of American torture and related issues, with author and historian Andy Worthington detailing the capture and provenance of all of the Guantanamo detainees, with law professor Peter Honigsberg on various aspects of detention policy in the war on terror, with Joanne Mariner of Human Rights Watch, with Almerindo Ojeda of the Guantanamo Testimonials Project, with Karen Greenberg, author of The LeastWorst Place: Guantanamo's First 100 Days, with Charles Gittings of the Project to Enforce the Geneva Conventions, and with Laurel Fletcher, author of "The Guantanamo Effect" documenting the experience of Guantanamo detainees after their release, to be of interest.
Chris Cillizza of WaPo ordinarily devotes his life to the conventional wisdom, i.e., being a legitimate heir to the late David Broder of WaPo... and, needless to say, being a useful repository of... conventional wisdom.
Color me surprised by this sudden reality check on the part of... Mr. Cillizza... who gives us this compilation noting that political donors of meaning, to wit, the ones who donate big enough that politicians pay attention (not to mention do their bidding...) number barely 31,385 in this whole freaking country of 300,000,000 people...... he also links to this even more useful piece... WOW. Just wow.
The point seems obvious... these one-one hundredth of one per cent (to wit, .01per cent of the population) are the feudal lords... the rest of us just live in their world... as some kind of feudal vassal, or outright peasant... they actually own this world. Way to go Chris. We've suspected this to be true... but now you've provided us the numbers.
I hope you keep your job after telling us this.
From the great Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald, we get this piece indicating that the Dept. of Defense has decided to identify the 48 men who are deemed "too dangerous to try, but too Muslim to release" and hence subject to indefinite detention. For whatever reason, the Government decided to honor this particular Freedom of Information Act request... given that the Big O's approval ratings have finally taken the Bush-like nosedive finally appropriate to well, doing things like the latest NSA surveillance over reach, i.e., being Bush... maybe, a few interesting moves might be in order.
Then again, Candace treats us to her American life, Ira Glass's program being one of the few bright spots on National Propaganda Radio (NPR)... in this case, with a program segment devoted to talking to GTMO lawyers about the fact that they assume all of their telecom transactions (phone, e-mail, texts, faxes, etc.) are monitored by the government. As a sometimes frequent correspondent with said GTMO lawyers (particularly Candace), I assume I am under such monitoring myself... and the fact that I try to lead an exemplary life is no excuse (I tried to lead an exemplary life anyway).
But the fact is, I assume you are also being monitored... in my view, the limitations are now strictly technical and logistical... if they can, they are... once you can murder your own citizens with complete impunity, we can assume that "the law" is not an impediment to well, anything... the only concerns are "can we get away with it" and "can we get away with the adverse publicity if caught," Which takes us to where we are. I assume you're being monitored... care, or don't... but don't assume you have an "expectation of privacy" if you use any electronic media. Practically, of course, Uncle lacks the manpower to read and listen to everything... but if you piss off someone important.... just saying...
Here's a profile (is it a puff-piece? a hit-piece?) of America's "drone-master"... CIA Director John Brennan. Just an unassuming guy who went to a Catholic school in New Jersey's Hudson County who has gone on to order Mafia style hits... only in his case, for the Empire, rather than doing something less unsavory, like say, murdering other criminals for the Mafia.
And in yesterday's news today, we get this piece from Amy Goodman and Democracy Now! urging GTMO medical staff to comply with medical ethics and stop the force-feeding (you know.,.. we were only on this seven years ago with our interview with Dr. David Nicholl on the subject of... the medical ethics of force-feeding GTMO hunger-striking prisoners!) Not to belittle Amy... she also being one of the few bright-spots of broadcast journalism, and of course, she's keeping the hunger strike at GTMO front and center where it belongs. Goodonya, Amy.
Mostly, I got nothing. The only encouraging sign is that Obama's Bush-like behavior has finally started to yield Bush-like approval numbers. Yes, it's only symbolic and rhetorical, but consciousness has to start somewhere.
Again.... just saying.
Update: Candace observes that the list associated with the Miami Herald piece might be somewhat different from other lists that she has seen; I believe this link to Gawker will take one to the actual Freedom of Information Act response (I hope)... draw your own conclusions...