Major Todd Pierce (U.S. Army, Retired) is an attorney who served as a Judge
Advocate General (J.A.G.) officer in the United States Army. In that capacity,
he has served on the defense teams for two Guantanamo military commissions
defendants. On October 13, 2014 I had the privilege of interviewing Maj. Pierce
by telephone. What follows are my interview notes, as corrected by Maj. Pierce.
The Talking Dog: The customary first question is "where were you on Sept. 11th". In your case, I know you were on active duty (in Army Reserve command), and I know you've described almost the gestalt of the world changing as the day went on... can you describe that day, in terms of where you were geographically,
and anything else of note-- either small picture or big picture or both?
Todd Pierce: I was stationed, and on duty, at Fort Snelling, MN with the 88th U.S. Army Reserve Command in Minneapolis, MN. The Command covered 6 Midwestern states. A fellow officer came into my office and told me that a plane had hit
the WTC, and we thought, like everyone else, an accident, so I continued working until he came back in again and told me of the second plane hitting and we both knew then it was a terrorist act. I was the only JAG Officer in the Headquarters for most of the day as the senior JAG officer did not come in that day until about 3:30 pm, for some reason. Shortly after the second plane hit, a staff meeting was called where we discussed what had happened, and how to harden the many reserve centers in the command. Later in the day we knew we would be mobilizing soldiers for contingencies and preparations began to be made for that.
To me, there seemed to be a bit of hysteria taking hold of some of my fellow soldiers in their response as more details came in that day along with speculation on who was responsible. It was like being on the set of Fox News, which, unfortunately, was watched by far too many officers in their offices, guaranteeing an irrational, near-hysterical response from them. I thought if that was typical, there would be an over-reaction by the U.S. in many ways that would be detrimental to our interests. On the way home, I hit a traffic jam with the traffic backed up for about 5 miles. This turned out to be due to an elderly man standing on a highway overpass waving a flag frantically. I didn’t see that
as unusual under the circumstances but he was out there the rest of the week backing up traffic so that I finally complained to him. After all, I was serving my country and appreciated getting home after some long days. But it was further evidence of the hysteria that had taken hold of too many people, and we saw how President Bush, Dick Cheney, and the neocons would exploit that in the succeeding years; all to the detriment of the United States as their “strategy” was the exact opposite of how to respond to terrorism.
The Talking Dog:: As a JAG officer, you came to volunteer to defend those accused of violations of the law of war before the Guantanamo military
commissions. If you can, what led you to volunteer for such service-- was there anything particular in your own background that led you to do so? Please identify your clients, and their current whereabouts or dispositions (for example, we know that Mr. al-Bahlul's address remains "Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, apparently serving life sentence”).
Todd Pierce: I have represented two prisoners as a member of teams: Ibrahim al Qosi in his Military Commission (now back in his home country after serving an additional two years after his commission), and Ali al Bahlul in the appeal of his convictions, which is still going on, and also served as resource
counsel on a third case. I explained why I volunteered an article which appeared in the National Law Journal in 2011, “Guantanamo at 10.” There, I explained that I had grown up learning about harsh and illegal treatment of prisoners who should be treated as POWs because my father was taken prisoner by the Japanese in the Philippines 4 months after the beginning of World War II and survived the Bataan Death March and then three more years of captivity under the most grueling of conditions. Though he didn’t talk about it except when I would ask questions as I got older, it was clear that he had suffered severely as a result of the Japanese violations of the International Law standards for treatment of POWs.
The Talking Dog:: Segueing over to Mr. al-Bahlul, the D.C. Circuit recently issued a broad "en banc" opinion finding that some of what al-Bahlul was charged with and convicted of [during a proceeding where the defendant stood mute] aren't exactly "war crimes". Can you tell me, procedurally, where Mr. al-Bahlul's case now stands (notwithstanding Mr. Al-Bahlul's refusal to participate in his own
Todd Pierce: Oral argument was heard October 22nd before a panel of the D.C. Circuit. The only issue is whether conspiracy to commit terrorism is a war
crime. The court has already held that material support for terrorism and solicitation to terrorism are not war crimes, so only the conviction of conspiracy remains. The government's theory of war crimes is based on conflating martial law-- military governance over occupied territory or under a declaration of martial law in domestic territory -- with other aspects of the law of war, in order to try to create "war crimes." For purposes of the commissions, if the conduct alleged is not a war crime, then the commissions have no jurisdiction to try al-Bahlul, or anyone else, for that conduct. Again, after the Hamdan II decision, inchoate crimes of "material support" and "solicitation" associated with terrorism are no longer deemed war crimes. Traditionally, war crimes were thought to include conspiracy only if it was conspiracy to commit genocide or aggressive war-- conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism has never before been a basis for war crimes jurisdiction. Procedurally, the en banc D.C. Circuit acting as a whole vacated al-Bahlul's convictions for everything except conspiracy, and that is the issue in front of the Court now. While the government concedes that conspiracy is not a war crime under International Law, they have invented a “domestic common law of war,” taken mostly from the Civil War martial law cases.
The Talking Dog:: Following up on that point, can you expand on "domestic common law of war," and tie it to something you said that to me is the most
succinct shorthand for developments in law these last dozen years: "national
security law = martial law"? Please spend as much, or as little, time as necessary with Civil War precedents as a basis for these developments (though David Addington and John Yoo and the gang would have presumably gone to Hundred Years War or Peloponnesian War or Storage Wars if necessary to bring about Dick Cheney's dream of a shining interrogation center on a hill), as well as discussing "we're all Cheneyites now”.
Todd Pierce: The government is indeed relying on a conflation of the law of war and the application of martial law in the Northern states during the Civil
War. Taking those cases as precedents, even though they only applied in U.S.
Union territory under the declarations of martial law in certain areas of the North and then throughout the North with Lincoln’s declaration of martial law in September 1862, the U.S. government is essentially asserting they can exercise martial law throughout the world. It has to be noted that in the Civil War, martial law was only declared for the Union States, not the Confederates as the Confederates were treated as combatants and received belligerent rights so that they were not prosecuted even for killing Union soldiers.
But what the U.S. government has been doing since John Yoo and his cohorts
invented the scheme is to constantly assert that we “are at war,” and therefore the President, as Commander in Chief, has virtual powers of a dictator under the law of war, to which martial law is a branch of. The apparent contention is that we don't need a declaration of martial law, because a state of war in any non-constitutional country IS effectively a state of martial law. Of course, our Constitution prevents this. And so, the architects of the war on terror's legal paradigm go back to the era of Lincoln and the Civil War, when, of course, the nation did face a genuine existential threat. Martial law was actually declared in September 1862 specifically to suppress “ disloyal acts” in the North, which primarily was “speech" and as a result, military commanders had broad authority
to pick up what they believed to be pro-Confederate sympathizers, with detention
authority and trial by “drumhead courts,” military commissions. This is what government officials, such as Military Commissions Chief Prosecutor Brig. Gen. Mark Martins proudly hale as part of our legal traditions, even though they were thoroughly repudiated immediately after the Civil War by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Ex Parte Milligan case.
The new danger is that the "domestic common law of war" has creeped into our
overall statutory scheme: we now have Section 1021 which actually permits domestic military detention of persons, not excluding American citizens, merely suspected of “supporting” terrorism, without Bill of Rights protections. It has not been implemented, but we know, as a result of the position taken by the government in Hedges v. Obama that, under this provision, even a journalist such as Chris Hedges could find himself
subject to military detention. This has introduced a degree of martial law into the ordinary course of daily life; it is very dangerous, and we do not know how it will play out. Certainly, Barack Obama has not used this provision for the purpose of detaining citizens (or journalists) for speech, but his Administration has asserted the right to do it, and we certainly have no idea how a future President would use these provisions.
The Talking Dog:: Please discuss the revelations of Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and/or Julian Assange-- particularly in the context of law of war issues and the other items we've been discussing, and tell me, please, how a
democracy can function when the government operates in secrecy?
Todd Pierce: The simple answer to that question is, it can't. Without the people's right to know, there is no meaningful democracy. The people under our
Constitutional system as the ultimate sovereign cannot operate without critical information as to what their government is up to. Indeed, they cannot even make
a meaningful judgment as to electing candidate A vs. candidate B when they have
no access to real information. We just do not end up with a meaningful democracy
without meaningful information that isn't classified!
Snowden, Assange, Manning-- all did a great service to this country. Going back to Vietnam, we have learned that our military leaders are not all-wise. Even an ultra-conservative like the American James Burnham understood this in recognizing that the World War II Germans had entrusted all information and decision making in the hands of a few individuals, all having only a military background as far as leadership, and who had internalized that way of thinking. With that background, too often they are incapable of thinking more broadly beyond just achieving an immediate military objective, with inevitable victory to follow in their eyes. Unfortunately, we have been giving virtually unfettered discretion to similar minded militarists, such as when President Obama acceded to demands by Generals Stanley McChrystal and David Petraeus, and former military officers John McCain and Lindsay Graham, when they called for surges in troop numbers in Iraq and Afghanistan, making matters worse. We are getting an idea of just how much the government and the military are trying to keep secret.
This amounts to a dereliction of duty in a democracy by both our political and military leaders, and it ends up being to the detriment of the conduct of the war against terrorism, and redounds to the benefit of our enemies. The Constitution is our greatest strength-- not a weakness- and it gives we the people the absolutely right to know what we need to know to make meaningful democratic decisions, especially vital issues of how to conduct foreign policy, contrary to John Yoo’s and Dick Cheney’s claims.
The Talking Dog:: Anwar al-Awlaki... please discuss, particularly in the context of law of war issues and the other items we've been discussing (feel free to also discuss my college classmate Barack's handling of legal issues associated with what used to be called "the war on terror").
Todd Pierce: The government will not reveal the information associated with the decision to kill Mr. al-Awlaki, or its legal rationale for doing so, except a heavily redacted version. We know that they have determined that they can target "operational leaders" of al Qaeda, and they have said al-Awlaki was designated as an operational leader, but we have to take everything that the military says with a grain of salt as its their policy to dissemble. It may seem to be funny to start characterizing a propagandist like al-Awlaki as an "operational leader." But under the expansive meaning of “belligerency,” even propaganda amounting only to opinions contrary to U.S. policy can result in elevation to "operational leader" status and then personal targeting, which is similar to what was done under the Phoenix Program of assassination during the Vietnam War.
Once again, this is based on an expansive reading of military law precedent from the martial law context during the Civil War. Then, newspapermen, publishers, even just outspoken persons with opinions, who might "say something embarrassing about the army"-- might end up being designated as "operational leaders" because their speech could "discourage enlistments"—an arguably hostile act!
I wrote about this in the context of Vietnam era generals... their ridiculous contentions that "discouraging speech" could serve to result in a loss of
national will to fight. This is precisely the logic employed by Germany in the 1930's and 1940's, and used in their infamous "people's courts" and "special courts" and similar structures. "War treason" was found to be anything embarrassing to the regime.
Troublingly, it appears we have adopted similar legal forms as Nazi Germany
for these principles. A German Jewish lawyer named Ernst Fraenkel, in a book called The Dual State, observed that martial law was the constitution of the Third Reich (he was writing in the late 1930's, before the full brunt of the Holocaust and World War II had taken place). He analyzed the legal forms of the
Third Reich as a prerogative state, which coexisted (albeit in a superior position) with the normative state. The prerogative state under der Fuhrer is, of course, martial law, or as our Supreme Court once called it: Martial Rule. Under Section 1021 of the NDAA, we have a degree of martial law baked into our system now. Of course, the Supreme Court's case of ex parte Milligan rolled back the martial law of the Civil War, after it ended. Indeed, much of the conduct of Union Authorities during the Civil War violated the Constitution. But that was the one period of our history when there was an existential threat to the continuing existence of the U.S. as it was then known, unlike today.
The concept of the President as commander in chief with unlimited war powers is what amounts to a prerogative state as are any authoritarian states in history and was revived from that very brief and repudiated Civil War period by by legal authoritarian John Yoo and the Bush legal team; their notion that the President has unfettered dictatorial powers is obviously wrong-- but it is shoving its way into legal doctrine still under the Obama legal team with opinions such as the Drone memo.
The Talking Dog:: Can you tell me how your Guantanamo commission representation has effected you personally, professionally, ethically or any
other way you'd like to discuss?
Todd Pierce: For me, working on these cases has revealed just how dangerous the government's positions are. I have been outspoken in trying to "out" the
government's contentions, and in arguing as to why we should not be follow this tack. Second, the government's position actually puts us in greater danger. Our leaders are guessing-- they actually do not know what they are doing. But as a result of these policies-- attack everyone, anywhere based on any perception of threat-- huge wealth transfers in favor of the military industrial complex (and allied corrupt foreign leaders) have taken place. And so, I am trying to become even more outspoken. Through getting together with others (like our friend Andy
Worthington); and trying to form groups involved in upholding the rule of law.
The Talking Dog:: Do you have a prediction for, say, five years out from now, and ten years out from now? Presumably, the Afghan war will technically be long over... other than the "high value" detainee commission trials still not being
finished, do you have any other predictions for the Guantanamo project?
Todd Pierce: We have to acknowledge that our government contains genuine authoritarian militarists. Sure, there are the McCains and Grahams, but there is
also the Hillary Clinton wing of the Democratic Party. We have Leon Panetta, the former Defense Secretary, telling us that he anticipate that the wars coming up will entail thirty years of fighting! It is amazing that someone can look forward into the future and suggest exactly how long a war will last... But of course, if we plan on occupying so many countries, this is what happens.
The "Pentagon's New Map" lays out the world into core countries, meaning the United States and allies Western Europe-- and then we would everything else into categories of the periphery, and then police the rest of the world. Of course, there might be some rebellion from this arrangement! As I've written before, we're all Cheneyites now-- the whole world is now subject to our military domination. We have actually decided to define rebellion against U.S. occupation as terrorism. (Another definition, of course, might be "blowback" as Chalmers
Johnson defined it).
So when Panetta says we will be at war for thirty years, it means we will be looking for places to intervene, resulting in yet more "terrorism" resulting in yet more war. It will end catastrophically both constitutionally and financially.
In that context, Guantanamo is an ideal detention facility for authoritarians! Island prisons have historically been favored for this purpose. Bagram is working out to be another... the United States is now taking other prisoners from all over the world to Bagram-- in the middle of a war zone! At this point, extra-legal "courts" and military detention apparatuses are now firmly in place. How far will this goes? It's anybody's guess. It will continue to erode our basic protections, and, if unchecked, will bring about an end to our constitutional system (except for what Fraenkel would call "the normative
state"-- things like routine divorces, property conveyances and the like), while the "prerogative state" swallows everything else, in gross violation of both our Constitution and international law.
The Talking Dog:: Please comment on the recent machinations re: "the Islamic State" (ISIS, ISIL, or whatever you want to call it) in the context of issues we have been discussing, particularly our nation's apparent predilection to try to occupy every other country on Earth.
Todd Pierce: That's just it-- our response to ISIS appears to be part of our need to occupy everything everywhere! Our fingers are still all over Iraq! While
Obama is accused of having a failed policy for withdrawing troops from Iraq, all he did was what Bush had previously agreed to do.
At a book signing by Thomas Ricks after he had exalted Petraeus for an hour, Ricks immediately conceded the surge had been a failure, agreeing with an audience member (me) that it was a failure because there was no reconciliation reached among the parties already there. And so we have a fiction about "success" in Iraq, but all American policies led to the creation of ISIS, beginning with the American invasion of Iraq, and actually before with the years of sanctions on Iraq which Madeline Albright admits killed at least 500,000 Iraqi children.
Now, of course, ISIL is being used as a pretext to go back in! This, of course, will only accelerate disaster. And as we ramp up, ISIS gets stronger, because demonizing of that group by the United States is an effective combat multiplier for them, as we go into a
new war! ISIL is clearly willing to have this fight-- and our demonizing only bolsters the position of those who see the United States as the cause of the problems over there and seeing ISIS as willing to confront American imperialism.
The Iraq war has been called the greatest strategic blunder in American history-- by General William Odom! General Odom was once Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and seems to have been the last high ranking American General who understood real strategic interests and not confusing them with immediate, transitory tactical interests which always call for another war. Obama compounded the disaster by adopting Bush's policy of trying to topple regimes we didn't like. General Wesley Clark told us that the Bush Administration was planning exactly that- to topple regimes-- and it was their intent to do so all along. So, this is what we've been doing-- the line is continuous-- Iraq, Libya, now a try for Syria... this led directly to the birth of ISIL, at the behest of Obama in trying to take out Assad, we created ISIL ourselves! The quandary of course, is that we're now facing the inevitable blowback that this kind of activity creates. The more of it we do, the more we ultimately lose. Right now, giving up some of our "control" would be the best policy... instead we're trying to find a "fix" that amounts to more of same.
The Talking Dog:: Anything else I should have asked you but didn't, or anything else you believe needs to be discussed on these issues?
Todd Pierce: As a military officer, the oath I took was not to the country,
or to the President. It was to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Indeed, to defend this nation is to defend the Constitution as that has been shown to be our greatest strength in permitting dissent to government policy which has so often been misguided. This is particularly true during wartime, especially a feigned war as is the present. Americans had better take an interest in how their Constitution is being eroded before their eyes, or it will inure to all of our detriment. The people must demand a genuine rule of law, and end to these continuing wars and their ongoing subversion of the Constitution. It damages all of us and diminishes national security, paradoxically.
The Talking Dog: I join all of my readers in thanking Major Todd Pierce for that fascinating and informative 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 David Marshall, 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, Laurel Fletcher, author of "The Guantanamo Effect" documenting the experience of Guantanamo detainees after their release, and with John Hickman, author of "Selling Guantanamo," critiquing the official narrative surrounding Guantanamo, to be of interest.
Candace let me know that her client Abdul al-Ghizzawi has finally been reunited (after thirteen years) with his wife and daughter (the latter, whom he last saw as an infant) since American policy ripped them apart, and then arbitrarily kept him at Guantanamo Bay until 2010 (he was released then to the Republic of Georgia, and made his way home to post-Qaddaffi Libya last year).
Interestingly, al-Ghizzawi notified Candace of the happy news (and Candace forwarded to me) two days ago-- on my 52nd birthday; I accepted it as a birthday gift from providence, just as I once accepted a postcard from al-Ghizzawi (forwarded via Candace and "the secure facility," the postcard, one of the few "comfort items" provided to him by the Red Cross, was also one of the few things he could enjoy presenting as a gift to those he believed were helpful to him, or who had otherwise shown him kindness).
In less happy news, the petition for certiorari review to the U.S. Supreme Court for Candace's other GTMO client, Razak Ali, has been denied (unsurprisingly, but still disappointingly).
As Candace's late great friend Studs Turkel used to say, "hope dies last." But, I'm afraid, it's not necessarily immortal.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and leads to a couple of bowling allies in Brooklyn, and is traversed by Uber cabs... so we learned from the cautionary tale of Dr.
Craig Spencer, a self-described goofball who heroically treated ebola cases in Guinea, West Africa, as a physician with Doctors Without
Brains Borders... decided that his "self-quarantine" was too restricting, so he "voluntarily" checked out of... his apartment, and hopped a couple of car services across the East River from Upper Manhattan (near his regular job at New York Presbyterian Hospital) to Williamsburg, Brooklyn... so he could go bowling. Only God knows what else he did, and who else he contaminated came in contact with. Oh... did I mention that he has now tested positive for ebola? Maybe that's kind of important to know... [Hey, why should Ottawa get all the excitement?]
So far, so good, until the good doctor spiked 103 degree fever, and was carted involuntarily off to Bellevue, where his quarantine will no longer be "self-managed." [Bellevue seems somehow appropriate, no?] Seems... Dr. Spencer tested positive for... ebola.
Defies further comment. Should do wonders for Uber's business. Dr. Spencer apparently is here to go bowling, update his Facebook page and otherwise be an infectious goofball. The rest of us only have to try to live in this city. Nice-- a physician who has seen the gruesomeness of this disease intimately-- gets back here and handles it all... as a goof. A huge joke on the rest of us.
Except that it's really hard to imagine any other American not behaving the same way... I mean, everything is about instant gratification, self-indulgence, damn the broader consequences... I mean, Dr. Spencer seems like... any one of us.
For a rather grim math lesson about the ebola outbreak, this post from John Michael Greer will more than do the trick. To summarize, absent successful intervention, various factors that slow these things down some, dumb luck, etc., if the present reports of the ebola virus doubling in infections every three weeks or so are in fact accurate, and human transmission patterns proceed apace in our ever more "globalized" world... an outbreak like this, at that rate (with somewhere between 50-90% fatality rate of those contracting ebola)... would result in something like everyone on Earth being exposed by, say, end of next year, with between roughly 1/3 and 1/2 of humanity dead as a result. More or less, of course.
But... please tell us about ISIS, or Ukraine (it's been a while). or the NFL and its enlightened attitude toward battering women or child abuse... or about the sainted Derek Jeter (suggested to be "the most ineffective defensive player in any position,".. the "worst fielder in the majors")... or much of anything else. Please don't tell us how the number of cases of ebola now in Texas... may have doubled (albeit "only" to two, but hey-- surely our fabulous Western medicine will save us from any kind of really nasty outbreak... because... we want it to?).
We'll have to count for leadership on protecting this planet from a possibly unstoppable and viciously fatal outbreak on a White House that can't seem to keep track of break-ins on itself.
Ironically, this would be an excellent time for "hope" and "change"... we can hope that this isn't "the big one," and it can be contained, which will involve change in American leadership (and that of its usual allies) away from their usual dumb-ass-ery.
Prayer may or may not be ineffective... but it seems like a pretty good idea right about now.
It actually slipped my mind that, two days ago, this blog slipped through its thirteenth anniversary; I suppose I should give it a bar mitzvah, but then, just how old is it in [talking] dog years? Damned if I know.
So many things seem so old and tired (besides my nearly fifty-two year old self).
Anyway, we can start with this Atlantic observation (and of course, hit-piece) of Hillary Clinton (she hasn't gone away either; btw she and I share a birthday). The piece notes Hillary's campaign shtick (including her recent book) are all about playing it "safe," and not coming out with bold policy pronouncements or prescriptions or anything particularly interesting, the money line being "Has America ever been so thoroughly tired of a candidate before the campaign even began?" The piece fails to question why we can believe she wouldn't be the logical continuation of the existing order, meaning Barack Obama's third term/George W. Bush's fifth term/Bill Clinton's seventh term. Since that's what Wall Street wants us to have [note this observation, also from The Atlantic, about how all too often, financial criminals avoid paying back restitution for their crimes in the few instances they even are held accountable any more], we can be reasonably sure that's what we're going to have. Hillary won't rock boats, maybe she'll be even more hawkish in trying to hold the empire together as it falls apart, and probably will be... indistinguishable from her recent predecessors. You'd think even her opponents (many of whom simply object to a woman wielding apparent power, even a dynastic like Mrs. Clinton) would be as tired of opposing her as everyone else is of seeing her, by now. Sigh.
One thing we can expect to continue from either Mrs. Clinton (or whomever instead of her Wall Street decrees is sufficiently favorable it to be permitted to accede to the office) is a continuation of our draconian policies toward swarthy people in general, and those whom we arbitrarily accuse of terrrrrrrorism in particular. If there's a poster boy for what I have been trying to call your attention to here at TTD for lo these years, it would be tortured American citizen Jose Padilla. You will recall that in 2002, Padilla was arrested "on the battlefield" of O'Hare Airport (the whole world is now the battlefield, boys and girls), summarily stripped of his rights, thrown into years of total isolation in a military brig, and then just as abruptly [on the eve of the Supreme Court granting his second habeas petition [the first dismissed on a bullsh*t technicality of "improper venue"] moved to civilian custody and charged, tried and convicted on made-up charges of conspiracy to conspire to maybe make phone calls to bad people, yada yada yada... seventeen years four months in a super-max. Our friend Andy Worthington gives us the details of a court decision by his sentencing judge (Judge Marcia Cooke of federal court in Miami) who, following an appeals court decision that her 17 year sentence wasn't draconian enough and increased it to 21 years. As Padilla is a former Chicago gang banger, but most importantly, he is a Latino who converted to Islam, most Americans probably wouldn't care what happened to him-- no matter how arbitrarily and harshly (and illegally) he has been treated-- even if they actually knew (which, of course, they do not), and even if what happened to him was widely reported (which, of course, it is not).
And as to Scotland, after all the trouble William Wallace went through to get Scotland its freeeeeeedummmmm!!!!... it seems the Scots don't actually want it. They apparently want the same old arrangement they've had for over 300 years... freedom is one thing... but pensions and National Health Service... are quite another.
Did the President's Big Speech [TM] threatening to kick ass and take names re: "the Islamic State[TM]" bring back that awesome 9-11 spirit? Because Paranoia Is Patriotic [TM].
It's That Day [TM] all over again. Just forty-one years ago on 11 September, a
CIA-sponsored coup d'etat military junta that the United States was happy about toppled the democratically elected government of Chile and then murdered that nation's rightful president Salvador Allende President Salvador Allende committed suicide.
And, of course, it is just two years after Benghazi [TM].
In case you're wondering just what these seemingly disparate (or not so disparate) events have in common, they are all what happens when the empire bites off just a little more than it can chew, and the costs of maintaining garrisons in over 140 countries finally exceed the value of sucking those over 140 countries dry-- a point we may not have reached at the time we engineered the overthrow of Allende, but have certainly reached now-- and as such, the empire starts to reap the seeds of its own destruction that are intrinsic to it being an empire.
Yes, it's only been thirteen years since the ultimate Rube Goldberg-esque combination of clusterf***s imaginable (for those convinced the whole thing was some kind of inside job-- to you, I ask, do you really attribute that level of competence to the people to whom you are attributing it?) Then again, maybe not so fast... please feel free to look at my own more contemporaneous take, called "Let's roll: alternative version.." Whatever actually transpired (as opposed to what we are told transpired), the events just thirteen years ago today have been consistently used to justify the necessary internal crackdown on the rubes in the imperial mother country which we have been enjoying these last thirteen years. Yes, a few irregulars mostly from Saudi-- the principal energy supplier of the empire-- caused a great deal of trouble, and set quite a few things in motion that, in a political vacuum, appear to still be in motion.
In short, game, set, match: democracies are about reasoned discourse, and tyrannies are about appeals to raw emotion. Which one are we about? Don't answer that.
Thirteen does not appear to be the charm re: this 9-11 thing. I have no grand insights. And if I did, they would be lost on Americans anyway, it would seem.
One wondering what would take the situation in Ukraine (now featuring a Russian aid convoy on its way to Eastern Ukraine which, as Brother Dmitry observes, will likely be delayed or outright barred from entry while the Ukrainians figure out how to shake it down) off of the front page, might think, "the situation in Gaza."
There, of course, a tentative cease-fire seems to be holding, as both sides may have achieved their respective political ends from pummeling Palestinian civilians (or in the case of Hamas, getting them pummeled), fulfilling Clausewitz's famous axiom that war is just politics by other means. But what could take that off the front page?
Perhaps events in Iraq, where long-time
unreliable American puppet Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki finally resigned amidst pressure to have someone else take that role, as the "Islamist State of Syria and Iraq" or "ISIS" (sometimes known as ISIL, sometimes known as the latest group of Saudi/Qatari-backed extremist nuts to overrun an already bad neighborhood) as the humanitarian situation worsens.. and American airstrikes, air drops (which Brother Dmitry notes will hopefully help the Devil worshippers) and shit.. which will probably help our friends in Kurdistan.
Now that seems awfully impressive... I wonder what could take the possible reentry of this country into a war in Iraq off the front page?
Of course: big celebrity news, specifically, Mortis Mork (apparently, at his own hand). While I liked Robin Williams just fine, his suicide wasn't, in my view, even the premier celebrity death of the moment, notwithstanding that in terms of media coverage, it utterly and totally blew away the death of the much more culturally important Lauren Bacall (our old neighbor in Greenwich Village, btw) just a few weeks short of her 90th birthday.
But hey... being disposable is the highest American value is it not? And hence... rock star smashes scissors and the front page of the paper! (We'll have to do something to keep Ferguson, MO out of the papers and air-time soon too... while martial law demonstrations, such as last year's Boston Marathon
false-flag attack terrorist bombing and the resultant lock down of the nation's tenth largest metropolitan area are useful in their own right... we don't want to make it too obvious for the rubes.)
Anyway, you didn't think our highest value was breathable air, did you? My own lungs are finally filling up with crappy American air again after a brief lungs-clearing sojourn to our neighbor to the North, to compete in my first international event, Saint John, NB's Marathon by the Sea (running it being the easy part, compared to the 11 hour drive each way).
Oh well... this has been Rock [star] paper scissors. Now back to you, Wolf Blitzer!
It's (my college classmate) President Barack Obama's 53rd birthday... I hear he's keeping a low profile for the occasion.
Given the way things are going... understandable move.
Regarding the most recent Malyasian Airlines disaster (maybe God just doesn't like that airline?)... as he does with so much going on in our world, Brother Dmitry explains it all for you, in this brilliant thought experiment. Bottom line: now that we are safely thirty years beyond 1984, aside from everything being "doubleplusgood"... we apparently no longer need ask for "evidence" from those purporting to "report" the "news." We are simply provided the regime's narrative, and voila, everything is settled for us. No further thought needed. In this case,
we are at war with Eurasia; we have always been at war with Eurasia John Kerry tells us that Putin and Russia are eeeeevil, and have now taken their eeeeevil to shoot down a civilian airliner, either at their own hands or at the hands of their allied separatist rebel friends in Eastern Ukraine near Donetsk... the only problems with this are the various pieces of evidence (i.e., the "pro-Russian separatists" lacked the means, motives, opportunities or MOs to do this, whereas the Ukrainian regime had all of the above)...
Dmitry himself suggests his own explanation is but a thought-experiment, and you (whomever you are), should consider the evidence on your own terms. But alas, John Kerry's job (as it was Hillary Clinton's before him) seems to try to draw Russia (or someone) into some kind of broader war that, hopefully, will become the kind of (magically non-nuclear, or at least nuclear where "our side" wins) World War that completely distracts our addled (and, as recent events show, clearly not very bright) population from their domestic woes (an ongoing economic contraction, an income/wealth distribution that would make most banana republics gag, health-care costs exploding even as health care "outcomes" continue deterioriating, the full brunt of "Obama-care" ostensibly finishing off any possibility of growth in full-time employment, etc., etc.). Thus far, at least, thankfully, Mr. Putin and his minions, somewhat addled themselves as they are by recent developments, still apparently refuse to take the bait.
BTW... in a similar note, we should probably recall that the current Israeli incursion into Gaza originated in a stepped up assault by Israel against Hamas in supposed retaliation for the murder of three Israeli teenagers... but you'll excuse me if I don't recall any "evidence" linking Hamas (or for that matter anyone in particular) to the murders of the three teens. No question that Hamas was suspected... indeed, that organization may well have had the means, motives, opportunities or MOs to do it... but I have still not seen any evidence linking Hamas to the deaths of Naftali Frankel, Eyal Yifrach and Gilad Shaar... although, without doubt, the stepped up assault on Hamas (razing of buildings, arrests of officials, etc.) did seem to coincide with Hamas engaging in stepped up rocket fire towards Israel, which has culminated in the current Israeli assault against Gaza (which has now managed to kill hundreds of Palestinians, and, for a change, a couple of dozen deaths on the Israeli side as well) ... has anyone noticed how uncritically we have been trained to accept the premise that Hamas was somehow responsible for the (supposedly) precipitating event, the specific murders of three Israeli teenagers? It's now a reflex. (As with the Ukrainian situation above, I join Dmitry in suggesting "consider the evidence yourself"... Hamas may well have been responsible for the murders and pro-Russian separatist responsible for downing the airliner... I'd simply rather not take these things completely on faith, which is how they are being presented.)
Kind of how, oh, uncritically we have accepted the guilt of men held at Guantanamo Bay, notwithstanding that, so far at least, none of them have been tried or found guilty of anything specifically associated with the 9-11 events (and of course, all but a handful have never been charged, let alone tried, for anything at all... and yet, their guilt is simply assumed.)
God knows, as we quickly approach 100 years since the commencement of the Great War... which, to this day, the full causes of the First World War remain in dispute, it was agreed that it was "a series of unfortunate events" (many of which were completely half-assed, including a belief by everyone involved that any conflict would be quick and decisive)... maybe it's time we recalled that "our betters" didn't know what the f*ck they were really doing then... and we have no reason (let alone "evidence") that they do now.. and maybe we should start using our own minds for a change, and demanding actual evidence for premises before accepting them... particularly when the consequences are likely to be grave and catastrophic?
Do not look at anything like Jon Rappoport's blog here, because as we all know, none of us have any power, let alone power over our own imaginations, to do anything at all (let alone pursue actual happiness or fulfillment).
Best we take in things like a horrifying plane crash in Ukrainian airspace that Russian and Ukrainian officials seem hellbent on blaming on each other (along with other horrors associated with an ongoing insurrection in Ukraine), or for that matter, a horrifying conflict in the Gaza Strip that both Israel and the Palestinians on blaming on each other, or the horrifying recent developments in Iraq which the United Nations wants to blame on someone or other, or even legislative leaders suing executive leaders, blaming them for failures of something or other, and not ask too many questions.
Do these (and innumerable other) signs of discord (amidst various other declines, such as overall health of our economies, environments, populations, moral soundings, etc.) tell us something... perhaps we are failing at something as a collective (community, nation, species, planet, etc.)?
Perhaps this is all just
some kind of failure of imagination, individual, collective or otherwise something we'll have to live with.
Happy 4th of July. This, from a bygone era, while still the official public narrative, is now just a nice piece of Clinton-era nostalgia... for those actually nostalgic for the Clinton-era... hmmm....
The Grey Lady's Charlie Savage just gives us the (redacted) memo itself of the Justice Department's stated justification for the state-sanctioned murder of U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki by the United States government in a targeted drone strike. The memo was released as part of a court decision by the U.S. Second CIrcuit Court of Appeals in New York. Wapo has a bit more (including a citation to the wrong amendment). And for the usual spot-on analysis we get from Marcy and the gang, try this and related posts from empty wheel.
Amusingly, the author of the memo was former DOJ official David Barron, who is now serving (with life tenure) as a federal Circuit Court of Appeals Judge in Boston, joining such other luminaries as "torture memo" signer Jay Bybee in the capacity of federal appellate judge.
Well, well. I don't know whether I am more offended by the targeted killing of specific human beings by their own government (which I suspect is nothing really new), or by the attempt to argue it is legally justified (which I suspect is quite new, with its antecedents in the Bush White House and John Yoo's famous "torture memos.")
This new attempt at legal whitewashing of the unspoken and unjustifiable brutality associated with war, as usual, misses the point (presumably that being "change we can believe in" by "constitutional scholar" Barack Hussein Obama). So I'll make the point: the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides, simply,
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.[emphasis the dog's].
How hard is that? Due process of law. No, that does not mean a determination of political expedience by politicians acting in secret, which is presumably what happened with Mr. al-Awlaki, seeing as those "proceedings" remain secret. Not to mention that due process is probably offended by the treatment of al-Awlaki's teenage son, also summarily murdered by a drone strike.
Alrightie then. Entering wars on completely false pretenses, duly whitewashed by politically cowardly toadies-to-lobbyists? Check. Torturing the prisoners sold to us during the course of said wars? Check. Detaining anyone we feel like, citizen, legal resident or alien alike, on any terms we like, "constitution" be damned? Check. And now... liquidate enemies of the state, citizen or otherwise, anytime we want, on whatever (secret) grounds we want? Checkaroony.
Seems that 9-11 changed quite a bit-- if not "de facto", certainly "de jure"... And we have to learn about it through the teeth-pulling of a lengthy freedom of information litigation, resulting in a highly-redacted release (among the redacted subjects being the specific determination associated with al-Awlaki himself, and why his actions warranted summary execution).
Ah.... so much going on with this story... so none of it boding anything good...
As we encounter our first full day of summer, I give you... a Mermaid Parade image from New York's Mayor Bill DeBlasio and family, featuring King Neptune Dante DeBlasio and Queen Mermaid Chiara DeBlasio. Having dragged my own family to said Mermaid Parade (in Coney Island) on enough occasions... nice to see Familia DeBlasio in the spirit.
Nope... nothing snarky to say here folks... move along. Too nice a day for that sort of thing (just back from the Queens 10-K... in more or less the usual time... long trip for a short race...) And perhaps Team USA will prevail in World Cup Soccer... maybe... Again... too nice a day for snark... just enjoy it...
I am a tad troubled that I find myself rooting for "the traitor" [Edward Snowden] and against the minions of "our side" (assuming my college classmate [President Barack Obama] is even on "our side") in this WaPo retrospective on just how extensive the efforts of the Obama Administration were to nab
any and all defenders of freedom all dissidents Mr. Snowden. Of course, these efforts were monumentally futile. All it took to thwart them was anyone who had any intelligence whatever (and Mr. Snowden seemed to have oodles of intelligence in every sense of the word.)
In particular, there is a lengthy discussion of the forced landing of the Bolivian Presidential jet in Vienna, which the article confirms (via its express denial) that it was the White House that brought this about. That plane was, of course, carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales, who suggested during a visit to Moscow that he might grant Snowden asylum... The heavy handed forced landing came about even though (1) Snowden would probably have had the benefit of sovereign Bolivian protection, (2) the Austrians were not likely to commit the kind of kidnapping and/or piracy that our government has become so noted for (largely because of our ham-handednes) and (3) there was no evidence Snowden was even on the plane (which took off from another airport than the one Snowden found himself jammed up in).
While publicly, President Obama suggested that he wasn't going to use "military assets" to get at "a 29 year old hacker"... I don't think that there's any doubt whatsoever that had Snowden not put himself on territory where any American action (other than loud diplomatic begging) would have likely started World War III (Chinese Hong Kong followed by Russia)... if not an outright killer drone (my bet), certainly a team would have been sent to
murder him liquidate the enemies of the state bring Mr. Snowden to "justice."
But Snowden had the good sense to plant his feet on the soil of nations somewhat hostile to the United States in possession of nuclear weapons. It is unfortunate that Mr. Snowden concluded he could not get anything resembling a fair trial here, let alone, fair treatment... even more unfortunate that Snowden happens to be correct about this, of course (see "Manning, Chelsea f/k/a Bradley," "Assange, Julian" and for that matter, "Swartz, Aaron").
In the end, what I take out of the WaPo piece is the ultimate futility of the Obama Administration-- even in trying to trample upon and then urinate over any semblance of Constitutional values by trying to capture the intrepid fool who disclosed the full extent of just how psychotically
evil extensive the Obama Administration's surveillance efforts actually are (and yes, boys and girls, these are the programs that John Ashcroft once refused to sign off on... Ashcroft, who announced the arrest of American Jose Padilla while he himself was in Moscow!). The same futility in misplaying Bowe Bergdahl as some kind of "national feel good moment," or in so many other misplays (see "Guantanamo, close within one year;" "Iraq," "Syria" and "Ukraine."
And so, when our allegedly liberal democratic government schemes to behave like the most ruthless of Stalinists... I get kind of mildly amused when an actual former KGB colonel seems to end up outplaying it... at virtually every turn. Ah, the irony, that someone standing up for the most basic of American values... obtains asylum in Vladimir Putin's Moscow. The one on the Volga.
Isn't "you're welcome" what we're supposed to say to the people we've "liberated," whenever the inevitable results of our magnanimous intervention in their affairs results in a gift from Wonder-Working providence? One such case is Iraq... featuring the fall of Mosul, Iraq (as well as, previously, Fallujah) to Islamist Sunni insurgents called "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" ("ISIS"). One would think that, perhaps, an American embassy garrison force of some kind-- and a hell of a lot of
mercenaries security contractors-- might be of some assistance... but evidently, the Iraqis are, ahem, on their own, by and large. Presumably, this is the sort of shape of things to come-- as a spent American military that has already overstretched itself breaking things is simply in no position to even attempt trying to patch them back together...
Meanwhile, of course, as world's third-largest-oil-producer Iraq is racked by an insurgency, our relations with numbers one and two (that would be Russia and Saudi Arabia-- the order is unclear these days)... aren't so good. Russia might be a little pissed about lots of things, such as our pissing in its cornflakes over Ukraine, or perhaps our apparent preparations for nuclear war (that sort of thing might piss off China too... not to mention anyone on Earth with a brain... or a pulse...) And our relations with Saudi have been somewhat hampered by... Syria...
Iran... and perhaps Iraq, now... even as we fantasize (as in "pipe dream".. or pipeline dream) of being the Saudi Arabia of fracking, or some such nonsense...
Anyway, we are being outplayed diplomatically everywhere, and honestly, while one never thinks a seemingly minor (albeit visible) plenipotentiary like "Secretary of State" matters that much, it seems replacing Hillary's Brain in Search of a Haircut with John Kerry's Haircut in Search of a Brain... has been a huge net loss for the United States... in every conceivable way.
Oh well... Does anyone remember the "Pottery Barn Rule" often espoused by Colin Powell and RIchard Armitage, to the effect of "you break it, you buy it"... referring specifically to Iraq? Well, we sure as Shell or Chevron broke it... funny how we seem to be avoiding the bill though.