The Talking Dog

January 31, 2012, If Iran the Circus

Alrightie then: this from WaPo's Judy Greg Miller, in which the Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, Jr. suggested in prepared testimony that Iran is planning on terrrrrrrrorist strikes within our precious bodily fluids the Amurkan homeland, in retaliation for proposed unilateral American aggression in service of the Likud party possible military strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities.

Well, our uniformed personnel are out of Iraq now (though, of course, an American taxpayer funded mercenary force will remain)... we can only bog down so many of them in Afghanistan... so... time for another war... somewhere!

Of course, the only real hope for the future of the American economy is to can the war bullsh*t, and not get bogged down in an insanely expensive and pointless conflagration whose only beneficiaries will be Erik Prince and Bibi Netanyahu Halliburton, Northrup Grumman, Erik Prince and Bibi Netanyahu. That would be too much to hope for.

In the meantime, it seems, Iran seems to be smoothly figuring out how to evade European/American sanctions by simply selling its oil for gold (which will also help further undermine the U.S. dollar's status as world reserve currency-- way to go geniuses!) Of course, is that a response to the ramped up rhetoric and sanctions... or... is that why, perhaps, Iran is slated to be "next" on our priority list for "regime change"?

Well then. Maybe Mitt Romney will get to inherit the next U.S. military sh*tstorm, as we move from our "Mess O'Potamia" over to our "Mess O'Persia," kind of the way Barack Obama inherited everything else. Either way: Goldman Sachs is fully hedged on this one (with minimum counter-party risk-- for itself; the rest of us are kind of screwed... but what else is new...)

This has been... If Iran the Circus.

January 28, 2012, YOU... make the call

Honestly, the Grey Lady, in juxtaposing two articles, one in which it evidently decries former Republican National Committee Chairman and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour's remarkably generous granting of pardons on his way out the door, and Republican Presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and his longstanding financial ties to Goldman Sachs, invites the immediate comparison of "which one is more troubling?", It is necessary to observe that , at least in the 2008 election cycle, three of Barack Obama's ten largest contributors were Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan Chase and Citigroup, and that since Barack Obama took office, virtually no one has been held to account for their role in the 2007-8 financial crisis (even though over 1,000 went to jail for the smaller S&L crisis in the '80's).

Alrightie then.... I put it to you: which is worse: (1) Convicted criminals suddenly find their debts to society abruptly reduced and canceled as a result of seeming political influence, or (2) A financial sector that has bought itself exemption from even investigation and prosecution, let alone "accountability"? It might be helpful to observe that Romney is Wall Street's man this cycle in terms of fundraising... unless, of course, he isn't and Obama is.

Either way, say what you will, but those that Barbour pardoned, even if they played their political influence cards, at least had some level of public accountability for their crimes (even if their sentences were abruptly shortened).

In the area of Wall Street's infinitely larger scale crimes, which have brought our entire financial system (and, I'm not being too hyperbolic when I suggest, quite possibly, civilization, at least in the United States) to threat of ruination through commission of massive fraud and other crimes... remains as beyond accountability as Bush-era torturers (except for whistleblowers, of course), and indeed, have been given free license to play with their "credit default swaps" and other financial weapons of mass destruction on even larger scales than those that nearly destroyed Western civilization in 2008.

I think you'll know where I'm coming down... but I leave it to you... YOU... make the call.

January 25, 2012, TD Blog Interview with Morris Davis

Col. Morris Davis (USAF, Ret.) is a professor at the Howard University School of Law. From 2005 until 2007, Col. Davis was the Chief Prosecutor for the Guantanamo Bay military commissions. He resigned from that post in 2007 in protest of political interference in prosecutorial functions. He retired from active military service in 2008 and became the head of the Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade Division in the Congressional Research Service. He served in that post until January 2010, when he was terminated after publishing op-ed articles critical of Guantanamo and war on terror policies.

On January 12, 2012, I had the privilege of interviewing Col. Davis by telephone. What follows are my interview notes, as corrected by Col. Davis.

The Talking Dog: Where were you on 11 Sept. 2001, and what do you recall of that day?

Morris Davis: I was in Montgomery, Alabama, at the Air Force Judge Advocate General’s School, where I was the deputy commandant. We were in the Central time zone, an hour behind the events on the east coast. I was in my office, and directly across the room from my desk was a television that I usually kept on the news with the sound muted. I sat there with my feet up on the desk, drinking a cup of coffee and reading a report, while the news played on the television in the background. As soon as I saw what was happening I called some others into my office. The consensus was that this was some kind of an accident … until the second plane hit. We knew instantly that the world had just changed.

What I recall most, and I’m not sure why it made such a vivid impression, is that on my way home that evening I stopped at a grocery store to pick up something. I was still in uniform, and when I got to the cash register an older lady was about to unload her basket when she saw me and said "You go ahead of me, please; I know this day's been a lot harder on you than it has on me." At first I was going to decline, but then I realized that it probably made her feel a little better to think that she was "doing something" when there really wasn’t much she or anyone else could do.

The Talking Dog: My understanding is that the first three commission prosecutions in which charges were put forth were the cases of David Hicks, Omar Khadr, and Salim Hamdan. Can you discuss why these three men in particular, respectively an apparent Taliban foot soldier, a grievously wounded 15-year old kid [who may or may not have thrown a grenade in an apparent combat situation] and a motor-pool driver for OBL (albeit apparently transporting armaments) ended up being the initial poster children for "the New Nuremberg"?

Morris Davis: Traditionally, when you think of war crimes and the types of crimes envisioned by the laws of war, you think of the Herrmann Görings and the big names, and not of common foot soldiers. Some people find it somewhat ironic that there even is a law of war and that there isn't a doctrine of "win by any means necessary." But the laws of war have evolved over hundreds of years. And there are unquestionable benefits to a code of conduct for waging wars that include consequences for not complying with the rules, and particularly for accountability for those in command, which is meant to be applied in a top-down manner.

That said, I came into the job of chief prosecutor for the commissions in September of 2005. There were already more than a dozen men subject to charges that had come down under the original Bush military order of November 13, 2001. Under the original Bush order, every one charged had to have an "RTB" [a presidential determination of a "reason to believe" that the individual was a member of Al Qaeda or supported international terrorism] before they were eligible to be charged. The Criminal Investigation Task Force [“CITF”] based in Ft. Belvoir, VA was the military's law enforcement arm. CITF was tasked with collecting up all of the bits and pieces of information that might constitute the basis for this RTB assessment, and then it would try to put the information into a format so that it was in a coherent and presentable form. If there was an "RTB" for a given defendant, before charges could be preferred, this RTB had to make its way from CITF to the chief prosecutor’s office, and then through DOJ, the Pentagon, the NSC, and ultimately to President Bush for his personal review and signature. And even this was only a preliminary step prior to charges. At the time the Supreme Court struck down the executive-order based commission scheme in June of 2006 in the Hamdan case, around 2 dozen RTB's had been signed by President Bush.

In 2006, when the Military Commissions Act of that year was passed, and President Bush signed it with great fanfare, and KSM and the other "high value detainees" were transferred from CIA black sites to the military at Guantanamo, in order just to implement the new statute, the Secretary of Defense had to sign off on a new Manual for Military Commissions -- the statute was only a bare-bones framework. The manual lays out elaborate details for the actual procedures to be used in commissions. That manual first came out in late January 2007, after the new statute went into effect. The most logical cases to charge under the new system were, of course, those cases that were already prepared under the old system.

DoD General Counsel Jim Haynes called me in early January 2007 and asked how quickly I could charge David Hicks. It was the first time he ever called me to inquire about a specific case. I personally would love to know the real back story on how Hicks became the top priority case. Jim Haynes also asked if I could charge others in addition to Hicks. He didn’t say why, but it was my impression that he wanted me to have "a package" of cases -- that he did not want Hicks to be the sole detainee charged – and he wanted others charged so it didn’t appear Hicks was being singled out for special treatment. At that time, we had about six cases that we were looking at as potentials ones we could charge under the newly reformed military commission rules. Hicks was clearly the priority, and out of the five or six other potential cases we picked Khadr and Hamdan because the prosecutors on those cases were prepared and ready to move forward.

The Talking Dog: A complaint regarding the military commissions that I got in my very first Guantanamo-related interview (with Josh Dratel, then a civilian attorney for David Hicks) was that the rules kept changing, constantly. My understanding is that you, as chief prosecutor, had similar complaints... can you comment on that?

Morris Davis: Well, unfortunately, here we are in 2012, and the rules are still changing. Just this week -- the current chief prosecutor, Brig. General Mark Martins (the sixth chief prosecutor in ten years) gave a talk at the New York City Bar, in which he talked about what he labeled the "newly reformed military commissions" and not just "the military commissions."

You have to go back to the start and the November 2001 order by President Bush. It looked an awful lot like FDR's 1942 order to prosecute the Nazi saboteurs (who were charged, tried, took an appeal to the Supreme Court, executed and buried all within 43 days). The Bush authorization for military commission was in effect for almost five years. In 2006, after the Supreme Court struck down the Bush-ordered commissions in the Hamdan decision, Congress passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006, and new manuals and directives came down, as I noted, beginning in late January 2007. In 2008, then Candidate Barack Obama talked about the gross inequities of the Military Commissions Act of 2006; in fact, he had voted against it in 2006 when he was in the Senate. When he became President Obama, and then did an about-face on the evils of military commissions, he had to get the Military Commissions Act of 2009 passed so he could say what he had so eloquently condemned before was now just fine. That, in turn, required more new manuals, directives and orders in an effort to make it appear that the commissions were somehow reformed and improved. If you want a real-world illustration of the expression “putting lipstick on a pig,” this is it. It was some cosmetic tinkering around the margins to make things politically palatable.

But, as Josh Dratel correctly observed, the rules changed; and they’ve changed more since then and they continue to change.

The Talking Dog: Also, regarding Hicks, my understanding is that notwithstanding that you were the chief prosecutor for the military commissions, neither you nor the line prosecutors were actually involved in plea negotiations, but that the real plea negotiations ultimately took place between Hicks's lawyers [which included Josh Dratel], Vice President Cheney's office (and the convening authority Judge Susan Crawford, formerly an assistant to Mr. Cheney) and perhaps the Australian government... can you comment on that?

Morris Davis: Your supposition is probably true; I wish I knew exactly what transpired, and I don't, but I would certainly bet that the Vice President's office took up the Hicks case to help Australian Prime Minister John Howard. I don't know precisely what happened, but I do know that neither I nor anyone in the chief prosecutor's office was actually involved in the plea negotiations. We thought we were going to Guantanamo to do an arraignment that day. Instead, after we arrived at Gitmo, we learned that Hicks would be entering a guilty plea and the case would be done immediately!

Josh had to sign an agreement that he would be bound by rules that in some parts were a work-in-progress and had not yet even been written. Because he could not agree to sign a document saying he would abide by rules that he hadn't seen, the judge refused to permit him to continue to represent Hicks in court and he had to leave the defense table. By the way, this same type of thing is still happening. In April 2010, in the Omar Khadr case, something like this happened again. Literally on the eve of Khadr’s trial beginning at Guantanamo, the new Manual for Military Commissions was still a work-in-progress over in the Pentagon. The Secretary of Defense signed it in the evening and the nearly 300-page document was handed to Khadr’s defense team just a few hours before the judge banged the gavel. It was like a football game where the teams are on the field, down in their stance and waiting for the ref to blow the whistle for the kickoff, and then the league says “oh, by the way, here’s a new rulebook … now have a good game.” That kind of thing is still happening. The government published another 250 pages of new rules and regulations in November and December. Someone described it quite accurately as trying to lay the tracks in front of the train after it has already the left the station.

The Talking Dog: Let's talk about Mohammad al-Qahtani, a detainee whom Susan Crawford, in declining to proffer commission charges against because she said he was tortured; can you talk about him? Also, can you assess to what extent "the evidence" you had access to in order to make cases against the presumably several dozen men eligible for military commission trials consisted of coerced statements by themselves or other detainee (you could characterize this as "none," "a little," "some," "a lot" or any other way you'd like to do it)?

Morris Davis: As to the Qahtani part of your question, as the chief prosecutor, my job was generally oversight of all of the prosecutions rather than in-depth knowledge of the specific details of any one of them. The prosecution task force was over 100 people at the time I resigned, including civilians, JAGs, CIA, FBI, and others; in short, it was a large organization and running it did not allow me to spend a great deal of time on all of the cases.

I was, however, going to personally handle the prosecution of Qahtani. I came on about a year before the "high value" detainees arrived, and at that time Qahtani was the "dirtiest" case, from the stand point of how he had been treated. As I was the guy in charge, I felt it was me who should get my hands dirty with it rather than pawning it off on my subordinates, so I decided that I would personally prosecute the case. I didn't have enough time to devote to preparation of the case to move it up the list of cases we intended to charge, but I believed … and I still believe … there was enough evidence independent of his own statements made in our custody to present a persuasive case; the torture he received would have been "unfortunate and interesting ... but irrelevant in his trial." Qahtani made his way from the Middle East to Orlando where he was to be met by Mohammad Atta who showed up at the airport at the same time his plane landed, following pretty much the same route as the other hijackers before him. I felt there were plenty of "puzzle pieces" to paint a picture sufficient to convict him, even without the coerced statements. At the time I resigned in October 2007, Qahtani was still pretty far down the "batting order" in the list of cases for potential prosecution.

As to the other part of your question, there is a misperception that detainee cases were somehow homogeneous. They were not: each detainee had a different situation. Hamdan was just in it for the money -- he drove for Bin Laden for $100; for $150, he'd probably have driven for someone else. Hicks was an adventurer who ended up getting a lot more than he bargained for. Some others were truly dedicated to the cause. Each detainee had a different set of circumstances and the evidence was unique to each case, so I can't put any kind of a percentage on how much was coerced or anything of that nature. We wanted to proceed in a logical order common to prosecutors -- we wanted to work plea deals, like in RICO cases, and start with people willing to make deals, in hopes that we could get people to cooperate as we went after the bigger players.

The one consistent belief among the prosecutors was that the one case we did not want to lead with was David Hicks. We had been telling the world for years that these guys were the “worst of the worst” and we knew the world would be watching when the first trial began. To lead off with a minor player and a complete knucklehead like David Hicks just did not bode well for the military commissions, but it got crammed down our throat by our superiors. As I said, Qahtani was still pretty far down the list when I left.

Before we move on, let me comment on Susan Crawford and her disclosure that Qahtani was tortured. Her public statement on this to Bob Woodward was in January 2009, in the final days of the Bush administration and shortly before President Obama's inauguration. However, she made her decision not to charge Qahtani because of torture in the spring of 2008. It appears to me that rather than being a "courageous act" as some have suggested she was simply trying to get on the right side of history before it was too late. I am grateful that she recognized torture when she saw it and that she was eventually willing to state publicly that the U.S. engaged in torture, but it would have been courageous had she stood up during the heart of President Bush’s final term rather than staying silent until his final hours in office. It would have been courageous had she stepped up in August and September of 2007 when I was asking her to help me preserve the integrity of the process; instead, she didn’t lift a finger to do anything and I resigned. In any event, Qahtani remains at Guantanamo. I still believe that a case could be made against him that did not rely on his own statements.

The Talking Dog: You have stated that the commissions were neither "military" nor "justice." Do you believe that the Obama Administration's later tweaks with the commissions process, applying to those commissions going forward, and to the extent contained in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2011 (recently signed into law remedy) this -- in a non-superficial way? Also, Sen. Lindsey Graham of S. Carolina, in support of the NDAA, recently made a number of arguably troubling comments during the NDAA debate (such as Americans accused of betraying their country would have no right to counsel or trial) that seem out of character for a USAF JAG officer such as Sen. Graham (who, at least in the past, has often been, as far as these things go, a comparative voice of reason)... I'm wondering if you can comment on that?

Morris Davis: As to the first part of your question, the answer is "no": I don't think the "reformed" military commission process is significantly different from the military commissions as I left them in October 2007.

Candidate Obama was adamant about the gross injustice of the military commissions, until, of course, he flip-flopped and embraced military commissions. He needed something face-saving, so enough "changes" were made to give him some political cover to claim things were different.

The Military Commissions Act of 2009 was just a politically motivated veneer slapped onto the old process to give the administration an excuse for embracing what it had condemned. If you look beneath the veneer you see that the most significant change to what had been the last “reformed” incarnation of the commissions is a slight change to the hearsay rule. Under the old rules, hearsay was presumed reliable and the burden was on the opponent of a hearsay statement -- most often the accused -- to show by a preponderance of evidence that the statement was unreliable. The "big change" made in 2009 was that the burden shifted to the proponent of hearsay evidence to show, by a preponderance of evidence, that the hearsay evidence is reliable. This change is, basically, a burden shift from the accused to the prosecution, in most instances, of about 1/100th of one percent. A preponderance of evidence is a 50.001 percent versus 49.999 percent standard. If swapping the hearsay burdens around represents a significant change, then there has been a significant change. I don't think it’s anything more than a little coat of whitewash to give President Obama some political cover.

As to the second part of your question, I joined the Air Force in 1983, right after law school. One of the great things about being a JAG is you get courtroom experience very quickly. My first trial was in the spring of 1984, and one of my opponents was Captain Lindsey Graham. The case involved the Air Force's urinalysis program. Then Captain Graham appeared on 60 Minutes talking about the flaws in the testing program, which was eventually scrapped and rebuilt from the ground up. During the 1984 trial I was involved in -- his side won by the way -- a number of officers, during a break in the trial one weekend, talked about "what we wanted to do when we grew up." Captain Graham said "I'm going to finish my service commitment, go home to South Carolina, and someday run for Congress!" You have to admire a man with a plan! He's stayed in the Air Force Reserves, and has been an extremely dedicated member of the Air Force JAG community.

After the Hamdan case was decided by the Supreme Court invalidating the then-existing version of the military commissions created by President Bush, I was asked to meet with Senators McCain and Graham, in September of 2006, to talk about the proposed Military Commissions Act. Senator Graham's first question to me was "What do you need to get the job done right?" I personally wrote some parts of that Act -- such as, ironically, the part about not permitting undue command influence to effect the prosecution! The MCA involved proceedings similar to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, but there were some differences in the MCA. After the high value detainees showed up in September 2006, things changed. Before their arrival, I was largely autonomous and the prosecution team worked in a fairly unfettered environment where we could exercise our best professional judgment. But afterwards, everybody had an opinion on how I should do my job -- especially the Department of Justice. Prosecuting Khalid Sheikh Mohammad in military commissions was something that disappointed some in the Justice Department. Prosecuting his case in federal district court could be a huge career-maker for an aspiring DOJ lawyer, so when President Bush chose the military commission option there were some that were not enthused. They accepted the decision, but rather than let the military handle it they still wanted to pull the strings and tried to run the show. That was why I asked Senator Graham to add the unlawful influence language to the MCA.

In December 2008, shortly after I retired after 25 years of military service, I went to work as the head of the Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade Division at the Congressional Research Service in the Library of Congress. On Veterans’ Day 2009, I wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal critical of Attorney General Holder's proposed double-standard where we’d try some detainees in military commissions and others in federal courts. That same day I also had a letter to editor in the Washington Post critical of former Attorney General Mukasey for fearmongering on the catastrophes awaiting us if detainees ever set foot on U.S. soil. The next day, I was notified the Library of Congress was firing me for expressing my opinions in public.

My own Congressman -- alleged Democrat Gerry Connolly of Virginia -- was every bit as helpful in standing up for free speech in 2009 as Susan Crawford was in standing up against torture in 2007. The only member out of the 535 members of Congress who stood up for me was none other than Senator Lindsey Graham, who noted that even though he may not agree with my views, I had the right to express them and it was an important perspective for the public to hear. Lindsey Graham was the only one with the guts to take the political risk and speak up for me, which I greatly appreciated. I was not from his state, I was not one of his constituents, I have not donated to his campaigns, and I’m not even a member of his party, so there was nothing in it for him other than just doing what he thought was right.

As to his statements of late, Senator Graham represents South Carolina, which is on the very far right of the political spectrum. His recent statements would appear to be political posturing largely for the benefit of a right wing South Carolina electorate.

The Talking Dog: I understand that, like me, you made some financial contributions and did some work for the campaign to help elect my [Columbia '83] college classmate Barack Obama to the office of President back in 2008 (including have someone burn down a lawn sign you posted at your house!) My own assessment of the President on GTMO/war on terror (or whatever it's called now) issues is, in a word, "disappointing." I'm wondering if you could provide your own views on President Obama's performance in these areas? Do you have any predictions for the future of Guantanamo, Bagram, military commissions, indefinite detention or the like going forward, say, in a second Obama term or perhaps a Romney Administration?

Morris Davis: I retired from the Air Force in October 2008. In the military, service members are encouraged to vote and to be politically informed, but they are absolutely prohibited from active participation in politics. A guy in uniform at a Ron Paul event recently got himself in quite a bit of trouble -- there is no gray area, you just don't participate in partisan politics, especially not in uniform.

So, in October 2008, after I retired, I had my first chance to participate in the political process in 25 years. I live in a rather conservative part of Virginia, but I put up a Barack Obama sign in front of my house, I donated to his campaign, and I was a volunteer who went door-to-door campaigning on his behalf. When someone came into my yard and set my Obama sign on fire, I put up a new one! I bought into the whole "hope and change" B.S. On Barack Obama's Inauguration Day, I was the most excited guy in town!

And so, "disappointed" is a gross understatement. What we have seen is an extraordinary lack of leadership on these issues. I met with the transition team on Guantanamo in November of 2008, and my first impression was "I don't think they get it!" They didn’t seem to understand that there weren’t neat cabinets of files pertaining to each individual detainee to conveniently explain everything -- the reality was that things were a total mess. The reason, of course, is that Guantanamo was set up as an intelligence gathering operation, and not for the purposes of prosecution; "intelligence" is not the same as "evidence." They simply did not understand the enormity of the task they had taken on. And so, it seemed, Obama focused on health care and the economy, and without investing the political effort needed on Guantanamo, he thought the right thing would just happen. In the meantime, Dick Cheney and his daughter Liz Cheney went on the offensive, and managed to do a very effective job of swaying public opinion and making people fear everyone at Guantanamo. The President didn't use his bully pulpit, and the public has ended up buying into the whole notion of all detainees being the absolute "worst of the worst." It has been just a real disappointment after what looked like such an optimistic start.

In the short term, I see no prospect of any change -- and certainly not in 2012. It seems somewhat narrow minded to just look at the 171 guys still at Guantanamo and not at the broader situation -- we should be asking, what would we accept if one of us was treated this way? Would we be willing to accept the same treatment of Americans and, if not, then why do Americans accept it when we do it to others? We used to be the land of the free and the home of the brave, but we’ve allowed the fearmongers to make us the land of the constrained and the cowardly.

In the long term, there are those who suggest that Obama may have less pressure in his second term as he won't be running for reelection and, under those circumstances, he may be more inclined to expend some effort to resolve these things, but that would certainly be disappointing if matters of principle can only be pursued when the political calculus is right. If it’s always the right time to do the right thing then it’s always the wrong time to wait until it’s politically convenient.

The Talking Dog: I understand you have worked with a non-governmental organization devoted to educating the public concerning the laws of war; can you talk about its mission? Also, can you describe, overall, how you believe "the Guantanamo experience," whatever that is, has effected you personally?

Morris Davis: When I resigned as chief prosecutor for the military commissions in 2007, I immediately received an order directing me that I couldn't talk about why I had resigned. And so, when I spoke out I immediately burned my bridges on the Republican side of the aisle! Then I went to work on Capitol Hill at the Library of Congress where I managed to burn my bridges with Democrats in 2009 with my opinion pieces criticizing President Obama! I have hit that rare sweet spot where I've become unemployable on both sides! I found that I had a B.A., a J.D., 2 LL.M.s, and 25 years of experience, and, in a city full of lawyers I was on unemployment for seven months because I was too toxic to hire!

The Crimes of War Project was started by journalists in the aftermath of the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, with the idea in mind that maybe we could reduce future tragedies by educating people about the laws of war and the consequences of noncompliance. They brought me on board in August of 2010 to be the executive director. Since 9-11, whole industries have grown up to address the supposed threat of terrorism and politicians fall all over themselves to show how tough they are on terrorism. There is little interest in the Geneva Conventions, and investigating allegations of torture, and respecting treaty obligations and international institutions. Unfortunately, at this point in time, trying to educate people on the laws of war seems to be something few people believe is an effort worth supporting.

And so, I am now teaching at the Howard University School of Law. Dean Kurt Schmoke, the former Mayor of Baltimore and now the head of the law school, was willing to take me aboard and has been very gracious in allowing me to still write and speak on issues like Guantanamo, torture, and targeted assassination. Howard has deep roots in the civil rights movement, so it is appropriate I suppose that it’s a place where an advocate for humanitarian law can find a home.

The last few years have been interesting if nothing else. I got canned and ostracized under both Republican and Democrat administrations, and I find myself somewhere in the middle between the left and right where you won’t find an organized movement or benefactors like the Koch brothers or George Soros. I guess one of the most surprising lessons I’ve learned is that honesty, integrity, courage and principles are virtues society values far more in theory than they do in practice. I think when you’re willing to compromise core principles to protect your own self-interest you’re pathetic and cowardly. I do regret that my wife and my daughter suffer some of the collateral consequences of me expressing my opinions, but I’ve never had any second thought about saying torture is wrong and America can do better than it’s done the past decade. I suppose some people look at Don Quixote and see an idiot who puts himself through a lot of hardship he could easily avoid. I admire him for being willing to suit up and fight.

The Talking Dog: As we come to a point in time ten years after the opening of Guantanamo Bay for military detentions of persons captured in Afghanistan and elsewhere, is there anything else I should have asked you but didn't, or anything else you believe that the public needs to know about this?

Morris Davis: One thing comes to mind. We chose Guantanamo a decade ago because some people thought that it was outside the reach of law. And now, we have 171 men stuck in a legal Alice in Wonderland. And so we continue to make bad laws, like the NDAA and the "reformed again and again military commissions” -- to continue to try to deal with men we are holding because we took short-cuts and made bad decisions years ago. My hope is that common sense prevails and we can look rationally at the big picture, and we stop trying to make even more bad laws rooted in our prior bad decisions. I hope at some point we remember who we are and what we stand for, we reckon with what we did in the past, and we stop living our lives in fear. I hope we become free and brave again.

The Talking Dog: I join all my readers in thanking Col. Morris Davis for that eye-opening 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 prosecutor Darrel Vandeveld, with former Guantanamo combatant status review tribunal/"OARDEC" officer Stephen Abraham, with attorneys 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 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.

January 24, 2012, TD Blog Interview with Kristine Huskey

Kristine Huskey is the Director of the Anti-Torture Program of Physicians for Human Rights, and is an adjunct faculty member in national security law at the Georgetown University Law Center. Ms. Huskey was counsel to a number of current and former detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and is the author of "Justice at Guantanamo: One Woman's Odyssey and Crusade for Human Rights". On January 11, 2012, I interviewed Ms. Huskey at her office in Washington, D.C. What follows are my interview notes, as corrected by Ms. Huskey.

The Talking Dog: My usual first question (my own answer being "across the street from WTC") is, "where were you on 9-11?"

Kristine Huskey:I was actually in New York. I was working at Shearman & Sterling on an arbitration, and we were staying in the Waldorf. One of our clients came running in and said "some idiot has crashed his plane into the World Trade Center." Of course, he did not realize that it was a huge passenger plane. We turned the television on, and watched events unfolded. I was struck by how freaked out the newscasters were; that was unusual.

Our suite at the Waldorf, was decked out with boxes and office furniture, as if it were an office, and we had a t.v. in that set up. As we watched, we were dumbfounded; some of us were crying. By mid-day, I went outside finally. I looked down Sixth Avenue, usually a very busy street, and could see clear down the avenue to downtown, and it was empty. You could see smoke, and the rooftops were covered with people.
My sister lived at 71st and Columbus then. I remember walking to the Upper West Side to find her; I had talked to her on the phone, before the phones went on the blink. We hugged and cried when we saw each other.

We eventually took the train back to Washington, and I noticed both military personnel on the streets, and no air traffic. Although I had lived in war-torn Angola when I was younger, where soldiers with weapons were common, it was still unusual to see it on the streets of the United States.

The Talking Dog: . Can you identify your Guantanamo detainee clients by name, nationality, and current location (e.g., "at Guantanamo," "released to Kuwait" or whatever is applicable), and if you could tell some highlights of personality or anything of interest about their cases?

Kristine Huskey: The first case I worked on starting in March 2002—was the seminal case before the Supreme Court, Rasul v Bush, in which I represented 12 Kuwaitis. With the exception of two men—Fawzi Al Odah and Fayez Kandari, all are back in Kuwait. Andy Worthington has done an excellent job of documenting the men who have passed through Guantanamo ), so you can find the Kuwaitis easily in Andy’s book and on his website. I also represented Omar Khadr—the Canadian citizen who was picked up when he was 15 and sent to Guantanamo when he was 16. He pled guilty before military commissions because it was the only way he was going to get out of Guantanamo and back home to Canada. He’ll serve the rest of his six or seven year sentence in Canada—at least he will see his family there. Then, I represented four Afghan citizens right when I started the national security clinic at the University of Texas Law school—but those men were released back to Afghanistan and I did little work on their cases nor did I ever meet them. From 2008-2009, I represented a Syrian man—Moammar Dokhan—he did not want to go back to Syria and the United States was happy not to send him back. Portugal accepted him and he is trying to regain his life back there—learning the language, working, etc. I spoke with him on the phone right after he was released and asked him if I could help him with anything. He said “thank you for everything you’ve done, but I don’t need your help any more. I want to leave Guantanamo behind.” A farewell, but I was so happy for him. My last client who I represented from 2009-2011—Obaidullah—who is still in Guantanamo is from Afghanistan—first charged by military commissions and then the charges dropped. But, he is still detained.

The Talking Dog: I realize that you began your career in Shearman & Sterling, a large corporate law firm, which, despite its [small c] conservative nature, ended up, perhaps largely thanks to Tom Wilner's force of will, as the first major firm involved in Guantanamo representations. Notwithstanding that you have gone on to academia and work for an NGO, can you describe how your Guantanamo representations have affected you personally, professionally and in any other way you'd like to answer?

Kristine Huskey: When I started at Shearman, I didn't think I'd be there that long. Of my law school friends, I had the most interest in the civil and human rights area, and yet, I went to Shearman & Sterling, the big corporate law firm. There, I met Tom Wilner, and a couple of other attorneys who I still keep in touch with (they are "2 Toms and a Jobie" from that chapter in my book). I enjoyed working at Shearman; I liked the travel, I liked the work, but not the hours.

And then, the Guantanamo work came along. It was an opportunity to do human rights work; it was also controversial, international, exciting, interesting, and as Tom Wilner said, "it was the right thing to do." Tom and I often looked at each other in the face of opposition, and realized that the more opposition we got, the more convinced we were about it being the right thing to do. Frankly, we were shocked about how vehemently some people, even lawyers, were against what we were doing, when, at the time, all we wanted to do was just get these men fair hearings.

Guantanamo ended up changing my own professional track. I did press conferences, and public speaking, especially at law schools about my clients at Guantanamo and the issues involved. I realized how much I enjoyed educating people and realized that I liked teaching. In my case, I was a clinical law professor, and so I could continue working on litigation and teaching at the same time, and I found working with students to be a great source of energy and insight. My alma mater, the U. of Texas Law School asked me to start a clinic on national security law. And then I got married, and moved back to the D.C. area, but continued my work for UT from here.

Eventually, I decided to try policy work; I had known about Physicians for Human Rights [PHR] for a long time; they came out with one of the most important objective reports on Guantanamo in 2005; PHR continues to issue outstanding reports on issues of relevance. I had met the executive director, and through my work at Shearman, had also met a number of the physicians, including Steve Xenakis, a retired general and psychiatrist who spoke out on these issues. After the 2005 report, PHR continued to address the plight of the Guantanamo detainees, using science and medicine as a basis for issuing several more reports revealing evidence of physical and psychological torture. And so for me, the meeting of international human rights and national security issues was a perfect fit. Guantanamo has ended up shaping my career in the direction I had hoped for when it began.

I will say that actually going to Guantanamo Bay and meeting the men behind the legal briefs and fear-mongering and rhetoric opened my eyes, making me far more sensitive to humanity and people in need... it gave me "sensitivity on steroids!" These are people tortured and abused by our own government-- men who haven't seen their families in years and may never see them again. It certainly puts things in perspective and makes one think.

The Talking Dog: To what extent are you still involved in Guantanamo litigations, and can you comment on the D.C. Circuit's seeming "relaxation" of the apparent standards of evidence to justify continued detention that might have been expected after Boumediene? Given that detainees are now on quite the "losing streak" in their habeas cases given this "standard," what do you see as the future of GTMO-habeas litigation, if any?

Kristine Huskey: Well, while not as day-to-day active as I once was, I keep track of litigations, especially those I have been involved in.

As to Boumediene, Jonathan Hafetz wrote a piece last fall observing that the D.C. Circuit has ostensibly gutted Boumediene; after all, what's the right (to legal review of the legality of detention) worth if it's never really enforced in a meaningful way, and if the "standard" for legally holding someone is so loose that not a single detainee can ever be found to be unlawfully detained... quite a coincidence that the government seems to be winning every case! And, of course, no one has gone through the habeas process and actually been released as a result of the writ: all of the releases have been a result of political and diplomatic processes, and not via habeas. "Innocent" or "guilty" has been irrelevant: early on, the courts took themselves out of the equation.

The Talking Dog: Can you tell me about your visits to GTMO-- specifically, your first, and your most recent visits, and can you compare and contrast the experiences, including your expectations, and your observations... in particular, I'm wondering if there is any impact on the fact that it has been over a year since anyone at all has been released from GTMO, and that under Pres. Obama, far fewer detainees have been released (and at a much slower pace) than under Pres. Bush [notwithstanding that nearly half have been cleared for release by the Obama administration itself]?

Kristine Huskey: It's been about a year since my last visit to Guantanamo.

Nothing compares to the first visit: you see people chained to an O-ring in the floor, and see what the law really means to men in this position... it’s a big proverbial whack in the head about why you became a lawyer in the first place!

For a time, Tom Wilner, another Shearman lawyer, and I went to Guantanamo every 6 weeks to two months. In the beginning, it was shocking, but uplifting. The detainees, for a time, were extremely happy that they had lawyers. It wasn't as if, at first anyway, a lot of lawyers were visiting-- we were among the first lawyers to go to Guantanamo. But certainly, the clients were excited about our presence, and that the Supreme Court had ruled that they were entitled to a hearing.

Within a year or so, however, things began going downhill. Both Congress and the government were asserting that they didn't have the right to a habeas hearing, and we encountered clients not merely depressed and discouraged, but wondering "what good are you guys?" I don't blame them-- it was an utterly depressing situation.

And we had clients on hunger strike. How do you talk to them-- how do you tell them, "look, it's going to get better"? There are times one believed things would get better and Guantanamo would close and the men would get hearings and they would be released... but, after a while, how can you keep that sentiment?

Another noteworthy visit was with Omar Khadr (I represented him as part of my clinical work at American University). At the time, he was about 19. I was meeting a person who spent his teenage years in a prison like Guantanamo, mostly with men at least twice his age, and realized he would never get to experience "normal" teenage life, whatever that is. I came out of the meeting thinking that he was behaving like a hybrid of a teenager and a grown man-- he had both teenage bravado (I'm fine here and don't need your help") and also had an adult sense of the unfairness of the military commissions situation, and indeed, had the maturity to realize that his own active participation made no sense.

My last visit was about a year ago. By then, I admit I was somewhat jaded. But when you see the condition of your clients, and they STILL-- to this day-- just want the chance to tell their story and have a chance to be released, because they know they haven't done anything wrong-- you take some heart-- as they try to make their case that the United States can't possibly want to hold someone like them.

A case in point is my former client Obaidulla (still detained), who happens to be one of the nicest, gentlest people I have ever encountered; he writes poetry among other things. I recently brought him a book by the poet John Berry, which he appreciated. Obaidullah is from Khost; he is accused of setting up a roadside bomb, which landed him a legal limbo. He was one of those for whom potential military commission charges were pending, but he was never referred for prosecution. Of course, there is no time limit for referring such charges. At the same time, he has a pending habeas case before Judge Richard Leon. His habeas case had been stayed, because of the possibility of a commissions (military trial) charges. Ultimately, Tthis was a case where the D.C. Circuit actually ruled in favor of a detainee, at least for the proposition that his habeas case had to go forward unless the government actually charged him. And so his habeas case went forward, and then the charges were dismissed by the government, and then he lost his habeas case. I keep up with Obaidullah's case through his military counsel, Derek Poteet; but of course, this is quite different from the face to face meetings.

But I will say that over the years, particularly the Congress and its multiple attempts to frustrate the rights found to apply by the Supreme Court (such as the Military Commissions Act or the Detainee Treatment Act)... one finds it extremely difficult to have to go to Guantanamo and tell the men whose rights are frustrated as to what happened, and why, nonetheless, they should continue to have a lawyer.

The Talking Dog: Your book, titled "Justice at Guantanamo," ends on a somewhat optimistic note, that of candidate Barack Obama having been elected President, with the promise of ending the policies that created Guantanamo Bay, and of course, closing the infamous facility itself and presumably dispersing its occupants either to their home countries (or some acceptable alternative... such as the United States itself) and providing fair trials to those who may have committed crimes... my reaction to our fellow [Columbia] alum and my own ['83] college classmate Barack Obama's performance in this area has been, in one word or less, "disappointing." Can you comment on the President's performance to date in these matters (and I would like you to comment on the recent NDAA), and what you would anticipate as "the future," be it under a second Obama term or perhaps a Romney or Gingrich Administration, for Guantanamo, Bagram, and related issues?

Kristine Huskey: One starts with a "big sigh." I think what happened is that somewhere deep down President Obama probably wants to do the right thing, but he quickly found that he didn't have the support of his own party. After an exciting start with his executive orders, then things happened in Congress in the other direction. Various laws were passed, such as, you can't release detainees in the United States, but you can try them here. While Democrats controlled Congress, such legislation was passed (and not vetoed!), which served to heighten the already existing fear factor.

Then again, intentions or otherwise, one observes that in 2009, Obama gave his famous national security speech. Guantanamo itself was not the issue-- at least, the President said so. But, he proposed indefinite detention, though he intended largely relocating prisoners to the mainland United States; arguably, locating our indefinite detention facility in the United States would be the lesser of two evils, but it was quite clear that Obama's intention was to close Guantanamo but not to shut down the policy of indefinite detention.

And hence, he caved quickly into any resistance against his policies relating to Guantanamo. He certainly could have taken leadership on this, and stood up to, or otherwise led, members of his own party-- but he didn't.

When he came in, we all thought, "well, Obama is a constitutional law teacher-- this is a good sign." And, in some cases early in the Obama Administration, the scope of decisions seemed consistent with this. In cases called Gherebi and Hamlily (which I led on briefs and did the oral argument for, before Judges Walton and Bates, respectively, of the D.C. District Court), I recall a government brief dated March 13, 2009 where it seemed the government's expression of its authority to detain was based on an attempt to follow the laws of war and armed conflict under international law. And in theory they were correct, but ultimately, the government has gone much further. It's one thing with respect to men captured in "battle"-- but what about men kidnapped from all over the world and transported to Guantanamo or Bagram? Of course, there is now a "relaxed" standard even of what "the laws of war" means as basis to hold someone, that has gotten much worse with the recent NDAA. Especially as we seem to have a "war against" just about anything the government wants, as we have a nebulous, never-ending vaguely defined "war on terror". And so, the legal positions taken in cases now are disappointing.

The Talking Dog: We're now, of course, ten years into this Guantanamo situation, with seemingly no end in sight. Can you, in light of the ten year spectrum and your own experiences, comment on how the media has treated Guantanamo/detention/war on terror issues, and in particular, how it has treated your own work? You can segment into local, national, international media, broadcast or print, or any other way that you believe appropriate to answer this.

Kristine Huskey: In the beginning –back in 2002 and 2003--I certainly remember doing a lot of work trying to get media attention for Guantanamo issues. I recall a meeting with John Hintz of the Washington Post, and at one stage, he was one of the few reporters to give attention to these matters at all.

Then again, there was a period after 2004 when the media was putting out a great deal of information made available from lawyers returning from Guantanamo.

On the whole, I would say that the media has been essential in getting out the truth, and in what the public knows of Guantanamo. We clearly needed a tireless reporter like Carol Rosenberg, who presses on despite the Defense Department's constant efforts to thwart everything she does. Any society purporting to be open and fair certainly needs reporters and the media to do their job, and overall, I'd say they have done so with respect to Guantanamo.

The Talking Dog: Finally, once again, as we come to a point in time ten years after the opening of Guantanamo Bay for military detentions of persons captured in Afghanistan and elsewhere, is there anything else I should have asked you but didn't, or anything else you believe that the public needs to know about this?

Kristine Huskey: Some of my "tenth anniversary" thoughts are in my recent blog post on the subject. Guantanamo, it must be realized, is two things. The fact that men are being held there for the last 10 years and quite possibly forever, at a particular place in Cuba, AND Guantanamo symbolizes an evolving national security apparatus that we've scared ourselves into thinking is necessary. A statute has just been passed that requires military custody for those even suspected of terrorism -- this is a tragedy that no democratic society should or can suffer. I'm reminded of Noriega or other Latin American despots-- if nothing else, our nation could always say, hey, we're certainly not as bad as that country... and now of course, we ARE that country. We have become what we used to despise.

A final thought I have is the work of a medical colleague here at Physicians for Human Rights, Dr Vince Iacopino, who has studied medical reports of detainees from Guantanamo, when available, and has observed a dichotomy: On the one hand, the records that show detainees complained of torture and abusive interrogation methods to health care staff at Guantanamo but, the records show that Guantanamo doctors never inquired or documented the cause of the symptons they observed. Later examinations of the men themselves by sources independent of the government show all the signs of torture... but, of course, “torture” or abuse is never recorded in the Guantanamo medical records. The government simply doesn't want the real facts to come out. But they have to come out.

The Talking Dog: I join our readers in thanking Ms. Huskey for that interesting interview, and commend interested readers to take a look at "Justice At Guantanamo:One Woman’s Odyssey and Her Crusade for Human Rights."

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 prosecutor Darrel Vandeveld, with former Guantanamo combatant status review tribunal/"OARDEC" officer Stephen Abraham, with attorneys 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 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.

January 23, 2012, First thing we do, let's kill all the leakers

And so it continues. The war on whistleblowers. Famously, of course, Bradley Manning (recently recommended for court-martial...).

Now, CIA agent John Kiriakou. Six such prosecutions in all... more than all prior American administrations combined. Kiriakou, allegedly, disclosed some of the horrific tortures associated with the abuse of Abu Zubaydah, KSM and others. Note that the actual torture is of no concern to this Administration-- the disclosure of the waterboarding and other egregious torture, however... that is the highest crime of all. Because...

The "crime," of course... is embarassing the Empire. This is reminiscent of the Abu Ghraib perps: that they egregiously abused prisoners in their charge wasn't the problem-- they took pictures and let others in on it.

Well, then. This should be of extremely serious concern to us all: after the pathological secretiveness of the Bush Administration, we were promised "transparency." Instead, we have a war on whistleblowers, and the Obama Administration is making the Bush.Cheney era look like the epitome of open government. And so... here we go again.

January 14, 2012, It's news to me

World War III edition? Let's see... plans for Israeli/USA false flag attacks on Iran? Check. Do we have our "war on" with Iran? Er, check. Is the Grey Lady out there with its Judy Miller-style propaganda, making sure the USA public will be well-behind the coming mega-war? Checkarino. And of course, is all this really about propping up Israeli-domestic-political and internal-American-political-diversion (not to mention generating uber-profits for the usual suspects), because what would actually work to bring down the Iranian regime would be dialing down the World War rhetoric thereby letting oil prices crash and hence bankrupting the Iranian regime? Checkity check check!!! [You know, we never thanked Israel enough for all its help in getting us into Iraq.]

Hey, good old fascist regimes everywhere love the old "war" or two (or, well, I've lost count of current USA wars right now, thanks). But a real big 'un... preferably pitched as "existential"... something to really get the patriotic juices flowing... really takes much of the public's mind off of the fact that their economy can't generate jobs for young people, even as it continues to generate record corporate profits, or the fact that it seems, maybe just anecdotally if nothing else, that a huge portion of those profits come from a rapacious financial sector which has captured government to the point where bailout money goes directly to bonuses and even outright undeniable criminality will not be touched (as long as the perp is a made man).

Hey, what do I know? I'm still basking in my post-marathon endorphin rush... the pack and I went down to an entertaining long weekend in the sun and, on 8 January, I finished my 32nd marathon (in my 16th state), the Disney World Marathon... in the usual time range. Then, on Wednesday, I drove down to our nation's capital to help celebrate GTMO's 10th birthday.

And as we come to another Martin Luther King Day holiday weekend with America's first (actually!) Black President, say... did you know that the late Dr. King's family actually brought a law suit claiming that the United States government was responsible for King's death... and they won? Ah, the things that just don't get reported here in Corporate-stan! Like the Molotov-von Ribbentropp Pact between Monsanto and Whole Foods to gut what's left of big-time organix.

No, no... none of that sort of thing. Hey... they took the barriers down at Zuccotti Park! Just sayin'...

Best we check out the latest clown-car destination of the Mitt/Newt/Rick show, or perhaps the latest statistically meaningless blips about economic improvement (that will drive the stock market up for no reason), or, Tim Tebow or Lady Gaga or... or you know... the usual (not talking) dog and pony shows. Somewhere.

Because, you know... that's what you do.

January 4, 2012, Be there. Aloha.

That would be The World Can't Wait's dance event on Sunday, January 8th, right here in NYC. [Specific details for those not clicking}:

January 8, 2012
3-D Laboratories
29 West 26th Street
New York

Your talking dog is proud to be one of your hosts for this event, part of the acknowledgment of ten years of Guantanamo Bay (quite a legacy for our nation); Andy will also be there, discussing his tireless work on the subject, quite literally a resource for all humanity.

So Give Generously.

Alrightie then. Because, as I constantly try to remember, and to remind the rest of you, while my college classmate the President signs laws permitting him to lock me up for writing this and to lock you up for reading this... it's time we acknowledge that this GTMO, Bagram, etc. thing... actually matters to the future of our nation (such as to the question of whether we actually have a nation, or something merely resembling one)... not like the idiocy of the Iowa Caucasus.

January 1, 2012, Happy new year. Nothing to see here folks... move along.

I'm losing track of just which dictatorial measure gets signed into law exactly when, but "it is being reported that" [my college classmate] the President used the occasion of his vacation in Hawaii and New Year's Eve to sign the massive Defense Authorization Act that authorizes indefinite detention of suspected terrorists, though he used a signing statement to quibble with restrictions on the executive's "flexibility."

As we enter this year of 2012, in which we will see at least three quadrennial events, to wit, a February 29th, a summer Olympic games (in London this year) and the USA Presidential election [for 2012, we get the special "Mayan prophesy of Apocalypse" for the winter solstice... but as I like to say, "not how you bet"... because, if for no other reason, no one will around to pay off on the "over"], let me just suggest that people of good will who, like me, once supported Barack Obama, take a look at this screed by Glenn Greenwald on why progressives should be paying attention to the Ron Paul candidacy. I'll make it easy here, by saying that I would, right now, without hesitation, support Ron Paul in the general election, were he to be the Republican nominee (which he will not... every force available to bear will be brought down to see that he isn't, even if were to win Iowa, New Hampshire, and every other primary or caucus... which he will not). Ron Paul, and Ron Paul alone, among candidates in either party, is actively discussing the real issues that are driving us into the ground: permanent, endless, immense wars (and concomitant defense spending), the drug wars, and a financial oligopoly deliberately mismanaging public finance to enslave the rest of us. Yes, he has other problems. A lot of other problems. But...

Barack Obama's presidency, despite the promise of his campaign, is indistinguishable, in policy, and in some key personnel choices, from a third George W. Bush term. And I didn't stop loathing the presidency of George W. Bush simply because the goofy faux-Texan himself is no longer in the Oval Office: it's the policies, stupid. And say what you will, but at least most of Dubya's most egregious totalitarian policies were one-off, ad hoc "executive decisions." Barack "Constitutional Scholar" Obama has seen fit to codify them into statute (with significant "bipartisan consensus.")

And there you are. My easiest 2012 prediction is for "more of same" in the area of "justice"... financial criminals (who, in terms of the human and systemic damage they cause, should rightly be classified as "terrorists") will continue to benefit from the "look forward not backward" and "see no evil when it's done by those in the financial sector likely to contribute to my campaign" policies... they will continue unabated. Jon Corzine already knew that his "Made Man" status would protect him, as do so many others... but meanwhile, the number of nobody schmucks picked up in various FBI stings and hyped up minor incidents which will be portrayed as terrrrrorism... will almost certainly increase, perhaps dramatically so as the election nears. A "Lehman Bros.-plus" financial meltdown also seems likely this year, though, since it should have already happened by now, it's hard to say "inevitable" on that one. Although, inflation and unemployment statistics will continue to be made-up in ways designed to make things look better than they are... as has been the case now for decades.

Thing is, for this year, at the end of it all, I'm actually optimistic that the degree of this outrageous injustice [mostly the criminal financiers getting away scot-free] will actually piss off enough people to matter in the great scheme of things. Despite all of their incoherence, I think this is a unifying theme of the "Occupy" protestors. Frankly, at the end of the day, it matters little or not at all which of the two "different" Goldman Sachs/JP Morgan/B of A /Citigroup backed major party candidates is elected President next, or even which of the two finance-sector-controlled political parties controls majorities of Congress... BUT... this could be the year that a critical mass of the populace finally realizes that the game, as now structured, is hopelessly rigged against them, and maybe the answer isn't trying to put more money in the slot machine, bang on it, scream, and hope for something different, but to take what's left the cup, put in the pocket, and just walk away. Our entire system is, at its core, "a faith-based initiative" after all. Could this be the year that enough people cease handing their blind faith to a system that is quite literally trying to enslave, if not imprison or outright murder them, while they are watching?

I'm hoping that is. The current system is utterly unsustainable, in just about every way. Blind faith in it will just make the inevitable crash that much worse. Will enough people just set about structuring their own lives in [self-reliant, community building] ways so that while the system collapses [and the laws of nature say it must, sooner or later, unless radically altered], a sensible "replacement" order based on human dignity, shared vaues, cooperation, self-reliance and community building (rather than Nanny State Dependence) are "the new order"? Strangely for me... I'm going to throw my lot in with the optimists on this one. At least, as I define optimism.

Alrightie then. Happy new year, everybody! Let's make this one count.