Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A chink in the armor?

A court has actually refused to play ball with the Obama administration on the state security claim. This is a hopeful sign that perhaps some day the people we tortured will get some measure of justice.

A federal court in San Francisco on Tuesday ruled that five men who say they were detained and tortured as part of the Bush administration's "extraordinary rendition" program can proceed with a lawsuit against a Boeing subsidiary they say was involved in their ill-treatment.

The ruling was a setback to efforts by the Bush and Obama administrations, which both supported throwing out the lawsuit on the grounds that it risked revealing state secrets.The case is shaping up to be a landmark, as it is the first lawsuit filed by former detainees in the rendition program against a private company allegedly implicated in torture and illegal detention.

That firm is Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen Dataplan, of San Jose, Calif., which the San Francisco Chronicle reports was identified as the CIA's "aviation services provider" in a 2007 Council of Europe report.

Said the court:

"According to the government's theory, the judiciary should effectively cordon off all secret government actions from judicial scrutiny, immunizing the CIA and its partners from the demands and limits of the law," Judge Michael Hawkins said in the 3-0 ruling.

Allowing the government to shield its conduct from court review simply because classified information is involved "would ... perversely encourage the president to classify politically embarrassing information simply to place it beyond the reach of judicial process," Hawkins said


"As the founders of this nation knew well, arbitrary imprisonment and torture under any circumstances is a 'gross and notorious ... act of despotism,' " Hawkins said, citing language from a 2004 Supreme Court decision.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Looking forward looking back

Today, and every day, we have an opportunity, as well as an obligation, to confront these scourges -- to fight the impulse to turn the channel when we see images that disturb us, or wrap ourselves in the false comfort that others' sufferings are not our own. Instead we have the opportunity to make a habit of empathy; to recognize ourselves in each other; to commit ourselves to resisting injustice and intolerance and indifference in whatever forms they may take
Words from Barak Obama
“Nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.”
Barak Obama turning the channel
"Some things in life need to be mysterious, .. Sometimes in life you want to just keep walking. History has changed. It does change. We have a new administration, a new way. Sometimes I think just keep walking. Don't always be issuing papers and reports.."
Peggy Noonan turning the channel

But having vowed to end the practices, Obama should use all the influence of his office to stop the retroactive search for scapegoats.

This is not another Sept. 11 situation, when nearly 3,000 Americans were killed.
David Broder turning the channel

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Even a blind squirrel

The nutcase who accurately represents Israel's view of the Palestinians also seems to have a good idea about the parameters within which the Obama administration is going to function. (h/t WIIIAI)
The Obama Administration will put forth new peace initiatives only if Israel wants it to, said Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in his first comprehensive interview on foreign policy since taking office.

"Believe me, America accepts all our decisions," Lieberman told the Russian daily Moskovskiy Komosolets.
Then Lieberman does something a bit strange. After having screamed for some time that Iran was the existential threat to Israel he has changed his mind
During the interview, Lieberman said Iran is not Israel's biggest strategic threat; rather, Afghanistan and Pakistan are.
Adam Horowitz at Mondoweiss thinks that "
Lieberman might be sensing that Israel's strategic worth to the US is shifting and it is important that they get on board with President Obama's foreign policy priorities." A case of I support your murders and you support mine.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

When the President does it

"When the President does it that means it is not illegal." said Richard M. Nixon in 1977. And so concurs Barak Obama 32 years later. Brushing aside the fact that prosecution of torturers is required under the "supreme law of the land," Barak Obama has regally decided that he and his administration do not need to follow the law. The UN rapporteur on torture begs to differ.

VIENNA (Reuters) – President Barack Obama's decision not to prosecute CIA interrogators who used waterboarding on terrorism suspects amounts to a breach of international law, the U.N. rapporteur on torture said.

"The United States, like all other states that are part of the U.N. convention against torture, is committed to conducting criminal investigations of torture and to bringing all persons against whom there is sound evidence to court," U.N. special rapporteur Manfred Nowak told the Austrian daily Der Standard.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

"Torturers to pay for crimes"

No, not in the US. In Turkey. And it is a civil penalty. But you take what you can get.

Hearts and minds

From the Pakistani newspaper The News: (h/t Pulse)

Of the 60 cross-border predator strikes carried out by the Afghanistan-based American drones in Pakistan between January 14, 2006 and April 8, 2009, only 10 were able to hit their actual targets, killing 14 wanted al-Qaeda leaders, besides perishing 687 innocent Pakistani civilians. The success percentage of the US predator strikes thus comes to not more than six per cent.

Clearly more attention is being paid to human rights - like the right not to have your child murdered - since the bad Bush days are over and the "progressives" have come to power in Washington.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


In this interview Chomsky talks about the fundamental problem of the lack of engagement and political participation. It is not an exhortation - Chomsky does not do exhortation - it is an analysis that is so insightful as to be totally obvious. People get frustrated with Chomsky because they say he does not provide solutions, just lucid expositions of the problem. I think the charge is a bit misplaced as this interview may make clear:

Sunday, April 5, 2009


Something to smile about.