Jesus, take the wheel. SCOTUS recently handed down a decision — reenforcing an Obama administration policy — that is so dumb it rivals John Roberts’s “what is this ‘email’ you speak of?” moment of shame.
The court, and Obama, broadly defined “material support” of so-called terrorist organizations.
While the relevant statute defines “material support” to include a long list of items that are clearly connected to the violent activities of terrorists, it also includes more ambiguous terms such as “any…service,…training, expert advice or assistance.”
Basically, this decision means peacekeepers like Jimmy Carter could be accused of offering “material support,” meaning any service, which could include counsel or mediation, to groups like the democratically elected Hamas.
Also, notice the term “terrorist group” is a completely arbitrary label. Hamas, though they came to power in a democratic election, is a terrorist group, while Israel, which receives billions of dollars in aid from the US, and uses illegal weapons like white phosphorous against a civilian population, and continues to exercise collective punishment unabated by western bystanders, is an “important ally.”
If you asked me what publication General McChrystal, the highest ranking US military official in Afghanistan, would chose to meet with for the purpose of discrediting his Commander-in-chief, I probably wouldn’t have said the same magazine that once featured the fabulous Adam Lambert on its cover.
An article in this week’s Rolling Stone magazine depicts McChrystal as a lone wolf on the outs with many important figures in the Obama administration and unable to persuade even some of his own soldiers that his strategy can win the war.
Are we talking about the same lone wolf, who admitted to war crimes in March? I can’t imagine why people are refusing to listen to a man who admitted that the US military has “shot an amazing number of people, but to [his] knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat.”
This weird story reminded me of Sy Hersh’s statement last year that the military was “waging a war against the White House.”
“A lot of people in the Pentagon would like to see him get into trouble,” he said. By leaking information that the commanding officer in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, says the war would be lost without an additional 40,000 American troops, top brass have put Obama in a no-win situation, Hersh contended.
“If he gives them the extra troops they’re asking for, he loses politically,” Hersh said. “And if he doesn’t give them the troops, he also loses politically.”
McChrystal’s, of course, playing innocent now, and he’s apologized to the White House, but it’s hard to believe a man who spends his every waking hour plotting strategy would “accidentally” leak these kinds of whopping gaffs to the press.
Here’s a strange one. Today, Candy Crowly interviewed Senators Lieberman, Murkowski, Feinstein, and Lugar, and somehow managed to survive to tell the tale of it. Feinstein and Lugar specifically talked about Afghanistan, and Candy pointed out how the whole thing has turned into a bottomless quagmire of despair and suffering.
My words, not hers. Feinstein thinks people like me are Negative Nellies. I guess she was included in this conversation as the “liberal” answer to the Republicans’ crazies, but honestly, she sounded like a chickenhawk most of the time. The Taliban is bad. Really, Diane? I had no idea. I thought all that acid they threw in the faces of schoolgirls was part of an exfoliation regimen.
But the gold medal for “What’d He Say?” in punditry excellence goes to Dick Lugar for this exchange. My comments [in brackets]:
CROWLEY: Senator Lugar, she paints a pretty grim picture about a war that’s been going on for nine-plus years. [Again, I thought Feinstein was pretty conservative in her language, but then again, I'm a shrill, hysterical, irrational leftist agent]. If had you to say, on this day I will know that the U.S. has succeed and we can begin bringing troops home, what would that day look like?
LUGAR: Well, your question implies that we’ve defined success, and we’ve never got to that point. That’s a part of our problem, that we’re going to have, as a government, whether it be the president or the Congress, to define success in a way in which the American people find this to be satisfying. Otherwise we’ll continue to argue about the date of withdrawal or how fast, or how — whether we surge more or less, without ever having defined exactly what it is hope from Afghanistan. [What'd he say?]
Wait, what? The only barometer we have for “success,” which, btw, we haven’t even defined, is the satisfaction of the American people? So basically, whatever the American people desire shall by default become the parameters of “success.”
I feel sorry for Matt Bai. It was just three years ago that he sighed over the wasteland of the Clinton era and pondered aloud, what was it all for?
Even without the allusions to the old days, his speech seemed strangely reminiscent of that first campaign, and not necessarily in a good way. Listening to him talk, I found it hard not to wonder why so many of the challenges facing the next president were almost identical to those he vowed to address in 1992. Why, after Clinton’s two terms in office, were we still thinking about tomorrow? In some areas, most notably health care, Clinton tried gamely to leave behind lasting change, and he failed. In many more areas, though, the progress that was made under Clinton — almost 23 million new jobs, reductions in poverty, lower crime and higher wages — had been reversed or wiped away entirely in a remarkably short time. Clinton’s presidency seems now to have been oddly ephemeral, his record etched in chalk and left out in the rain.
Yeah, what’s up with that? Why does America seem to be forever spinning its wheels, and why has politics been reduced to a series of empty promises and arguments about abortion and gay marriage?
Apparently, Matt has been asking this question for three years because he has yet to find an answer.
The MMS granted a drilling permit yesterday to Bandon Oil and Gas that will allow the company to drill 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana in a water depth of 115 feet. Reports of MMS banning drilling for six months apply only to depths greater than 500 feet. Nonetheless, the fact that MMS is still issuing any permits has angered some people.
“I’m outraged,” said Kieran Suckling, executive director for the Tucson, Ariz.,-based Center for Biological Diversity, after a reporter told him of the new permit. “How is it that shallow water drilling suddenly became safe again?”
Suckling said the administration was misleading the public by quietly resuming work in shallow waters while acting as if it was taking a tough look at deepwater work.
Interior Department spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff assures everyone that anyone drilling in shallow-water operations will have to meet certain specified standards.
“All operators who are drilling or intend to drill in shallow water must first meet applicable interim safety standards announced last week by the president,” Barkoff said. “Those operators who are already drilling must stop at a safe place and implement the safety requirements before continuing.”
It’s difficult to take any assurances coming from ID or MMS seriously, since the startling mismanagement and deregulation trends began under their watch. It’s a bit like if a surgeon severs a patient’s pulmonary vein, and as blood shoots up like a mini-geyser, asks the entire OR to “just trust” them.
It’s easier to trust people who haven’t massively fucked up everything.
It’s interesting to watch the extent the American government is willing to go in order to remain strapped to Israel even as Netanyahu and Co. plummet off a cliff. America’s leadership is so eager to not only sabotage its own empire, but also its “friend’s” home, that it has committed the very altruistic act of purchasing the straps that will keep the countries hopelessly bound together as they both fall to their certain deaths.
These binds are costly — $30 billion dollars over the next decade in defense aid for Israel — even as the US endures mass unemployment, crumbling infrastructure, and recently experienced a fatiguing brawl in the spirit of securing some kind of affordable healthcare even as Israel enjoys universal coverage.
Israel’s army is an extension of the US army, and the two countries usually stand in stark, unified contrast to the rest of the world’s vote. A typical United Nations vote calling for a two-state solution based on the right of return and compensation for the Palestinians looks like this: 164 nations in favor, 7 against (Australia, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States) and 4 absentions.
Israel, United States, Palau. It’s like the three musketeers if Dumas ended his novel with the IDF mowing down civilians bringing wheelchairs and medicine to Palestinians.
I mean, holy shit. If you asked me the limit of the United States’s willingness to go to bat for Israel over crazy authoritarian behavior, I would probably have said, “Well, there’s no way they would defend the IDF storming an aid ship — like heavily armed pirates — using European legislators and 1976 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire as target practice.”
The President and the media can’t help BP rush through the unpleasantness of poisoning the ocean quickly enough. First, the government (starting with Bush, but extending through Obama’s reign) staffed the MMS with incompetents, who apparently alternated between allowing oil and gas company workers to fill out their own inspection forms, accepting Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl tickets from offshore drilling companies, and smoking crystal meth.
What I’m trying to say is, the MMS was extremely busy, which is probably why they didn’t notice BP’s blowout preventer had a dead battery in its control pod, leaks in its hydraulic system, a “useless” test version of a key component and a cutting tool that wasn’t strong enough to shear through steel joints in the well pipe and stop the flow of oil in the event of a fiery explosion, which by the way, totally happened. But who has time to check superfluous stuff like a blowout preventer? I mean, that meth isn’t going to smoke itself.
BP has shown a desire to cover its own ass by allegedly forbidding clean-up crews to wear respirators so as to avoid future negligence lawsuits even as it continues to dump toxic dispersants, which have been banned in the UK, ignoring the EPA’s pleas to find a less toxic (and extremely available) version.
Though President Obama has asked the media to place the burden of responsibility on his shoulders, it’s clear BP was woefully unprepared for a disaster of this magnitude (even though they told the government they could handle a spill 60 times larger than Deepwater Horizon). The truth is the company really didn’t have a contingency plan for something of this scale.
A blowout like this one apparently wasn’t expected, although it should have been. One of the most stunning examples of BP’s lack of preparation is evidenced in the emergency-response strategy report it prepared in accordance with federal law. The report runs 583 pages, but is alarmingly short on how to stop a deep-sea spill.
Perhaps BP’s disaster management was a bit light on the details because the government wasn’t asking tough questions. The MMS, the agency charged with overseeing offshore drilling, is disastrously managed. A report issued recently by the IG outlines the same familiar type of cronyism and corruption that has become a systemic rot in Washington.
John Brennan, the deputy national security adviser for counter-terrorism and homeland security, has announced a new national security strategy that will focus on the threat posed by homegrown extremists. Except, the target of this strategy doesn’t seem to be all domestic terrorism, but rather domestic terrorism with foreign roots.
There has been a surge in right-wing extremism in the U.S., copiously documented by groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center, but which was also predicted by Homeland Security. In fact, the report warned that right-wing extremists, who are “angry at the economy and the election of a black president” might recruit GWOT veterans.
I have been writing about how white domestic terrorism has slipped from the media’s radar, but sadly, it seems like the government is also uninterested by the surge in right wing extremism — possibly because such violence doesn’t fit the helpful war narrative of the “dangerous other” being brown, and from a desert landscape.
Barbara Herbert, a course director at Tufts University School of Medicine, made a short, but compelling plea in today’s New York Times. Herbert argued that the United States government should convene a truth and reconciliation commission, using the one in South Africa as a model, to investigate into possible crimes committed by the Bush administration.
Such a commission would allow a nation to (a) find the truth of what happened from multiple perspectives, (b) develop an understanding of how it happened and (c) heal.
A commission isn’t some kind of partisan booby trap thrown together in a frenzied quest for retribution as Harry Reid suggested last week. The formation of a nonpartisan commission also wouldn’t act as a nefarious tool to dismantle the foundation of The American Way (corrupting the sweet “mysteries” of life,) as Bush apologists like Peggy Noonan claim.
A truth commission would use the law as a compass, and its only goal would be to restore order in America. As Herbert wrote, “We need a chance for secular redemption and healing.”
On Tuesday, Jeremy Scahill reported that Rep. John Conyers, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Jerrold Nadler wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder officially requesting the appointment of an independent Special Prosecutor to “to investigate and, where appropriate, prosecute torture committed against detainees during the Bush administration.” In order to restore credibility to the Justice Department, Holder must adhere to the rule of law, and not partisan demands. He must investigate into possible crimes committed under the Bush administration.
The law is not a fringe issue. Progressives may be the ones demanding an investigative commission, but the issue at stake here is the law itself. That’s not a partisan issue. The law should be sacred to all Americans: Republicans and Democrats. And if Democrats are proven to have been complicit in torture, then they too must be punished according to the law.
Otherwise, Americans will learn only one lesson: the law does not apply to our leaders. What a terrible lesson to teach young Americans.