* OBAMA INSISTS ON INDEFINITE DETENTION OF AMERICANS
Think that President Obama will stand by his word and veto the legislation that will allow the government to detain American citizens without charge or trial? Think again.
The Obama administration has insisted that the president will veto the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, a bill that passed through the Senate last week. Under the legislation, the United States of America is deemed a battlefield and Americans suspected of committing a terrorism offense can be held without trial and tortured indefinitely. Despite the grave consequences for citizens and the direct assault on the US Constitution, the act managed to make it through both halves of Congress but President Obama says he won’t let it become a law.
According to Senator Carl Levin, however, Americans should be a bit more concerned about what the president’s actual intentions are. Levin, who sits on the Armed Services Committee as chairman, has revealed to Congress that the Obama administration influenced the wording of the act and shot down text that would have saved American citizens from the indefinite imprisonment and suspension of habeas corpus.
Senator Levin told Congress recently that under the original wording of the National Defense Authorization Act, American citizens were excluded from the provision that allowed for detention. Once Obama’s officials saw the text though, says Levin, “the administration asked us to remove the language which says that US citizens and lawful residents would not be subject to this section.”
Specifically, the section that Obama asked to be reworded was Section 1031 of the NDAA FY2012, which says that “any person who has committed a belligerent act” could be held indefinitely.
“It was the administration that asked us to remove the very language which we had in the bill which passed the committee…we removed it at the request of the administration,” said Levin. “It was the administration which asked us to remove the very language the absence of which is now objected to.” […]
* THE WORST PART OF THE SIGNING STATEMENT: SECTION 1024
By Marcy Wheeler, emptywheel
As I explained here, Obama’s signing statement on the defense authorization was about what I expected. He included squishy language so as to pretend he doesn’t fully support indefinite detention. And he basically promised to ignore much of the language on presumptive military detention.
But there was one part of the signing statement I (naively) didn’t expect. It’s this:
Sections 1023-1025 needlessly interfere with the executive branch’s processes for reviewing the status of detainees. Going forward, consistent with congressional intent as detailed in the Conference Report, my Administration will interpret section 1024 as granting the Secretary of Defense broad discretion to determine what detainee status determinations in Afghanistan are subject to the requirements of this section. [my emphasis]
Section 1024, remember, requires the Defense Department to actually establish the provisions for status reviews that Obama has promised but not entirely delivered.
SEC. 1024. PROCEDURES FOR STATUS DETERMINATIONS.
(a) IN GENERAL.—Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Defense shall submit to the appropriate committees of Congress a report setting forth the procedures for determining the status of persons detained pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107–40; 50 U.S.C. 1541 note) for purposes of section 1021.
(b) ELEMENTS OF PROCEDURES.—The procedures required by this section shall provide for the following in the case of any unprivileged enemy belligerent who will be held in long-term detention under the law of war pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force:
(1) A military judge shall preside at proceedings for the determination of status of an unprivileged enemy belligerent.
(2) An unprivileged enemy belligerent may, at the election of the belligerent, be represented by military counsel at proceedings for the determination of status of the belligerent.
(c) APPLICABILITY.—The Secretary of Defense is not required to apply the procedures required by this section in the case of a person for whom habeas corpus review is available in a Federal court.
As I’ve noted, Lindsey Graham (and other bill supporters, both the right and left of Lindsey) repeatedly insisted on this review provision. Lindsey promised every detainee would get real review of his status.
I want to be able to tell anybody who is interested that no person in an American prison–civilian or military–held as a suspected member of al-Qaida will be held without independent judicial review. We are not allowing the executive branch to make that decision unchecked. For the first time in the history of American warfare, every American combatant held by the executive branch will have their day in Federal court, and the government has to prove by a preponderance of the evidence you are in fact part of the enemy force. [my emphasis]
And yet, in spite of the fact that Section 1024 includes no exception for those detained at Bagram, Obama just invented such an exception.
Section 1024 was one of the few good parts of the detainee provisions in this bill, because it would have finally expanded the due process available to the thousands of detainees who are hidden away at Bagram now with no meaningful review.
But Obama just made that good part disappear. […]
* CHIEF JUSTICE DEFENDS PEERS’ HEARING CASE ON HEALTH LAW
By Adam Liptak, NYTimes
In the face of a growing controversy over whether two Supreme Court justices should disqualify themselves from the challenge to the 2010 health care overhaul law, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. on Saturday defended the court’s ethical standards.
The chief justice’s comments came in his annual report on the state of the federal judiciary. In it, he made what amounted to a vigorous defense of Justices Clarence Thomas and Elena Kagan, who are facing calls to disqualify themselves from hearing the health care case, which will be argued over three days in late March. He did not, however, mention the justices by name.
“I have complete confidence in the capability of my colleagues to determine when recusal is warranted,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote. “They are jurists of exceptional integrity and experience whose character and fitness have been examined through a rigorous appointment and confirmation process.”
Federal law requires that judges disqualify themselves when they have a financial interest in a case, have given ad-vice or expressed an opinion “concerning the merits of the particular case” or when their “impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” For lower court judges, such a decision can be reviewed by a higher court, but the Supreme Court has no such review.
Chief Justice Roberts said the Supreme Court’s unique status made it impossible for the justices to follow the practices of lower-court judges in recusal matters. Lower-court judges can be replaced if they decide to disqualify themselves, he said, and their decisions about recusal can be reviewed by higher courts.
“The Supreme Court does not sit in judgment of one of its own members’ decision whether to recuse in the course of deciding a case,” he wrote. “Indeed, if the Supreme Court reviewed those decisions, it would create an undesirable situation in which the court could affect the outcome of a case by selecting who among its members may participate.”
Some critics, mostly on the left, say Justice Thomas should step aside because of the activities of his wife, Virginia, in working with groups opposed to the law. Others, mostly on the right, say Justice Kagan should not hear the case because she may have been involved in aspects of it when she was United States solicitor general. There is every indication that both justices intend to participate in the health care case. […]
* LOW FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES: TRIAD OF BUSINESS, COPS AND POLITICIANS ATTACK OCCUPY
By Carl Finamore, CounterPunch
A political campaign by San Francisco’s well-heeled “property owners” was launched to influence police and politicians to aggressively demobilize Occupy SF and to dismantle their encampments. And, there are documents to prove it.
Things did not start out this way.
When the Occupy movement first took root on Saturday, September 17, 2011 in New York’s famously renamed Liberty Square, it took the country and the whole world by surprise.
None more shocked than the now notoriously renamed one per cent. They were embarrassed by the spotlight on their secretive, self-serving, and sometimes illegal transactions.
As a result, for the first few weeks, the stunned rich and powerful were thrown off balance. Protestors had the upper hand. Rights of assembly and free speech were exercised in ways originally intended, with few restrictions and no curfews.
A remarkable and rewarding political discussion ensued that influenced millions. America was awakening from its deep political slumber. It was coming alive.
But the Wall Street elite was aghast. Everything for them was coming apart. Protests exposing economic inequality were jeopardizing everything they took for granted.
It had to be stopped.
Weekend trips to the Hamptons and Aspen were put on hold. The rich and infamous on both coasts “took meetings” with their underlings, including their well-connected hirelings in our nation’s capital, to figure out what to do.
A political counter-offensive was launched. This occurred everywhere, including in my city, San Francisco.
Political Counter-Offensive by the One Percent
A corporate campaign to demobilize Occupy SF initially went public in November with a series of threatening letters obtained by SF Weekly that were sent by Embarcadero Center attorney Marshall C. Wallace to San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee.
Embarcadero Center is a huge commercial complex of office and retail facilities in and around the area of the Occupy SF encampment.
Wallace repeatedly indicated he and other business interests would sue the city for damages if the Occupy SF “illegal camp and associated activities” were not stopped. Numerous health, fire and safety violations were enumerated.
A November 10 letter by Wallace further warned that “a coalition of property owners is forming and we expect this coalition to join Embarcadero Center in its call for the city to act.”
Jumping into this escalating corporate campaign, San Francisco Hyatt Regency general manager David Lewin wrote disparagingly on November 18 to city Supervisor Sean Elsbernd that the Occupy “movement has been hijacked by vagrants and delinquents who are seriously impacting my business and this neighborhood.”
Hyatt, the Chicago-based hotel corporation controlled by a family of billionaires, is already considered by many to be the epitome of the one percent and Lewin’s vulgarity probably makes it even easier to understand why the Unite-HERE union boycott of Hyatt hotels is very popular in San Francisco.
In any case, Lewin represented only one part of a larger Chamber of Commerce-type “coalition of property owners” as proclaimed by business attorney Wallace in letters to Mayor Lee.
Playing supporting roles was a noisy media chorus repeatedly echoing pretexts of various municipal health, park and police regulations that were allegedly being violated.
And, the whole experience was not just local. The same orchestrated script was being followed nationally as best described in the December 1, UK Guardian:
“Throughout the country, local authorities are citing health and safety concerns and invoking obscure municipal codes as pretexts for clampdowns, according to the National Lawyers Guild.”
As Chinese Progressive Association (CPA) community leader Shaw San reminded me in a conversation, “it was deposed President Hosni Mubarak who first ordered occupying Egyptian protestors to clear Tahrir Square because it was becoming a health and safety hazard. These ridiculous red-herrings were rejected then by the world community and they should be rejected now as well.”[…]
* SURGING BACK INTO ZUCCOTTI PARK, PROTESTERS ARE CLEARED BY POLICE
By Colin Moynihan and Elizabeth A. Harris, NYTimes
Dave Sanders for The New York Times
Members of the Occupy movement celebrated New Year’s at Zuccotti Park.
2:10 a.m. | Updated More than 500 people associated with the Occupy Wall Street movement gathered in Zuccotti Park on Saturday and, in a return to scenes from earlier in the year, the evening began with the sound of drumming and calls of the now familiar slogan, “We are the 99 percent” — and it ended with torn-down barricades and a scuffle with police officers.
Just after 10:30 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, officers carried a person out of the park, prompting protesters to follow behind them, shouting “Shame!” The reason the person was escorted away was unclear.
About 20 minutes later, a group of protesters grabbed some of the metal barricades that surround the park and began piling them inside. As they gripped the barricades, police officers took hold as well, and a shoving match began, the silver bars trapped in between. At least one police officer fired an arch of pepper spray into the crowd behind those barricades.
Moments later, at least a dozen police officers charged into the park, plowing directly into a crowd of people, some of whom were trying to flee, pushing and shoving. One man was thrown down and pinned to the ground by several officers.
In the park, some protesters shouted “Peaceful!” and “Nonviolent!”
As the scuffle subsided, a group of police officers gathered on Cedar Street.
The evening began more diplomatically.
About 100 people arrived at the park at about 7 p.m., according to witnesses, and someone put up what was described as a small multicolored tent, about two feet tall, made for a child. Two young girls, who were at the park with their mother, began playing inside. […]
* HOW MANY U.S. SOLDIERS WERE WOUNDED IN IRAQ?
By Dan Froomkin, HuffPo
Reports about the end of the war in Iraq routinely describe the toll on the U.S. military the way the Pentagon does: 4,487 dead, and 32,226 wounded.
The death count is accurate. But the wounded figure wildly understates the number of American servicemembers who have come back from Iraq less than whole.
The true number of military personnel injured over the course of our nine-year-long fiasco in Iraq is in the hundreds of thousands — maybe even more than half a million — if you take into account all the men and women who returned from their deployments with traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress, depression, hearing loss, breathing disorders, diseases, and other long-term health problems.
We don’t have anything close to an exact number, however, because nobody’s been keeping track.
The much-cited Defense Department figure comes from its tally of “wounded in action” — a narrowly-tailored category that only includes casualties during combat operations who have “incurred an injury due to an external agent or cause.” That generally means they needed immediate medical treatment after having been shot or blown up. Explicitly excluded from that category are “injuries or death due to the elements, self-inflicted wounds, combat fatigue” — along with cumulative psychological and physiological strain or many of the other wounds, maladies and losses that are most common among Iraq veterans.
The “wounded in action” category is relatively consistent, historically, so it’s still useful as a point of comparison to previous wars. But there is no central repository of data regarding these other, sometimes grievous, harms. We just have a few data points here and there that indicate the magnitude.
Consider, for instance:
- The Pentagon’s Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center reports having diagnosed 229,106 cases of mild to severe traumatic brain injury from 2000 to the third quarter of 2011, including both Iraq and Afghan vets.
- A 2008 study of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans by researchers at the RAND Corporation found that 14 percent screened positive for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and 14 percent for major depression, with 19 percent reporting a probable traumatic brain injury during deployment. (The researchers found that major depression is “highly associated with combat exposure and should be considered as being along the spectrum of post-deployment mental health consequences.”) Applying those proportions to the 1.5 million veterans of Iraq, an estimated 200,000 of them would be expected to suffer from PTSD or major depression, with 285,000 of them having experienced a probable traumatic brain injury.
- A 2008 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that 15 percent of soldiers reported an injury during deployment that involved loss of consciousness or altered mental status, and 17 percent of soldiers reported other injuries. (Using that ratio would suggest that 480,000 Iraq vets were injured one way or the other.) More than 40 percent of soldiers who lost of consciousness met the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Altogether, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America group estimates that nearly 1 in 3 people deployed in those wars suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, or traumatic brain injury. That would mean 500,000 of the 1.5 million deployed to Iraq.
- The single most common service-connected disability is actually hearing loss. A 2005 Department of Veterans Affairs research paper found that one third of soldiers who had recently returned from deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq were referred to audiologists for hearing evaluations due to exposure to acute acoustic blasts, and 72 percent of them were identified as having hearing loss. Richard Salvi, head of the University of Buffalo’s Center for Hearing and Deafness announced recently that “as many as 50 percent of combat soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan who come back have tinnitus” because of the intense noise soldiers must withstand.
- The Department of Veterans Affairs’ list of potential deployment health conditions includes chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, fibromyalgia, hearing difficulties, hepatitis A, B and C, leishmaniasis (also known as the “Baghdad boil”), malaria, memory loss, migraines, sleep disorders and tuberculosis.
- The VA’s web page on hazardous exposures warns that “combat Veterans may have been exposed to a wide variety of environmental hazards during their service in Afghanistan or Iraq. These hazardous exposures may cause long-term health problems.” The hazards include exposure to open-air burn pits, infectious diseases, depleted uranium, toxic shrapnel, cold and heat injuries and chemical agent resistant paint. The VA provides no estimates of exposure or damage, however.
- A 2010 Congressional Research Service report, presenting what it called “difficult-to-find statistics regarding U.S. military casualties” offers one indication of how the “wounded in action” category undercounts real casualties. It found that for every soldier wounded in action and medically evacuated from Iraq , more than four more were medically evacuated for other reasons.
- The Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center‘s most recent monthly report found that the proportion of returned deployers who, around 3 months after their return, rated their health as “fair” or “poor” was 10 to 13 percent. More than 20 percent said their health was worse than before they were deployed; a similar number had “exposure concerns” and more than 27 percent reported depression symptoms.
- A March 2010 report from the Institute of Medicine concluded that many wounds suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan will persist over veterans’ lifetimes, and some impacts of military service may not be felt until decades later. […]
* THE LIES OF WAR
By Jack Random, Information Clearing House
“You are part of an unbroken line of heroes spanning two centuries — from the colonists who overthrew an empire, to your grandparents and parents who faced down fascism and communism, to you — men and women who fought for the same principles in Fallujah and Kandahar, and delivered justice to those who attacked us on 9/11.
The most important lesson that we can take from you is not about military strategy –- it’s a lesson about our national character. Because of you, we are ending these wars in a way that will make America stronger and the world more secure.”
— President Barack Obama, Address to Troops at Fort Bragg, December 14, 2011
December 30, 2011 —The lies of war are forgotten as easily and readily as the wrappings of Christmas or the resolutions of a new year. Like a child still in diapers, the lessons of war must be learned again and again until finally they are taken to heart.
The lies of the war in Iraq are so easily buried that six out of seven Republican candidates for president of the United States have publicly pledged to go to war in Iran based on the identical unsubstantiated claims that led us to war in Iraq. The lessons of that ill-fated war, the largest strategic blunder since Vietnam, are so readily put behind us that even before that colossal disaster officially ended, six of seven Republican candidates pledged his and her allegiance to the same neoconservative brain trust that guided us into the snake pit. And the White House is not far behind.
But when the president announces that we have created an opportunity for the Iraqis to thrive and prosper as a democratic nation, he is not only being disingenuous; he is perpetuating the lies of war. When the president declares that our fight in Iraq was for Iraqi freedom and international justice, he is paving the way for another unjust war in America’s future. He is attempting to bury the specter of Vietnam.
Leaving Afghanistan for another day, we should all agree that the Iraq War was wrong from its inception. It was never about democracy. It was never about justice. It was always about oil and strategic advantage.
Wrong is wrong.