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John Yoo — then and now by Glenn Greenwald


Dandelion Salad

by Glenn Greenwald
July 24, 2007

The Wall St. Journal Editorial Page wanted someone to defend George Bush’s serial assertions of “Executive Privilege” to block investigations into his wrongdoing, and it turned, of course, to ex-Bush-DOJ-lawyer John Yoo, who is not only the most authoritarian but also the most partisan and intellectually dishonest lawyer in the country. Yoo is not only willing — but intensely eager — to defend literally anything George W. Bush does or would want to do, including — literally — torturing people and crushing the testicles of children if the Leader decreed that doing so was necessary to fight Terrorists. Yoo, of course, is a principal author of most of the radical executive power theories which have eroded our constitutional framework over the last six years.

In defending the President, Yoo’s Op-Ed yesterday touts the grave importance of Executive Privilege and makes all the claims one would expect. He stresses the “president’s right to keep internal executive discussions confidential”; proclaims that “without secrecy, the government can’t function”; compares Bush’s assertions to George Washington’s; and concludes that by asserting Executive Privilege (nowhere mentioned in the Constitution), Bush “has the Constitution on his side.”

But this isn’t the first Op-Ed Yoo has written on the topic of Executive Privilege for the Wall St. Journal. Back in 1998, when Bill Clinton was asserting the same privilege to resist Congressional demands that his closest aides testify about the President’s deliberations in responding to the various Lewinsky investigations, Yoo became one of the leading spokespeople denouncing the assertion of this privilege.

Continued…

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

Living Becomes Hard in a Dead City By Ahmed Ali


Dandelion Salad

By Ahmed Ali*
Inter Press Service
July 23, 2007

BAQUBA, Jul 23 (IPS)

Life in the violence-plagued capital city of Iraq’s Diyala province has become a struggle for day-to-day survival.

Heavy U.S military operations, sectarian death squads and al-Qaeda militants have combined to make normal life in Baquba, 50 km northeast of Baghdad, all but impossible.

Movement from the city to another destination is extremely dangerous. Kidnappings have become rampant in a lawless city where government control is only a mirage.

Lack of security and mobility have meant severe shortages of fuel, food, medical supplies and other necessities.

The central market in the city of about 325,000 has vanished. It is not just the shopping that is gone. People used to meet acquaintances in the market to socialise and sometimes do business.

The ongoing violence has ended all that. The market has become scattered around city districts. Many shop owners have reopened smaller shops within their houses, and abandoned their business locations.

About two or three persons have been killed or abducted in the market daily on average in recent weeks. This had started to happen even before the U.S. military operation Arrowhead Ripper was launched last month with the intention of targeting al-Qaeda forces. Now residents say it is much worse.

“The troops have closed all the outlets from the city, and never allow cars to move,” Amir Ayad, a 51-year-old assistant professor in the sciences college at Diyala University told IPS. “To get my college, I have to get a cart as other people do. It is five kilometres, and it is better than walking.”

“For the final examinations which were held unfortunately during this period of military operations, students had to walk hours to get to the exam centre,” Prof. Majeed Abid told IPS. “They were exhausted and sweating.”

Animal-drawn carts have now become a new business in Baquba. Most of these are drawn by donkeys, and each cart carries 10-15 passengers who pay two to three dollars a journey.

“Every day I bring vegetables four kilometres by cart and pay 25-35 dollars for this,” 29-year-old Adil Omran told IPS. “For this reason, the prices have increased tremendously.”

“A tomato, which is grown commonly in Iraq, is usually around six cents,” said Mahmood Ali, a retired teacher. “Nowadays, we buy it for 1.25 dollar. Families now tend to buy one or two bags of potatoes (30 kilos each) because they cannot afford the increasing prices of other vegetables.”

Complicating matters is the already unsteady disbursement of salaries due to the volatile security situation.

“Officials used to receive their salaries every month, but for a year and a half now we receive our salaries only every 50-70 days,” Kadhim Raad, a 44-year-old official in the municipality of Baquba told IPS.

“The staff at the Ministry of Education have not received their salaries for three months because no money is available in the banks,” Sara Latif, an official in the finance department of the Directorate General of Education told IPS.

People are now looking for ways to leave this city of continuing violence, delayed salaries, lack of jobs, lack of open markets, closed factories, no functioning municipal work, and very little farming due to lack of water and electricity.

The average house in Baquba gets one or two hours of electricity a day. It is not uncommon for three or four days to pass without a minute of electricity.

Most people have bought small generators, but lack of fuel often makes it impossible to run these. Before the U.S.-led invasion, a litre of petrol in Iraq cost five cents; today in Baquba it is nearly two dollars.

There are no functioning fuel stations. Instead, people buy 20-litre jugs.

“People have forgotten there is something called a petrol station,” Hamid Alwan, a 46-year-old taxi driver told IPS. “The owners of petrol stations sell the tankers of petrol before they are brought to Baquba to make more money.”

And all this is less than the biggest concern – to find a way just to stay safe.

(*Ahmed, our correspondent in Iraq’s Diyala province, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who travels extensively in the region)

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

Afghanistan: Britain is protecting the biggest heroin crop of all time by Craig Murray


Dandelion Salad

by Craig Murray
Global Research, July 24, 2007
Daily Mail

This week the 64th British soldier to die in Afghanistan, Corporal Mike Gilyeat, was buried. All the right things were said about this brave soldier, just as, on current trends, they will be said about one or more of his colleagues who follow him next week.

The alarming escalation of the casualty rate among British soldiers in Afghanistan – up to ten per cent – led to discussion this week on whether it could be fairly compared to casualty rates in the Second World War.

But the key question is this: what are our servicemen dying for? There are glib answers to that: bringing democracy and development to Afghanistan, supporting the government of President Hamid Karzai in its attempt to establish order in the country, fighting the Taliban and preventing the further spread of radical Islam into Pakistan.

But do these answers stand up to close analysis?

There has been too easy an acceptance of the lazy notion that the war in Afghanistan is the ‘good’ war, while the war in Iraq is the ‘bad’ war, the blunder. The origins of this view are not irrational. There was a logic to attacking Afghanistan after 9/11.

Afghanistan was indeed the headquarters of Osama Bin Laden and his organisation, who had been installed and financed there by the CIA to fight the Soviets from 1979 until 1989. By comparison, the attack on Iraq – which was an enemy of Al Qaeda and no threat to us – was plainly irrational in terms of the official justification.

So the attack on Afghanistan has enjoyed a much greater sense of public legitimacy. But the operation to remove Bin Laden was one thing. Six years of occupation are clearly another.

Few seem to turn a hair at the officially expressed view that our occupation of Iraq may last for decades.

Lib Dem leader Menzies Campbell has declared, fatuously, that the Afghan war is ‘winnable’.

Afghanistan was not militarily winnable by the British Empire at the height of its supremacy. It was not winnable by Darius or Alexander, by Shah, Tsar or Great Moghul. It could not be subdued by 240,000 Soviet troops. But what, precisely, are we trying to win?

In six years, the occupation has wrought one massive transformation in Afghanistan, a development so huge that it has increased Afghan GDP by 66 per cent and constitutes 40 per cent of the entire economy. That is a startling achievement, by any standards. Yet we are not trumpeting it. Why not?

The answer is this. The achievement is the highest harvests of opium the world has ever seen.

The Taliban had reduced the opium crop to precisely nil. I would not advocate their methods for doing this, which involved lopping bits, often vital bits, off people. The Taliban were a bunch of mad and deeply unpleasant religious fanatics. But one of the things they were vehemently against was opium.

That is an inconvenient truth that our spin has managed to obscure. Nobody has denied the sincerity of the Taliban’s crazy religious zeal, and they were as unlikely to sell you heroin as a bottle of Johnnie Walker.

They stamped out the opium trade, and impoverished and drove out the drug warlords whose warring and rapacity had ruined what was left of the country after the Soviet war.

That is about the only good thing you can say about the Taliban; there are plenty of very bad things to say about them. But their suppression of the opium trade and the drug barons is undeniable fact.

Now we are occupying the country, that has changed. According to the United Nations, 2006 was the biggest opium harvest in history, smashing the previous record by 60 per cent. This year will be even bigger.

Our economic achievement in Afghanistan goes well beyond the simple production of raw opium. In fact Afghanistan no longer exports much raw opium at all. It has succeeded in what our international aid efforts urge every developing country to do. Afghanistan has gone into manufacturing and ‘value-added’ operations.

It now exports not opium, but heroin. Opium is converted into heroin on an industrial scale, not in kitchens but in factories. Millions of gallons of the chemicals needed for this process are shipped into Afghanistan by tanker. The tankers and bulk opium lorries on the way to the factories share the roads, improved by American aid, with Nato troops.

How can this have happened, and on this scale? The answer is simple. The four largest players in the heroin business are all senior members of the Afghan government – the government that our soldiers are fighting and dying to protect.

When we attacked Afghanistan, America bombed from the air while the CIA paid, armed and equipped the dispirited warlord drug barons – especially those grouped in the Northern Alliance – to do the ground occupation. We bombed the Taliban and their allies into submission, while the warlords moved in to claim the spoils. Then we made them ministers.

President Karzai is a good man. He has never had an opponent killed, which may not sound like much but is highly unusual in this region and possibly unique in an Afghan leader. But nobody really believes he is running the country. He asked America to stop its recent bombing campaign in the south because it was leading to an increase in support for the Taliban. The United States simply ignored him. Above all, he has no control at all over the warlords among his ministers and governors, each of whom runs his own kingdom and whose primary concern is self-enrichment through heroin.

My knowledge of all this comes from my time as British Ambassador in neighbouring Uzbekistan from 2002 until 2004. I stood at the Friendship Bridge at Termez in 2003 and watched the Jeeps with blacked-out windows bringing the heroin through from Afghanistan, en route to Europe.

I watched the tankers of chemicals roaring into Afghanistan.

Yet I could not persuade my country to do anything about it. Alexander Litvinenko – the former agent of the KGB, now the FSB, who died in London last November after being poisoned with polonium 210 – had suffered the same frustration over the same topic.

There are a number of theories as to why Litvinenko had to flee Russia. The most popular blames his support for the theory that FSB agents planted bombs in Russian apartment blocks to stir up anti-Chechen feeling.

But the truth is that his discoveries about the heroin trade were what put his life in danger. Litvinenko was working for the KGB in St Petersburg in 2001 and 2002. He became concerned at the vast amounts of heroin coming from Afghanistan, in particular from the fiefdom of the (now) Head of the Afghan armed forces, General Abdul Rashid Dostum, in north and east Afghanistan.

Dostum is an Uzbek, and the heroin passes over the Friendship Bridge from Afghanistan to Uzbekistan, where it is taken over by President Islam Karimov’s people. It is then shipped up the railway line, in bales of cotton, to St Petersburg and Riga.

The heroin Jeeps run from General Dostum to President Karimov. The UK, United States and Germany have all invested large sums in donating the most sophisticated detection and screening equipment to the Uzbek customs centre at Termez to stop the heroin coming through.

But the convoys of Jeeps running between Dostum and Karimov are simply waved around the side of the facility.

Litvinenko uncovered the St Petersburg end and was stunned by the involvement of the city authorities, local police and security services at the most senior levels. He reported in detail to President Vladimir Putin. Putin is, of course, from St Petersburg, and the people Litvinenko named were among Putin’s closest political allies. That is why Litvinenko, having miscalculated badly, had to flee Russia.

I had as little luck as Litvinenko in trying to get official action against this heroin trade. At the St Petersburg end he found those involved had the top protection. In Afghanistan, General Dostum is vital to Karzai’s coalition, and to the West’s pretence of a stable, democratic government.

Opium is produced all over Afghanistan, but especially in the north and north-east – Dostum’s territory. Again, our Government’s spin doctors have tried hard to obscure this fact and make out that the bulk of the heroin is produced in the tiny areas of the south under Taliban control. But these are the most desolate, infertile rocky areas. It is a physical impossibility to produce the bulk of the vast opium harvest there.

That General Dostum is head of the Afghan armed forces and Deputy Minister of Defence is in itself a symbol of the bankruptcy of our policy. Dostum is known for tying opponents to tank tracks and running them over. He crammed prisoners into metal containers in the searing sun, causing scores to die of heat and thirst.

Since we brought ‘democracy’ to Afghanistan, Dostum ordered an MP who annoyed him to be pinned down while he attacked him. The sad thing is that Dostum is probably not the worst of those comprising the Karzai government, or the biggest drug smuggler among them.

Our Afghan policy is still victim to Tony Blair’s simplistic world view and his childish division of all conflicts into ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’. The truth is that there are seldom any good guys among those vying for power in a country such as Afghanistan. To characterise the Karzai government as good guys is sheer nonsense.

Why then do we continue to send our soldiers to die in Afghanistan? Our presence in Afghanistan and Iraq is the greatest recruiting sergeant for Islamic militants. As the great diplomat, soldier and adventurer Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Alexander Burnes pointed out before his death in the First Afghan War in 1841, there is no point in a military campaign in Afghanistan as every time you beat them, you just swell their numbers. Our only real achievement to date is falling street prices for heroin in London.

Remember this article next time you hear a politician calling for more troops to go into Afghanistan. And when you hear of another brave British life wasted there, remember you can add to the casualty figures all the young lives ruined, made miserable or ended by heroin in the UK.

They, too, are casualties of our Afghan policy.

Craig Murray is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Craig Murray

 

see:

Drugs/Marijuana/War on Drugs/Prohibition (older posts)

Alexander Litvinenko/Ex-KBG Spy (older posts)

 

 


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Bill Moyers Journal: The Yes Men (video link; humor; media)


Dandelion Salad


July 20, 2007

Bill Moyers gets in on the joke with two impersonators who use satire to make serious points about media consolidation, journalism, business ethics, and separating fact from fiction in a world of spin.

LINK

h/t: ICH

***

By Bill Moyers

The Yes Men are Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno, two impersonators who use satire to bring media attention to issues that otherwise might be overlooked.

“We actually see this as a form of journalism. Or perhaps more precisely, the form of collaboration of journalists,” explains Bichlbaum in his interview with Bill Moyers.

“A lot of the issues that we address journalists want to cover. But…in many situations, editorial control won’t let them unless there’s a good little hook behind it. And so, we’ve found a way to create funny spectacles that give journalists the excuse to cover issues.”

The Yes Men have impersonated representatives from Halliburton, Dow Chemical, Exxon, and others, giving public presentations aimed at exposing what they believe to be discrepancies between how these groups want to be seen and how they really act. They call this process, “identity correction.”

While some criticize them for deception and call their hijinx unethical, they argue “these kinds of [corporate and political] wrongdoings are at such a scale – they’re so vast compared to our white lies that we think it’s ethical.”

What do you think about the Yes Men’s methods? Take our poll.

Mike and Andy released their first film in 2004 entitled, “The Yes Men,” as well as a book, THE YES MEN: THE TRUE STORY OF THE END OF THE WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION. They plan on releasing a new film shortly.

Here is a look at some of the Yes Men’s more famous “identity corrections”:

Dow Chemical

When Dow Chemical bought out Union Carbide in 2001, they became one of the world’s largest chemical corporations. However, some believe they also inherited a connection to the Bhopal Disaster, which occurred in 1984 when a Union Carbide pesticide plant released an estimated 40 tones of methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas, immediately killing nearly 3,000 people with thousands more experiencing partial or permanent disabilities. The victims of the disaster have been fighting Union Carbide for years for reparations for the tragedy, but Dow has claimed that since they purchased the company after an Indian Supreme Court approved a $470 million settlement agreement by Union Carbide, the responsibility is not theirs.

So the Yes Men set up a fake website, www.dowethics.com, which was very similar to Dow’s official site. They then emailed a press release to newspapers and media outlets across the country stating Dow would never take responsibility for damages from the Bhopal gas disaster because they were only beholden to shareholders.

After Dow denied these accusations, they worked to get the original Yes Men site shut down. The Yes Men in turn set up an alternate fake site, which the BBC found and sent an invitation for a “Dow official” to appear on the show. Not knowing that he was an impostor, the BBC broadcasted an interview with Bichlbaum posing as Dow Chemical “spokesman” Jude Finisterra, where he claimed Dow would mark the 20th anniversary of the lethal gas leak in Bhopal, India by paying out $12 billion to the survivors, “simply because it is the right thing to do.” Within a few hours, the real Dow unmasked Bichlbaum as an impostor.

United States Department of Housing and Urban Development

When the Gulf Coast Reconstruction and Hurricane Preparedness Summit was being organized in Louisiana, the Yes Men saw an opportunity for a hoax on the housing situation in New Orleans. They contacted those in charge of the summit, claiming to be from the public relations firm Hill & Knowlton who was representing the Housing and Urban Development secretary. They claimed to have a major announcement to make at the summit.

Following Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, Bichlbaum rose to the podium under the alias of Rene Oswin, an official at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and delivered a speech in which he claimed the HUD would reverse its plans to demolish 5,000 units of perfectly good public housing in order to help fix the housing crisis in New Orleans. He also claimed that Wal-Mart would withdraw its stores from the area to encourage local competition, and that ExonnMobil and Shell promised to spend $8.6 billion to finance wetlands rebuilding due to their record high profits from the past year.

Officials on all sides of the hoax worked to expose Bichlbaum as an impostor, denying all the claims he made while calling him insensitive and cruel. However, Annie Chen, media coordinator for Survivors Village, a tent-city protest for the reopening of public housing in New Orleans, told CNN, “Right now, a lie is better than the truth.”

Catastrophic Loss Conference

The Yes Men performed a prank at the Catastrophic Loss conference hosted by the Ritz-Carlton in Amelia Island, Florida. Posing as Halliburton executives, the Yes Men donned their new product, the SurvivaBall, which was designed to “save corporate executives from the effects of global warming.” Setting the price tag at $100M, the Yes Men called the SurvivaBall a “gated community for one,” which could “protect managers from natural or cultural disturbances of any intensity or duration.”

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

Colbert: Everyone Leaves McCain and Gilmore Drops out of 2008 (video link)

Dandelion Salad

Colbert: Everyone Leaves McCain and Gilmore Drops out of 2008

07.23.07 Uncensored News Reports From Across The Middle East (video; over 18 only)

Dandelion Salad

Warning

This video contains images depicting the reality and horror of war and should only be viewed by a mature audience.

Selected Episode

Monday, July 23, 2007

Ruling Party Wins Turkish Elections,” Al Jazeera English, Qatar
How did Erdogan Win?” Dubai TV, UAE
U.S. Unhappy with Iran-Turkish Energy Deal,” Al-Alam TV, Iran
17 Iraqis Killed in Karada,” Al Arabiya TV, UAE
Taliban Extend Korean Hostages Ultimatum 24 Hours,” Abu Dhabi TV, UAE
Blair Arrives in Israel to Launch New Peace Negotiations,” IBA TV, Israel
Lebanon Prepares for New Elections,” Future TV, Lebanon
Syria Sends Aid to Sudan,” Syria TV, Syria

LINK

or watch below:

Just What the Founders Feared: An Imperial President Goes to War By Adam Cohen


Dandelion Salad

By Adam Cohen
ICH
07/23/07 “
New York Times

The nation is heading toward a constitutional showdown over the Iraq war. Congress is moving closer to passing a bill to limit or end the war, but President Bush insists Congress doesn’t have the power to do it. “I don’t think Congress ought to be running the war,” he said at a recent press conference. “I think they ought to be funding the troops.” He added magnanimously: “I’m certainly interested in their opinion.”

The war is hardly the only area where the Bush administration is trying to expand its powers beyond all legal justification. But the danger of an imperial presidency is particularly great when a president takes the nation to war, something the founders understood well. In the looming showdown, the founders and the Constitution are firmly on Congress’s side.

Given how intent the president is on expanding his authority, it is startling to recall how the Constitution’s framers viewed presidential power. They were revolutionaries who detested kings, and their great concern when they established the United States was that they not accidentally create a kingdom. To guard against it, they sharply limited presidential authority, which Edmund Randolph, a Constitutional Convention delegate and the first attorney general, called “the foetus of monarchy.”

The founders were particularly wary of giving the president power over war. They were haunted by Europe’s history of conflicts started by self-aggrandizing kings. John Jay, the first chief justice of the United States, noted in Federalist No. 4 that “absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for the purposes and objects merely personal.”

Many critics of the Iraq war are reluctant to suggest that President Bush went into it in anything but good faith. But James Madison, widely known as the father of the Constitution, might have been more skeptical. “In war, the honors and emoluments of office are to be multiplied; and it is the executive patronage under which they are to be enjoyed,” he warned. “It is in war, finally, that laurels are to be gathered; and it is the executive brow they are to encircle.”

When they drafted the Constitution, Madison and his colleagues wrote their skepticism into the text. In Britain, the king had the authority to declare war, and raise and support armies, among other war powers. The framers expressly rejected this model and gave these powers not to the president, but to Congress.

The Constitution does make the president “commander in chief,” a title President Bush often invokes. But it does not have the sweeping meaning he suggests. The framers took it from the British military, which used it to denote the highest-ranking official in a theater of battle. Alexander Hamilton emphasized in Federalist No. 69 that the president would be “nothing more” than “first general and admiral,” responsible for “command and direction” of military forces.

The founders would have been astonished by President Bush’s assertion that Congress should simply write him blank checks for war. They gave Congress the power of the purse so it would have leverage to force the president to execute their laws properly. Madison described Congress’s control over spending as “the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure.”

The framers expected Congress to keep the president on an especially short leash on military matters. The Constitution authorizes Congress to appropriate money for an army, but prohibits appropriations for longer than two years. Hamilton explained that the limitation prevented Congress from vesting “in the executive department permanent funds for the support of an army, if they were even incautious enough to be willing to repose in it so improper a confidence.”

As opinion turns more decisively against the war, the administration is becoming ever more dismissive of Congress’s role. Last week, Under Secretary of Defense Eric Edelman brusquely turned away Senator Hillary Clinton’s questions about how the Pentagon intended to plan for withdrawal from Iraq. “Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq,” he wrote. Mr. Edelman’s response showed contempt not merely for Congress, but for the system of government the founders carefully created.

The Constitution cannot enforce itself. It is, as the constitutional scholar Edwin Corwin famously observed, an “invitation to struggle” among the branches, but the founders wisely bequeathed to Congress some powerful tools for engaging in the struggle. It is no surprise that the current debate over a deeply unpopular war is arising in the context of a Congressional spending bill. That is precisely what the founders intended.

Members of Congress should not be intimidated into thinking that they are overstepping their constitutional bounds. If the founders were looking on now, it is not Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi who would strike them as out of line, but George W. Bush, who would seem less like a president than a king.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.